We start with good news. Millcreek Lutheran Church (MLC) is not struggling for survival. I would also think that it is obvious that—as the regularly-called pastor—I would like to keep it that way. In fact, I would like to see this congregation grow in all the ways that congregations can grow. (Number of members is not always the best indicator of a congregation’s faithfulness. Things like deep commitment to God’s word and prayer can also indicate a strong and faithful congregation.)
The bad news is that many congregations do struggle for survival. I know this from firsthand experience. I have dealt with such congregations either as a pastor or as a leader in the larger church. The last congregation I served decided to close rather than try new ways of ministry. When I was the dean of the congregations in Pennsylvania’s Northern Lehigh Valley, I either represented or joined with members of the Bishop’s Office to sit with leaders of congregations who were trying to decide if they had a future.
Those meetings usually included a representative of the Bishop’s Office asking a question. I was on both sides of that question, both as a pastor and as a dean. The question was asked of the (now closed) congregation I served. The question was asked in meetings with leaders of other congregations who were trying to decide if they had a future. The question asked was this: “What is this congregation’s purpose?” In the cases where I heard this question asked, the answer was always the same—blank stares. This is even though I know these congregants loved Jesus very much and really wanted their congregation to remain in the category of “strong and faithful.”
My reason for sharing all that is not to discourage this congregation’s members, friends, and former members. Rather, my reason for sharing all that is to emphasize my belief that MLC has a future. (Only God truly knows what that future looks like—but I believe God will help us see it.) That is why I decided to work with the Congregation Council very early on to be able to state what this congregation’s purpose is. This, by the way, is one of the responsibilities of the Congregation Council as outlined in our Constitution and By-Laws (C.12.04.a). Among other things, the Congregation Council has a duty “To lead this congregation in stating its mission, to do long range planning, to set goals, and priorities, and to evaluate its activities in light of its mission and goals.” I am so grateful the Congregation Council saw the importance of this and quickly mobilized and adopted a statement of our purpose (sometimes called a “Mission Statement.”
Here is what they adopted: Helping God restore and renew our community, our congregation, and ourselves.
I believe this is a great starting place and we will be hearing much more about it in the years to come. Our hope is that we work with this statement for the next five (5) years and that, by the time we arrive in the neighborhood of 2026, God will have blessed us with faithfulness and strength, so that we can move courageously into the future that God holds.
Live as children of Light!
Pastor Scott Paradise