What does it mean to be a Vital Congregation?
Recently, I asked pastors in our area to send examples of how their congregations are becoming more “Vital.” Rev. Mark Wilkerson, pastor of two churches, Otterville and Ebenezer sent me the following story.
“Otterville UMC and Ebenezer UMC are two separate and distinct congregations, but I wanted the two churches to cooperate more. We started a Wednesday night Supper and Bible study. Six years later we are going strong. We study many Biblical based topics. We enjoy fellowship and prayer.” – Mark Wilkerson – Pastor
Our United Methodist Church is seriously trying to answer the question about “Vital Congregations.” Vital is defined as: “crucial: extremely important and necessary, or indispensable to the survival or continuing effectiveness of something.” Another definition: “Needed for life: required for the continuation of life as in vital body organs.”
Mark Wilkerson goes on to talk about how the two churches he pastors took advantage of an opportunity to be more vital. “I invited Nancy Strachen to visit our Wednesday night group and tell us about her mission work in Rwanda. One of our “regulars” was so touched by her stories that he approached her to start a non-profit designated mission. He had experience with the business end of this type of thing. Today “Rwanda H.U.G.S.” (Help Us Get Started) has raised some $54,000. Otterville and Ebenezer were blessed to play a vital role in this fledgling ministry.”
“Vital Congregations” have an attitude that distinctly separates them from the others. You can feel the energy and excitement as you enter the church.
“We are able to touch lives for Jesus in faraway Rwanda. We buy goats, pigs, provide shoes. We have a part in the feeding and education of children. We help support widows left by the genocide, many with HIV. I believe that our congregations and our Wednesday night group are “vital”. — Mark Wilkerson
For “Vital Congregations” whether they are large or small you will often see:
- new people deepening their relationship with Christ.
- children and youth nurtured and strengthened in their faith.
- groups going out into the community to help those who are hurting.
- members become disciples and disciples become leaders.
- a belief that God is working within your church accomplishing miracles.
Rev. Kelvin Edwards, Pastor of Hales Ford and New Hope UMC, two small churches in our area wrote: “I am proud and humbled by the response of our members who stepped up with their support of the request for Sudan Relief. I informed them about the need God placed on my spirit to lead the giving with twenty dollars of my own. Within a few minutes many stepped up their efforts to match it and before we knew it God had increased the amount to 305.00. We will be forwarding a check for that this week.”
“Wait! there is more, for our sister church in Big Island they consecrated an additional 150.00 towards that effort. This is significant in that we are going through tough times. They have worked and continue to work together to be stronger and more proficient with their resources along with their support of projects and programs.
It all brought tears to my eyes, because sometimes we can’t always see the blessings, because of the smoke screens satan will use to distract us. Mind you, it’s an ongoing effort but we are not where we used to be thanks be to God. Sometimes fear knocks but when faith answers, fear has to flee.” — Blessings Kelvin
“Sometimes fear knocks but when faith answers, fear has to flee.
One pastor said: “You know your church is a Vital Congregation when you believe your best days are ahead of you… not behind you.”
Jesus said: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mat. 28:19-20)
Otterville and Ebenezer, Hales Ford and New Hope are four United Methodist Churches who have learned how to be Vital.
The greatest benefit in becoming a “Vital Congregation” is in doing what Jesus commanded:
- Go and make disciples of all nations.
- Baptize them in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.
- Teach them to obey all the commands we’ve been given.
Then as we work hard to become more vital, we trust in Jesus’ promise: “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
This is the greatest benefit of all.