The 7 Marks of a Vital Congregation, explored in film
Our Summer learning series starts on Thursday, July 20, at 5:30PM in the Fellowship Hall with the beginning of the film series that covers the 7 Marks of a Vital Congregation. Reverend Susan’s sermon series begins July 30 and covers the same seven marks. Please take a moment to pick up the information about these seven marks located in the Narthex and here. Whether or not you participate in the study in-person, please feel free to take advantage of the information. Discussion questions that go along with each film are available below and will also be emailed to the congregation.
What is Congregational Vitality?
1. Lifelong discipleship formation
This first mark is not complacent “Christian” piety; it is not just teaching good morals; it is not simply offering the latest programs. Lifelong discipleship formation is from the cradle to the grave; it is a faith that seeks understanding; it is discipleship awakened and engaged; it is formed and strengthened in community. This first mark of a vital congregation emphasizes the need for the continual transformation of the people who come seeking it.
2. Intentional authentic evangelism Jesus says: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (Matthew 4:19b). This second mark of vitality is not about tricking people into believing or about luring them into membership, it is about intentionally sharing the good news that we have received and authentically showing Christ to the people around us. Gone are the days in which Billy Graham would have 3.2 million people come to hear him speak over the course of a 4-day event (Seoul, South Korea in 1973), now there needs to be a more relational one-on-one aspect to evangelism. How do you relate to those around you in this way? 3. Outward incarnational focus Christine Pohl writes in Making Room: “If we are genuinely concerned about the needs of strangers, offering hospitality requires courage.” The total opposite of this third mark would be inward institutional survival, but unfortunately, that’s what this becomes in some congregations. Many churches are too busy navel-gazing to look out into the communities around them and see what the needs and wants are of the people they want to connect with. 4. Empower servant leadership How are we empowering servant leadership within our congregations and outside of our walls? How are we empowering the next generation to understand this phrase from a faith perspective and not just a catchy cliché? After all, it was Jesus (the ultimate servant leader) who said: “For I have set you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). 5. Spirit-inspired worship Is worship meant to be self-gratifying or consumer entertainment? Or is worship meant to be for God, about God, centered on God? Mark Labberton in “The Dangerous Act of Worship” writes: “Worship turns out to be the dangerous act of waking up to God and to the purposes of God in the world, and then living lives that actually show it.” 6. Caring relationships This sixth mark is often the mark that congregations skip. They already think of themselves as “nice” or “friendly” or “warm” and so they assume they already have this one covered. But I often encourage them to go into the depths with this one to uncover some areas they might still need to think through what Caring Relationships are ultimately about. Is there welcome and hospitality shown to ALL? Do you have healthy practices for confronting conflict and seeking reconciliation within your community? Do you have people who make peace and build bridges with those outside of your congregation? 7. Ecclesial health This seventh mark has some bulk to it and you can talk about it in terms of gaining clarity in mission or keeping core values in ministry or fiscally responsible stewardship. You can also spend time talking about the importance of knowing “why” and “how” we are a congregation and a part of the larger church.
(Taken, in part, from 7 marks of vital congregations by Brian Christopher Coulter)