By Andrew Foster Connors
Well, what are you going to do about it?
The question continues to stop me in my tracks. Honestly, I can’t remember who asked it or what prompted it. It was probably in response to some comment that I, or another church leader, stated on more than one occasion. Something like:
“My congregation likes to talk about living the Gospel but doesn’t want to live it.”
“I’m tired of rearranging the chairs on the decks of a sinking ship.”
As a pastor, I know that people who critique without investing themselves in community for change are some of the most frustrating people in a church. Even so, I had become one of them. So partly out of guilt, I joined NEXT Church several years ago. I felt guilty that I had all kinds of criticism about the atrophied, distrustful, bureaucratic culture of our Presbyterian Church, but truth be told, I wasn’t doing anything to change it.
Guilt led me to get involved in NEXT, but it’s not what keeps me here.
What keeps me here is rediscovering a culture of connection rooted in real relationships.
What keeps me here is lifting up people all across our church who are reinventing possibilities for church today and are already leading us toward the church of tomorrow.
What keeps me here is the hope that I experience when church folk get together and articulate the new things that God is doing in and through the cracks and fissures of the broken body that is the church:
- The 1600 people who’ve gathered to be inspired at the last four national gatherings and the 2000 more who’ve watched online,
- The participants in the sixteen regional gatherings across the country,
- The creative ideas for the practice of ministry shared each month in the online Church Leaders’ Roundtables,
- The thoughtful, provocative blog posts that engage me in fresh thinking about ministry, and
- NEXT’s participation in conversations with theologically diverse leaders across our denomination as we seek ways to be Presbyterian together in a time of denominational fracturing.
What are you going to do about it?
I’ve now answered that question in several ways – serving on the NEXT Strategy team, attending regional and national gatherings, and making a personal contribution toward the incredibly lean budget of NEXT. My medium-sized church has answered it with a multi-year financial commitment toward the difficult organizing work that drawing diverse people together around a common vision entails. Complaint gets transformed into action and leads to new life for everybody involved.
But the truth is that to continue to be a midwife to the church that is becoming, we all have to answer that question in concrete ways that are consistent with our particular callings. I’m not naive to think that NEXT Church is the only community of people doing transformative work in the church. I can only testify to how transformative it has been and continues to be for me and for others I’ve listened to who believe that God is at work in the church.
If you share that conviction and that hope, I hope you will help us to spread the word about what NEXT is doing and partner with us to invest in the church that is becoming. You can make a financial gift online or by sending a check to:
Village Presbyterian Church (memo: NEXT Church)
6641 Mission Road
Prairie Village, KS, 66208
Together we can do something about it. Thanks.
Andrew Foster Connors is the pastor of Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, MD and the co-chair of the NEXT Church Strategy Team.