This may be the most appropriate chapter in the book as we begin think about the Oasis on West Elm and our decision to live and grow and not wither and die.
We have to make a conscious choice of life over death every week and every day in the life of our church. There are many times that we choose life and choose to live in new and vibrant kinds of ways, and there are times when we revert back to the old ways of doing things and old ways of feeling and control.
The author says that turn-around efforts are more likely to work when:
- The church has dwindled to the point of desperation.
- A healthier management begins to happen, so that old decision making structures are suspended.
- The leader takes the time to hit the streets and purposefully network in the community.
- A lot of praying occurs.
- Beyond the initial splash, the leader changes gears slightly and begins to invest her or his time mentoring other leaders in the congregation.
As I read and reflect on those items, we are engaged in all of them at the moment.
- We have gotten mostly over the point of desperation, though some folks still feel we should close.
- Our management has changed drastically and we operate in a permission-giving mode, checking everything against our mission statement. We no longer have to jump through the hoops to get something accomplished. (some of us still stuggle with this)
- I spend lots of time at the coffee shop and with the children who live around the church who come to the building to play and get some food.
- I know that I pray every day for what we are about and know others do as well.
- I have invested lots of time in the people who have gone thru the study and they have began to invest themselves in ministry in remarkable ways. I am ready for another group to go through the study together. If you are interested, please let me know, we will begin soon.
If we are not focused on growing a new thing in an old place, it is very easy to simply become a caretake of a church in decline. More often than not, folks become to expect this of us. After many years of decline, it begins to warp us and change us. We become ministers of death rather than life. We are invited to choose life, to be servants of life. We are invited to refuse, ever again, to be servants of death.
So what does this all mean for us at the Oasis?
1. Less time in simply looking in at each other and simply caring for each other. We are intentionally reaching out and pastoral care will happen in different forms.
2. We are spending more time in building bridges in the community, with the Neighborhood Association, with Family Promise and with those who live around us.
3. We spend NO time in pointless meetings. (I REFUSE to do that ever again) Teams meet only as needed and we plan ahead and check all we do with our mission. Meeetings, if they happen, will have a distinct purpose and will be used to accomplish our mission.
4. We will spend time in developing leaders that will be taking the church into the future. People now in leadership are growing and looking for God's leading. Some people have already stepped forward and we will be introducing some new areas in the very near future.
We are called to choose life. But, this choice can lead to some other choices - first of all, about hte way we spend our time.
I pray that with me you will choose life over death for our church! That you will pray for it and seek ways to share in ministry with others.