At the Pastors’ Study Conference last month in Canmore, the guest presenter, Rev. Michael Foss took us through a ministry model he developed and implemented at his church, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (www.princeofpeaceonline.org) in Burnsville Minnesota. While I’m usually suspicious of “one size fits all” approaches to ministry, I found his presentation to be exhilaratingly hopeful for congregations trying to effectively engage the world around them with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Good Shepherd is certainly one of those churches.
In Foss’ main text, Power Surge: Six Marks of Discipleship for a Changing Church as well in as his subsequent book, A Servant’s Manual: Christian Leadership for Tomorrow he challenges congregations to make the move from “membership to discipleship.”
“Membership”, Foss says, “identifies who is in and who is out. It’s exclusive. The church is to be inclusive.”
True enough. I think his main point is a deeply biblical one. Jesus didn’t tell his followers to “Go and make members of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus said, “Go and makes disciples.”
“Membership is passive,” Foss says, “Discipleship is active.”
Good Shepherd seems to understand this instinctively. We have hard working faithful disciples sharing in our ministry who are not members. Folks who probably will never be members. But will offer their gifts for service in Christ’s church. In fact, the only two “benefits” that come with membership is serving on council and voting in congregational meetings. But, it’s no secret that plenty of decision making comes informally by way of conversation over coffee or in the parking lot.
We also have hard working faithful disciples who happen to be members. When it comes to our church’s work, there appears to be no distinction between the two.
This is not to say that good governance is not important. Strong leadership is vital to the on-going fulfillment of our ministry. We need to make significant decisions together. But the strength of our family of faith comes from the power of God working through the efforts of our gifted community of disciples.
“All the power the church will ever need,” Foss concludes, “comes from the people who love because they live consciously as disciples of the risen Christ. When we teach, train, equip, empower, encourage, support, and challenge people in their calling as disciples of the risen Christ, the power of Christ’s life’s surges through the church and wonderful, grace-full, life-giving, life-celebrating things begin to happen.”
This is Good Shepherd, all over.
Grace to you and peace,