A group I am a part of was meeting with the North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops earlier this week and the topic of vital congregations came up. Of course, this is a topic I’m especially concerned about given that I work in the area of church development and have a passion for it. Our Bishops are equally concerned and are working hard at how they can provide even stronger leadership to help our thousands of congregations thrive, especially in the Midwest.
One bishop asked the question, “What are our leverage points as a College of Bishops?” One answer was through influencing, in a very positive way, our denomination’s Council of Bishops, which helped develop the Vital Church initiative this past quadrennium. Many of the NCJ bishops are also in key leadership positions, such as president of the Connectional Table, where intense discussion regarding church vitality is taking place.
Then a person at our meeting suggested an additional point of leverage, “What if we leaders–lay, clergy, and bishops alike–begin collectively praying and fasting for our churches and their vital witness.” Energy (God’s spirit?) went through the room. Although the bishops and many of us already are praying for our churches, what might happen if we intentionally did this together in a coordinated way? And what would happen if we invited other church leaders–clergy and laity–to join us? What might happen?
Let’s see! I invite you to join the group of leaders I was with and begin fasting and praying the second Sunday of each month. Pray that God might continue to show us how we might more effectively make disciples of Jesus Christ. Pray that God will help each one of us discover our part in our fostering vital congregations for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom. Pray that God will continue to transform us as we help transform the world.
Sure, prayer and fasting is not a silver bullet that will magically make our church vital and alive, yet it may be a critically important component that is too often taken for granted. So join me, won’t you?
— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development