Do you think about why you come to church? Is what brings you a reason that would be relevant to those who don’t come? We’re long past the day where churches can attract people. “If you build it, they will come” is no longer a sufficient model for church growth.
So what is? In the “how-to” literature, the words that appear repeatedly are: authenticity, community, identity, and mission. Churches that have a reputation in their neighbourhoods for walking the talk are the ones that people are drawn to. They are wondering: “Can I come and be accepted for who I am? Will I find a place I feel I belong? Can I have in-depth conversations with others about things that matter? Will there be activities for me to participate in that add meaning and purpose to my life?” When people ask these questions of Forest Hill, can we answer Yes?
Before we can say Yes to outsiders, can we genuinely respond with Yes for ourselves? Is this a place for you of acceptance and belonging, of depth and purpose? If so, how do you claim that? If not, how do you reclaim that? At some point, whether still true or not, that vibrancy and connectedness have been part of your experience here.
In one of his blogs, Gary Peterson, Moderator of the United Church of Canada, invited his readers to remember “‘good news’ stories, where they have experienced ‘real church,’ a moment in the life of the faith community when they felt connected with the Spirit, with God; have been consoled, stretched, forgiven, supported, inspired, filled; moments when they were thankful that what they dreamed of, as church, actually happened.”
What stories come to your mind? When was Forest Hill ‘real church’ for you? A caring question, a prayer, a deep conversation, music, an unexpected phone call, shared laughter are all ways we experience ‘real church.’ To re-member is to bring those experiences to the forefront in our minds and hearts, and then to find ways to create similar experiences for others both inside and beyond our church.
“speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body …as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4: 15-16)