Over a month ago, I began a blog series inspired by an article called The Shrinking Church that appeared in The Lutheran Magazine. That article is about the decline taking place in my denomination, the ELCA. In past weeks I have shared my thoughts on that decline, what I think God’s new way of being church looks like, and how The River is trying to bring that new vision about. Today, I am going to share stories of the transformation we have seen as a result of that new way of being church. That transformation has not taken place in the form of dramatic growth in attendance. I expect that to come, but so far we have not seen that. What we have seen, instead, is transformation in the lives of the people in our congregation.
One such person came to our church as a functioning alcoholic. The call to discipleship inspired this person to turn their drinking over to God. There was no twelve step program, no clinic, not even an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. This person believed that God could free them from their addiction, turned their life over to God, and stopped drinking. Just like that.
Another person came to our church heavily burdened. Life had not been fair, and it weighed on this person to the point that their problems were all they wanted to talk about, and it was difficult to be around them. This person also committed their life to following Jesus, and as a result developed a tremendous capacity to share the burdens of others. Where previously this person could not see past their own problems, they developed an ability to endlessly share the burdens of others, and became a light to many.
The stories go on and on, and they range from the simple to the astonishing. Someone who wasn’t sure God even existed became a mentor in the faith lives of others. Several people who lacked self confidence have become leaders. I’ve even seen a couple of miraculous healings. Perhaps most miraculous of all, I’ve seen Lutherans become excited about outreach. They aren’t just evangelizing, they are excited about evangelizing. The earth could stop spinning and it would be no less a miracle.
Those are just some of the stories of what God has done in The River as we’ve become a discipling church. We have so many stories, we have put up a bulletin board where people can share what God has done in their lives. That bulletin board is covered with sticky notes, stacked one on top of the other. It is amazing to see what God is doing in The River through this new way of being church.
Next week, I hope to be able to share about an upcoming workshop where you can get an even greater taste of being a discipling church.