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June 6, 2003

Edition

Bishop's Corner

Transforming The Culture Of Congregations

By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker

One of the tasks that is a part of the agenda of the Conference Table is to develop a strategy for transforming the culture of congregations. This task is being performed by the Office of Congregational Transformation, under the direction of the Rev. Kendall Taylor, and the Office of New Church Development, under the direction of the Rev. Mont Duncan. Together these two agencies have created ways to help congregations understand where they are in the lifecycle of a congregation and know the characteristics of a healthy congregation. Strategies to train leaders and enlist congregations to undergo an intentional process of transformation are being developed and implemented.

The new mission statement of the Florida Conference offers the rationale for the task of transforming the culture of congregations. It includes this purpose of the Florida Conference: ďtransforming existing congregations from a life of institutional maintenance to a life of transformational mission in their diverse communities and the world.Ē

Two realities motivate us to transform the culture of congregations. The first reality is Godís purpose for the church revealed in Jesus Christ as recorded in the Scriptures. God created the church on earth as the means by which Godís name is known and Godís will is done. The other reality is the changing culture in which we live as Godís people. There are so many people living in the ministry area of our congregations who do not know the good news of Jesus Christ. These people do not go to church because it is the expected thing to do. They are all ages, classes and ethnic groups. In such a culture, the church must reach out to all with a joyful offer of the truth and love of God revealed in Jesus Christ!

If we have been faithful Christians in The United Methodist Church for a long time, many of our own spiritual needs are being satisfied. We may not long for change. The mission of the church is not about us; it is about them. The church exists for the sake of those who do not yet know God or obey God. On the other hand, it is also about us for we shall not fulfill Godís purpose for our own lives unless we are invested in the joyful task of reaching out to those who do not know the good news of Christ.

Transforming the culture of congregations cannot be forced. We can study Godís mission in the world and the churchís purpose in Scripture. We can pray for the guidance of the Spirit. We can embrace with courage and imagination what God can do through us. While the conference will work together with congregations to provide direction, the only effective direction ultimately will come from the Spirit of God in cooperation with our spirit.


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