I am thrilled with the number of churches who are utilizing the “Becoming a Flourishing Church” series that is available on our website. The feedback has been very positive as many leaders wrestle with the question of what is next for their congregations as they seek to truly flourish. My only concern are the leaders who say, “Our church is only going to do the last two sessions related to being a flourishing church.
We are not going to worry so much about what it means to be a flourishing disciple.” We are certainly fine with churches who want to use other materials when it comes to discipleship. However, my hesitation comes when our leaders are of the mindset that we can make healthy churches without continually focusing on our spiritual vitality as both individuals and sessions.
It has been great to have Lisa Johnson working in the area of lay leadership development, particularly because of her experience with the Elder Leadership Institute. Since it's inception, ELI has desired to transform sessions from a “boardroom” environment to an “upper room” environment where Jesus met with His disciples. This is to say that the session meetings should be more than a place where business gets done. Meetings should be places of encouragement where elders become more and more in love with Christ! Lisa, and others who have been involved with ELI, have seen the benefit of sessions who have taken seriously the challenge to function like upper room communities. They have found that not only does their “business” get done more quickly, but they are more able to discern the call of Christ on their congregations even more clearly.
This isn’t to say that there is always agreement among session members on the upper room environment. In fact, sometimes as a result of becoming upper room communities, trust is built among the elders and they are free to have greater and more robust dialogue surrounding potential directions for the church. The change, however, is that there is a greater love and appreciation for one another on the session, as well as a more intense focus on the mission and call of Jesus, as opposed to elders wanting to see personal preferences enhanced.
I love that a central theme of ECO is that we want to be a covenant community. We have actually had presbytery leaders tell interested congregations that they may not be a good fit with ECO because they want to simply be a functionally independent congregation. But, we can’t be a covenant community in between churches in presbyteries, Mission Affinity Groups, and Pastor Covenant Groups if we are not living out the reality of what it means to be in a covenant community in our own sessions and leadership.
Whether you are participating in ELI, Becoming a Flourishing Church, or working with some of our outside partners on a particular growth area, I encourage you to take seriously the call to transform your sessions into upper room experiences. Your heart, your leadership and your congregation will be changed!