New Year's Resolutions 2015

When we welcome a New Year, we begin to think about what we personally want to change in our lives. Our goals mostly include resolutions to do something, or do something better. The church is no different. We must take advantage of looking at the church and asking what we can do, or do better. I happen to believe that Rev. Cameron Trimble hits a good target for the church with these New Year’s resolutions. How might we incorporate these resolutions at First Cong? What are we doing?  What more could we do?   

~ Eldonna Hazen

1. Ignore the headlines.

Remember, headlines are designed for shock factor and never tell the full story. Read headlines about Mainline and progressive churches and we think the church is dying. That’s dangerously disempowering. Yes, congregational life is changing and denominational structures are adapting, but the Church is not dying.  The trend lines tell a hopeful new story. Creative new ways to fundraise online, like crowdfunding, is a trend opening big possibilities for small churches. Ignoring the headline that no one goes to church anymore, crowdfunding helped St. Lydia’s Dinner Church raise enough money to pay for a new space for its worshipping community in Brooklyn, New York. St. Lydia’s has become a community launchpad, organizing initiatives like a clean up campaign for the local canal and mobilizing people to march in the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

2. Dream bigger.

My greatest concern for progressive churches is not that we are fading, but that we are dreaming too small. Obsessed with filling our Sunday pews, we fail to see the multitude of ways we make a difference in our communities the other six days of the week.  What we measure shapes what we collectively strive to pursue, and what we pursue determines what we measure. Which means we need to change the metrics of what it means to be a healthy, vital congregation in the United States today.  What if we used literacy rates, teen pregnancy rates, unemployment rates, and crime rates as our measure of the kinds of impact we could have in our communities? What can your church do to live its faith so boldly and powerfully that the world is changed by dreaming bigger? That is your metric.

3. Collaborate like it’s 2015.

We can’t dream alone. Today we face societal challenges that are too large, complex and fast-changing for any one entity to adequately address alone. We live in an era that demands “collective impact,” working with businesses, government, and other faiths and non-profit organizations in our communities to address the great needs of our age.

4. Simplify.

Most of our congregations were designed in an age when hierarchical, corporate structures brought order and stability to our institutions. Today, we live in a networked, adaptive world where we’ve got outdated structures that are now destroying those congregations. Try simplifying some of your bylaws, bureaucracies, and committees in 2015. Free your people to be in ministry, not management.

5. Find your passion.

Freed up to minister means defining your passions. I once worked with a coach who told me, “Everyone gets somewhere in life; the rare person gets somewhere on purpose.” You will go somewhere as a congregation this year no matter what; make sure it is where you want to go. What do you want to have created, accomplished, midwifed, or supported — what do you want to be able to say on December 31, 2015 that you can’t say now? As the theologian and civil rights leader, Howard Thurman, reminds us, “Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” Where is your church going . . . with passion and on purpose?

6. Create your “Don’t” list.

Just because your congregation can do something doesn’t mean that it should. Stop doing some of those things that take up too much time with too little result. For just one year. See what happens. I bet you will find the Spirit leading you in new, exciting directions.

7. Take voice lessons.

I first heard this advice from the inspiring Rev. Carol Howard Merritt. Progressive Christianity abdicated its voice in the public square 30 years ago to a brand of Christianity that has not served our nation well. I agree with Rev. Merritt. We must encourage leaders to reclaim their prophetic voices and speak out in protest about the injustices that fly in the face of our progressive Christian principles. We could be influencing legislation, advocating for equality and working for peace. It’s time to reclaim and proclaim our story of a more just and generous Christianity.  Being progressive in our culture today provides much-needed hope. The “progressive” label is a lifeline to many people who are looking for a community of acceptance and grace. So let’s give food and water to the least of these, ordain women, protect the environment, push back the New Jim Crow, be a voice in #BlackLivesMatter, march in the protests, advocate for the economically oppressed, wave that rainbow flag, write op-ed pieces, rally congregations, host conferences, get on the evening news, sing songs of hope, and realize our outrageously courageous, fully alive, faithful church.  I believe we can embody a living-boldly call to a more just and generous Christianity, guided by Micah 6:8: “God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

That is what the world is hungry for. That is what I believe the progressive church is hungry for. And that is what I have put on my vision board for 2015.

 

Rev. Cameron Trimble is the Executive Director and CEO of Center for Progressive Renewal.

 

Posted on January 6, 2015 at 11:23 am in Featured Content.

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