ECO has been clear: we’re excited about New Church Development (NCD). We’re making use of the best models, learning from Terry Gyger's wisdom on church planting, devoting significant resources to NCDs, and developing a network of NCD pastors. We’re determined to do this well.
I served a year as an NCD pastor. Believe it or not, it was as a seminary intern – not exactly the accepted wisdom for new church leadership! But it worked reasonably well – proof positive that God is both gracious and powerful.
Even as a newbie, I had already discovered some of the challenges of leading change in an established church. As I began with the new church, I hoped it would be different: that the leadership team could create just the right church for that time and place, unencumbered by the past.
And we did – sort of. Our ideals mattered, but they were pushed off course at points by some unseen but powerful winds: our own unhealed hurts and unexamined habits. As I soon discovered, a new church is not necessarily new. We each came into that NCD conversation with strong opinions about what it WOULD NOT BE – driven by unhealed hurts from our past churches. And we brought strong opinions about what it WOULD BE – driven by unexamined habits from our past churches. Our fresh start proved not to be so fresh.
Not only is ECO determined to launch plenty of NCDs, we as a denomination are an NCD. We have some wonderfully stated ideals. But unhealed hurts and unexamined habits still have the potential to blow those ideals off course as we get down to filling out the forms of our new church.
What hurts are you bringing with you from your past denomination into ECO? After years of denominational wars and the traumas of departure, some of us are walking with a visible limp. It’s time to tend those hurts, and seek God’s healing, lest they skew our ideals for ECO. Likewise with our unexamined habits. We must step back and examine why we do what we do in our congregations and presbyteries, and not just assume the ways we have done it are the ways we should do it. Again, if we do not, such habits can twist our ideals for ECO.
God is giving us a fresh start. Let’s do what we must to let it be truly fresh!