Five qualities of a church with Vision

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This article is curated from EthicsDaily.com. 

By Matt Sapp

I attended a few weeks ago Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit at Wieuca Road Baptist Church, a satellite host site for the summit in Atlanta. The unofficial motto of the summit is Bill Hybel’s repeated reminder that “everyone wins when a leader gets better.”

That’s the goal of the summit: to make leaders – and particularly Christian leaders – better at what they do. This year’s theme was “A Grander Vision.” As the challenges we face get bigger and as the rate of change around us continues to accelerate, it takes big vision and big courage to keep up.

One of the things I wrestle with almost daily is how the church can adapt to rapidly changing cultural and social contexts.

What I sometimes forget, though, is that it’s not just the church that’s having to adapt. Everyone – every institution and every individual from every walk of life – is having to adapt to the pace of change, too. – Read more at EthicsDaily.com

Back to school, back to basics

By Matt Sapp

My calendar says that it’s August 5th—almost the exact middle of the summer—but we here in Cherokee County, GA are undergoing a seasonal change of sorts.

That’s right, it’s back to school time for parents and grandparents and students and teachers all over Georgia.  So no matter what the sun or the calendar says, summer is over. School is back in session.

Back to school season means getting back to basics.  Once upon a time, children learned the three “R”s of education: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic, right?   Now, our children tell us that the three R’s include, “reduce, reuse and recycle,” a quick reminder about how much education has changed over time.

But what are the basics for church and for life?

One of the ways to make sure we’re still focused on the basics is to go back and ask, “Are we still aiming to do the things we initially set out to do?”

At my church, Heritage Baptist Fellowship, the basics of faith include worship, discipleship and service.

We are committed to developing holy habits in worship.  This means making connections with holy things and the Spirit in an increasingly secular world.

We were created to live in fellowship with our creator. Worship fosters a connection with the holy that is essential to a well-lived life.

We are committed to the process of discipleship. For one, discipleship is not possible in isolation.   Healthy Christian relationships are key components of biblical discipleship.

Christian relationships rooted in the foundation of the local church are one of the best ways to make sure that we maintain mental, spiritual and emotional health and balance. Christian relationships also support our physical health, particularly when we face health challenges.

We are committed to Christian service and evangelistic mission. We are surrounded in this world by broken people. Many in our churches walk into worship on Sunday with shattered lives barely held together in their hands.

We have a tremendous opportunity and God-given responsibility as servants of Christ to bring wholeness to broken lives.  We cannot live whole, Christian lives unless our focus turns increasingly outward toward service to others.

So, while our children return to school, God calls us to a new season of turning back to the basics that make our faith in Christ worth while.

Scott Boulevard Baptist: A Church Without Walls

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Scott Boulevard Baptist Church June 2015

By Joe LaGuardia

A pile of rubble and a towering, broken steeple are all that is left of the historic Scott Boulevard Baptist Church building on the corner of Scott Boulevard and North Decatur Road in Decatur, Georgia. To many passersby, it is an eyesore. To those who are entrenched in Baptist history and the life of Scott Boulevard in particular, it is a foreboding reminder of the many churches that have closed over the last few decades.

But one must look past the pile of tile, wood, and steel.  One must look deeper, beyond plywood frames where stained glass once stood, and find that the wrangled structure does not mark an end to a sixty-year old church, but a new beginning.

Just as the building’s demise communicates the fragility of all our churches, it also communicates the need for many churches to redefine what it means to be a holy people, set apart for the work of the Gospel.

As the Bible says, perishable items, church buildings notwithstanding, perish, but the Word of God will last forever.

That very Word promises that God’s Body—Christ as represented by the church—also lasts, but in many different forms.

Unbeknownst to those who see a ghost of a great church of yesteryear on a busy downtown corner, Scott Boulevard Baptist Church is actually thriving in a new location, that of the prayer chapel at First Baptist Church of Decatur.  Sure, Scott Boulevard does not have the same assets it once did when a building was readily available, but it has found new life in ministry that has reached—literally—beyond brick and mortar.

Scott Boulevard Baptist garners about 35 people in worship, but much of the congregation’s worship and ministry take place in the homes and apartments of seniors who are homebound or shut-in.  Two ministries, developed over the last two years and funded by the sale of the building, drive the church’s new vision and focus into the future.

The first ministry, called Care Partners, is an expanded deacon ministry of sorts, a group made up of caregivers and other care providers for as many as 30 members of the church who are no longer able to attend.  Care Partners pray for loved ones and keep in touch in a variety of ways.

The second ministry, Church at Home, consists of several lay members and clergy gathering in the home of seniors to provide prayer, worship, fellowship, and Bible study.  Taking Jesus’ promise in Matthew 18:20 that “where two or more are gathered in my name, I will be among them” seriously, the pastor of Scott Boulevard Baptist, Rev. Greg Smith, feels that this is a unique and vibrant aspect of the church’s ministry.

Church at Home provides spiritual community and support for individuals who would otherwise be isolated.  “In selling our aging building,” Pastor Smith wrote by email, “We have chosen to sustain people instead of property.”

The church is ready to launch a third major ministry called Spiritual Friends, which seeks to reach underprivileged senior citizens in the local community.  This will move Scott Boulevard Baptist beyond its own membership and have an ecumenical, if not interfaith component.

According to Pastor Smith, this focus on missional engagement and intentional outreach to a population other churches would render beyond their scope of ministry is what keeps the legacy of Scott Boulevard Baptist alive: “There is more face-to-face ministry happening now than in any other time since I started to pastor the church in 2007.”

Although there are many who grieve the dismantling of old Scott Boulevard Baptist, we should not grieve the loss of a congregation because the church is fulfilling a unique niche in the downtown Decatur district.

If anything, other churches should celebrate and mimic this church, which survived a cultural chrysalis of change against all odds.

Scott Boulevard Baptist teaches us that no church should be defined by its building, but by the magnitude of its ministry.  Only when a church defines that unique asset does it become the presence of Christ in the immediate neighborhood.