I've been reading more from William H. Willmon and have found two posts to be particularly moving today. The first is a relation of growth to the age of a church.
Kirk Hadaway suggests that as young churches mature, they tend to "bottom out" and stop growing after about two decades of growth. In other words, even new congregations have a "window of opportunity" for significant growth that may last for 10 or 15 years. Why do new churches tend to grow more rapidly than older churches? It could be, Hadaway notes, that new churches are more flexible and open to change; growth-producing ideas can be put more quickly into practice; innovative leaders are allowed to lead; rapid adjustments can still be made to changing circumstances; and friendship networks have not yet solidified, allowing for easy acceptance of new members.
Keeping this in mind, look at this other post about Maintenance or Mission. Some of the particular items that struck me were:
1. In measuring the effectiveness, the maintenance congregation asks, "How many pastoral visits are being made? The mission congregation asks, "How many disciples are being made?"
5. The pastor in the maintenance congregation says to the newcomer, "I'd like to introduce you to some of our members." In the mission congregation the members say, "We'd like to introduce you to our pastor."
Or one of the ones I personally struggle with a lot
6. When confronted with a legitimate pastoral concern, the pastor in the maintenance congregation asks, "How can I meet this need?" The pastor in the mission congregation asks, "How can this need be met?"
There's a lot more information in both of these posts. But I think I've made the point. For new churches it's understood that they have a focus on mission. As we age we begin to forget that the primary purpose for each one of us is to bring hurting, lost souls into communion with Christ. All else is consequential. We are here to Love one another as He has loved us. Where does the word "I" come into that?
I look around St. Matthew's and I think we are really beginning to gain back a mission focus. We still have a long way to go and, sadly, I can really see some of the Maintenance opinions in our church. That being said, I know there is hope and God's vision leading the way. Man am I glad to be along for the ride!