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     Five practices of fruitful congregations
    These five practices will change the life of a church.

    By Outreach Magazine • May 10, 2015

    ►1. Radical hospitality  Romans 12:9–21

    Congregations offer the invitation and embrace of Jesus Christ, the gracious welcome that creates genuine belonging that brings people together in the Christian community. Churches characterized by radical hospitality are not just friendly and courteous. Instead, they exhibit restlessness because they realize so many people do not have a relationship to a faith community. They sense a calling and responsibility to pray and work to invite others and to help them feel welcome and supported in their faith journeys. Congregations surprise newcomers with a glimpse of the unmerited gracious love of God that they see in Christ. Our radical hospitality goes to the extremes, and we do it joyfully, not superficially, because we know our invitation is the invitation of Christ.

    ►2. Passionate worship  John 4:21–24

    In passionate worship, people are honest before God and one another, and they are open to God’s presence and will for their lives. People so eagerly desire such worship that they will reorder their lives to attend. Passionate worship motivates pastors not only to improve their preaching, but also to learn continually how to enhance content and technique for effective worship. Worship is something alive that requires continuing care, cultivation and effort to keep it fresh. Pastors should willingly review and evaluate their own work and invite feedback. The motivation for enhancing the quality of worship is not only about deepening our own faith, but also about allowing God to use us and our congregations to offer hope, life and love to others. Worship is God’s gift and task, a sacred trust that requires our utmost and highest.

    ►3. Intentional faith development  1 Corinthians 9:19–24

    Transformation comes through learning in community. Congregational leaders that practice intentional faith development carefully consider the full life-cycle of members and look for ways the church forms faith at every age. They look for gaps, opportunities, and unmet needs to round out their ministries and ask how they can do better. They train lay people to lead small groups, teach Bible studies and coordinate support groups. They realize the power of special topics and interests to attract unchurched people, and they advertise and invite beyond the walls of the church. They form affiliation groups such as grief or divorce recovery, substance abuse, parenting and more. They explore new ways of forming learning communities — blogs, chat, email Bible studies and downloadable materials. These pastors also participate in forms of community with other pastors or laypersons to help deepen their own relationship with God.

    ►4. Risk-taking mission and service Matthew 25:14–30

    This involves work that stretches people, causing them to do something for the good of others that they would never have considered doing if it were not for their relationship with Christ and their desire to serve him. These churches not only solicit and encourage ordinary service to support the work of the congregation, but they also consciously seek to motivate people to more extraordinary service. They lift examples in preaching and teaching. Risk-taking missions and service is also part of the formation of children and youth. All youth and children ministries include teaching and experiential components that stretch compassion outward beyond the walls of the church. Faith mapped in childhood provides pathways that shape lifelong commitments. These churches collaborate with other churches, other denominations, civic organizations, social agencies and nonprofit groups. They actively invite and welcome newcomers, visitors and the unchurched to help them in making a difference in the lives of others. As congregations move beyond their comfort zones and follow Christ into more adventurous encounters with people, God’s Spirit changes them, changes others and changes churches.

    ►5. Extravagant generosity2 Corinthians 9:6–15

    Churches that practice extravagant generosity speak confidently and faithfully about money, giving, generosity and the difference giving makes for the purposes of Christ and the life of the giver. They emphasize the Christian’s need to give for more reasons than just the church’s need for money. They emphasize mission, purpose and life-changing results rather than shortages, budgets and institutional loyalty. Pastors express appreciation to people who give by thanking members collectively and personally, and they give God thanks for increased giving. Members are informed in positive and consistent ways about their giving. Pastors and church leadership view “giving beyond the walls” as indispensable to Christian discipleship and to congregational mission and vitality.

    Churches that grow in giving know that generosity increases with participation in ministry and community, so they work to deepen the core ministries of worship, small-group learning and mission. They address the challenge of growing in giving to long-term members as to adults new in the faith. They also teach, model and cultivate generosity among children and youths. The spiritual maturity that comes from growth in giving, and the extraordinary engagement that results from tithing, bring clarity of purpose and greater integrity to all the church’s ministries.

    —————

    THESE FIVE PRACTICES work together in the mission of the church. Take them beyond conversations between pastor and church leaders — take them into the worship services, classes and homes of every church member to imbed them into the fabric of your congregation. By doing so, you will develop a unifying common language that helps people understand the tasks of Christian discipleship. The exemplary and repeated practices of Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity are the time-tested, theologically sound and effective means congregations use to fulfill their mission with excellence and fruitfulness to the glory of God.


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      • Presbytery of South Alabama
      • Synod of Living Waters


       


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       Swift  
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                   —————
      23208 Swift Church Road
      Foley, AL 36535
      Phone: (251) 943-8367
      email: swiftpc@gulftel.com