Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! —Psalm 27:14
One of the strategic goals for our church is Courageous Innovation. We’ve been living into this goal for about 18 months now, and I’m finding that although it sounds bold and adventurous, it is hard to do.
You know that old joke about how many Lutherans does it take to change a lightbulb? The answer is “Change?!?”
As much as we try to live as the body of Christ, as living stones, we are also an institution, limited (sometimes in a good way) by constitutions and policies. We are made up of people who are often creatures of habit. We are sometimes afraid and that limits our creativity. We have gifts and resources but we have built up a culture of scarcity.
In the face of this, I was really encouraged at a recent meeting of the ELCIC’s Church Extension and Capital Fund (CECF) Advisory Board. This is the group that oversees the sharing of resources that helps our church to engage in mission in Canada. The CECF board used to be about buying land and lending mortgages. The vision for mission that we grew up with was about building churches to gather people.
Within our church there have been stirrings that God is calling us in new directions. The CECF board has spent the last three years journeying with synods to discern experiments in participating in God’s mission. Although there is still one year left in this period of experimentation, we spent some time in preliminary conversation about what is being learned. Here is some of what I heard in the conversation:
- It takes a long time to make changes in the way we do things.
- Relationship building, listening and story sharing are important parts of this process.
- We need to learn to listen to God.
- Every congregation and context is unique.
- Reflection after action is important.
- It’s ok to fail.
- Don’t be afraid.
The real excitement is in the story sharing and hearing about those communities of faith being courageous enough to try something new, stepping out into their communities, learning from their mistakes, and feeling the excitement of early harvest.
I look forward to our CECF meeting next year. Hearing more stories. Gathering more learnings. And watching how God is working in our midst, shaping us into something new.
Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.—1 Corinthians 16:13
National Bishop Susan Johnson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada