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Congregational Vitality Pathway

RCA Farwest Region

Our Highest Value that Rarely Happens By Kevin Harney

Kevin Harney is leading a Pre-Classis training on evangelism on Friday, October 16, Christ Community Church, Carmichael (north Sacramento), 10 AM to 4:30 PM... For more information contact Karl Overbeek at k_overbeek@icloud.com

*I am a local church pastor, ordained in the RCA. * I love the local church. I preach almost every weekend of the year. I lead meetings, equip God’s people for ministry, pray with hurting people, cast vision for the future, serve the community, and do the same things most pastors have been doing for two thousand years.

In my forth decade of pastoral ministry I have discovered one specific value in the church that most congregations avoid even though they declare it is essential and deeply important. I have friends in ministry all over the United States and around the world and they all seem to be facing the same reality. Every biblically faithful church believes and declares that evangelism (outreach) is a high priority and absolutely central to the health of their church. But, in reality, very few churches actually do outreach consistently and effectively.
A good friend of mine led the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism for fifteen years and he told me that in a decade and a half of his leadership, they never found solid tools or a transferable approach to mobilizing local churches for effective outreach. It broke his heart because he realized the power that would be unleashed if countless churches around the world would actually realize their evangelistic potential and move onto action sharing the gospel.

One of our highest values as followers of Jesus and leaders of local churches is intentional and effective evangelism. This also happens to be the weakest part of most church ministries. In my conversations with national leaders of evangelism in four different denominations they all say the same thing, “Intentional Evangelism is our weakest area as a body of churches.”

If we are going to continue saying that reaching lost people is a priority and that our churches believe in evangelism, we had better start doing something about it. We need to move into action. We need to change how we lead, pray, and function as churches. And, as local church pastors, we need to look at our lives.
Here are some questions every pastor should ask on a regular basis: Who am I praying for, with passion and tears, to come to the cross and receive Jesus as the Savior and leader of their life? How much time do I spend in a regular week with people who are still far from Jesus and who need His grace?

When was the last time I had a non-believing friend or family member sit next to me in church because I had prayed, loved, and reached out to them?

How often do I share the gospel of Jesus with a spiritually seeking friend in the flow of my normal life? When was the last time I presented the good news of Jesus in my ministry and saw a person bend their knee and surrender their life to the Savior?

As a leader in the Reformed Church, you are invited to join our Classis leaders, pastors, Elders, Deacons, and church members for a day of digging into the topic: Principles of Intentional Evangelism. I look forward to gathering with you and a team from your church as we seek the face of Jesus and humbly ask the Holy Spirit of God to prepare us for a new season of ministry where we declare that evangelism is a high priority, and where our lives and churches prove that we really mean it!

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Vitality Success Stories

Three success stories

New Hope Community Church Fremont CA

New Hope was floundering to find identity and direction after the retirement of the beloved founding pastor. Many attempts were made to rally around a renewed vision and increase outreach, but long-term members were leaving and visitors were not sticking. Congregational Vitality Pathway provided the tools and process for New Hope to break up the hard soil of her church culture, plant the seeds of a new vision and create an atmosphere of growth and renewal.

New Hope is now a much more positive place to worship, visitors are sticking and new life has begun. Four signs of renewal: The nursery, that became a storage room over ten years ago is being remodeled and opened once again to accommodate young families. After many years without a worship leader, due to lack of finances and conflict over music styles, a worship leader was hired without any debate or conflict. Finances are stable after years of month-to-month financial crises. And best of all people are growing in their faith and new believers are coming to Christ.

This has not been an over night turn-around and there is still a long way to go, but it has been a solid turn around and the future direction is clear. The Pathway helped New Hope focus attention to the deep spiritual change that was really needed, rather than on the quick fixes that had been attempted many times in the past without much real change or growth taking place.

Being in partnership with the Classis and with other churches on the pathway and the cohort group was very key to keeping the momentum moving forward.

Sonoma Valley Community Church, Sonoma CA.

SVCC is an older congregation in a retirement community. They had been stalled and in decline for years. Congregational Vitality Pathway provided a language and a structure and the support needed from Classis to begin the work of renewal and transformation. Member reported that they were willing to change as a congregation, but really didn’t know how or what to change.

They quickly discovered that the answers were not in the three workshops of the pathway (Veritas, EPIC, ONE) but were in the conversations about the workshops. The SVCC Vitality Team keep the conversations going and provided many ways for the people to share and discuss the future of SVCC.

Things turned a corner one Sunday morning when the pastor planted a “For Sale” sign on the front lawn of the church. The congregation was shocked to say the least. During the sermon, a youth carried the sign up to the front and asked, “What is this all about?” The pastor responded, “This is what will happen if we don’t embrace change and connect with our community.”

The message came home in a powerful way. With the guidance of CVP leadership, SVCC developed a Strategic Ministry Plan and is moving forward as a congregation. Vision has been unified and renewed, worship attendance is up, a new worship leader was hired and they have discovered significant ways to connect with the community.

Living Faith Community Church

A few years ago Living Faith Community Church (LFCC) was assessed as between Critical Moment and At Risk. LFCC decided to use Congregation Vitality Pathway to find their way to health.

A major part of the Pathway is to help congregations to be able to take a truthful look at themselves. As LFCC walked the Pathway they realized that their circumstances were more dire than they had imagined. The truth was that there were more at risk than they had realized. While the leaders did many of the right things for becoming healthy, the church was increasingly finding to difficult to meet financial responsibilities and fewer leaders were carrying more and more of the leadership load.

After much praying, soul searching, and deep conversations the leaders at LFCC decided it was best to pass on for all the right reasons and leave a legacy. Praise God that instead of hanging on for all the wrong reasons and use up all their resources in the process. LFCC decided to pass on for all the right reasons and leave a legacy for furthering the kingdom of God. Even thought this was not the path they desired, the leadership was grateful for the Congregational Vitality Pathway as it provided language and a safe process for coming to this realization.

Jesus said, Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

Many of the details of the LFCC legacy will only be know in eternity, but some of their legacy is already shining forth. An Evangelical Covenant Church that was looking for a building will now have a new home. Many local churches are gaining new seasoned mature members as the LFCC folks find new church homes. New funds will be available for ministry in Central CA Classis. Every church in our classis was given a strong witness by LFCC of mature, loving and wise leadership that is willing to glorify God by making the hard call. We know that we have the tools and a good process for others churches that decide to pass on for all the right reasons and leave a legacy for God’s glory. And we were all reminded that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.

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