Renewal in your church

New Testament scholar Dr. Kavin Rowe, along with Dr. L. Gregory Jones, recently released a small book entitled Thriving Communities: The Pattern of Church Life Then and Now.1 Utilizing his scholarly knowledge of Acts, Rowe offers some remarkable and convicting observations about the life of the early church, particularly in light of the tension between the church and the larger culture. He says that Luke’s story is that God “aims at nothing less than the construction of an alternative total way of life – a comprehensive pattern of being – one that runs counter to the life-patterns of the Greco-Roman world.”

What might Rowe’s observations mean for us as Christian leaders today? Let’s take a look at seven big themes in Acts:

  1. The early church constantly built and nurtured networks of disciples and communities.
  2. The early church did not remain hidden but made sure there was public witness to the gospel – whether at the temple in Jerusalem or in the pagan temples in places such as Ephesus and Athens.
  3. The early church cared for persons at the margins; the Grecian widows in Acts serve as an example.
  4. The early church taught and articulated faith as a living reality that gives life.
  5. The early church understood conflict as simply a way of identifying what was really important.
  6. The early church recognized that suffering is part of the journey.
  7. The early church engaged in prayer as a fundamental practice.

These identifying markers of the early church as observed in Acts might be worth consideration for leaders and congregations today by asking these questions:

  1. Are we actively forming and nurturing groups of disciples through Sunday school or small-group ministry?
  2. Does our church find ways of making the gospel message public in our community?
  3. In what ways are we caring for persons at the margins?
  4. Does our church teach the core fundamentals of the faith in a way that gives life and meaning to our congregation?
  5. Are we willing to explore conflict as a path to our future (or do we avoid it)?
  6. Are we prepared to suffer or to relinquish strongly held ideas, possessions, or status for the sake of God’s will?
  7. How well do we practice prayer as a way of life in our church?

I will be the first to admit that these are hard questions. But I also think they reflect well the witness of the early church as seen in the book of Acts. Maybe asking such questions and engaging in a close reading of Acts might well be a useful exercise for leaders in your congregation.

Renewal begins with God’s work. And in many cases, God is simply waiting for a church and her leaders to get serious about seeking a new and vibrant day. I can’t think of a better thing to do than to let the witness of the early church guide us.

Blessings on your work of leadership!

Carson


[1] C. Kavin Rowe and L. Gregory Jones, Thriving Communities: The Pattern of Church Life Then and Now, ed. Alissa Wilkinson (Durham, NC: Duke Divinity School, 2014), Electronic Format.

NEWS & NOTES

A glance at 2016-17

The Siburt Institute is excited to share with you its 2016-17 Year in Review. The institute’s team members cherish the many opportunities afforded them to serve and fellowship with congregational leaders across much of Texas and the nation. The Year in Review highlights new initiatives such as the Congregational Health Assessment launched in 2016; long-standing traditions, such as the ElderLink events established in 2000; and so much more, including the second year of the Contemplative Ministers’ Initiative. While there’s no way to tell all the stories and experiences that constitute the Siburt Institute in just a few pages, the document will allow you to meet a few of the people who serve and are served by the work to the institute.

A witness to leadership

In his latest CHARIS article, “I Saw a Captain in Action,” Steven Brice reflects on his experiences at Oak Gardens Church in Dallas, Texas, where he recently completed his tenure as the spiritual formation pastor. He speaks of the church’s journey through a time of transition that could have easily been very choppy waters had it not been for the skillful and thoughtful leadership of the congregation’s senior pastor, Dr. Paul Day. Brice highlights lessons learned along the way as he witnessed Day embrace, share and actualize a vision for Oak Gardens “to become a safe church for the unchurched.”

Siburt Institute matching gift challenge

The Siburt Institute for Church Ministry recently launched its first-ever major fundraising campaign when a generous donor couple offered to match up to $50,000 for any amount raised by the institute. The first five years of operating funds were graciously covered by a few donors who believed in the mission of the Siburt Institute from its inception in 2012. The challenge grant campaign now opens the door for everyone who wishes to see our efforts to resource and support congregational leaders across the country continued. If you wish to partner with us, we invite you to make a gift at acu.edu/give-siburt and your gift will be matched 100 percent!

A peek into the world of refugees

The Summit 2017 team invites you to a special exhibit at this year’s event designed as a small window into the lives of the nearly 65 million refugees in the world today. The Global Refugee Medical Mission experience will provide images and pre-recorded narration that reflect what many refugees might encounter on any given day.

To view, go to Room 115 in the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building on Sept. 18 or 19, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; or Sept. 20, 9:30-10:30 a.m. A host will provide instructions about the self-guided exhibit that’s expected to take about 15-20 minutes to complete.

Summit 2017 will be Sept. 17-20 on ACU’s campus. Registration is free and highly encouraged, allowing the Summit team to appropriately prepare for your arrival. For more information, visit the Summit website.

Theres still time to register for Randy Harris events

  • Summer Weekend Intensive Bible Course, “Christian Ethics in a World Gone Mad: How to Cope and Even Thrive,” Aug. 4-5, ACU’s Hunter Welcome Center. Registration is $60 and includes meals. Register by July 31.
  • Ministers’ Lunch Hour With Randy Harris (A Lunch and Learn Event), “Does the Church Matter?” 11:30 a.m., Aug. 29, ACU’s Hunter Welcome Center. The cost is $15 and includes lunch. Register by Aug. 22.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

THOUGHTS TO PONDER

“The word vision and the word see are related. If people cannot see, there is no vision. One of the best things any leader can do is to create simple pictures of organizational dreams and goals. But the leader cannot create these dreams and goals if they are not first pictorial in the leader’s mind. Without clearly drawn maps to the future, the organization remains hamstrung to the past.” – Dr. Calvin Miller, The Empowered Leader: 10 Keys to Servant Leadership

“People do not follow programs, but leaders who inspire them. They act when a vision stirs in them a reckless hope of something greater than themselves, hope of fulfillment they had never before dared to aspire to. And hope is passed from person to person. God-given visions of hope are shared, shared by leaders who see the vision with people who don’t. But sharing is more than talk. Hope bursts into flame when leaders begin to act.” – Dr. John White, Excellence in Leadership: Reaching Goals With Prayer, Courage & Determination