What does Jesus Say to Congregations With Few Resources? (Part 4 of 5) "What can we do? We have nothing!"

Posted on 4/9/2012 by Jeff Stiggins

Have you ever wondered why Cleopas and the other disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus that first Easter afternoon didn’t recognize Jesus when he fell in alongside them? It was a seven mile trek heading Northwest, so maybe the setting sun was in their eyes. They were talking about the news of Jesus’ empty tomb and what it meant, so maybe they were just caught up in their discussions. I doubt if it was because Jesus was wearing a hoody and they just couldn’t see his face. No one today knows for sure, but I suspect that Jesus was somehow different, yet still Jesus. They weren’t expecting him in the first place and they certainly didn’t expect him to be somehow different.   Could it be that like Jesus walking beside them unrecognized, that there are God-given resources within the reach of our congregations that are also unrecognized – and therefore unused in ministry? 

I have spoken with leaders of churches that used to be a lot bigger. They often focus on the money and people that they don’t have any longer and feel helpless to do what they once did. I have spoken with leaders of churches that keep comparing themselves to some big congregation nearby and conclude that since they don’t have the resources of that congregation, they can’t do ministry like them. But what if God isn’t asking your congregation to do ministry like you used to do ministry? And what if God isn’t asking your congregation to do ministry like that big church across town? What if Jesus asks you simply to use whatever resources you have to join him in ministry today?  

Gather some of your leaders together and identify some of the unrecognized God-given resources that are available to you to invest in ministry that makes a difference to others. Be specific. List them out on newsprint or a white board. Here is a list of questions to help you get going, but don’t limit yourselves to just these questions. 

·         What concerns in our community are our people concerned about or passionate enough to do something about, if they knew what would make a difference?  Is there a sense of vision bubbling up in the congregation? 
·         What spiritual gifts, talents and acquired skills do our people have that can be invested in ministry? 
·         What life experiences (both positive and negative) have especially equipped your people for ministry to others?
·         What relationships and connections to people in the community may be a resource for doing ministry?
·         What possessions or financial resources might the congregation have that could be invested in ministry? Don’t overlook the possibilities of memorial gifts.
·         Who are persons that are spiritually mature, creative, can-do thinkers and organizers?
·         How can your church facilities be used as a resource for ministry? Are their ways to use the facilities to be a blessing to the community? Are there ways to rent out part of the facilities to create an income stream? 
·         Who in the community can we cultivate as a partner in ministry? What organizations are already doing go ministry that we can support? What other congregations might we join hands in ministry for the sake of the community? 
Because God equips us for the ministries to which God calls us, identifying the resources we have at our disposal is an essential part of discerning the ministry to which God is calling us. 
It is easy to focus on what you don’t have and then excuse yourself from being in ministry. When this happens a congregation’s focus becomes holding on to what we have and caring for ourselves, rather than joining Jesus in ministry. 
For two video examples of small congregations in the NE district that like Moses identified the staff in his hand and with God’s help used it to do some amazing ministries in their community, click on the following link: http://www.flumc2.org/pages/detail/1904 and then scroll down to and click on “What Vision, Leadership and God’s Guidance Can Accomplish.”
The concluding post in this series on what Jesus says to churches with few resources will be: “Join Jesus in Ministry Today.” 
If you find the CE Blog thought provoking,
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Blessings,
Jeff                                
Dr. Jeff Stiggins
The Center for Congregational Excellence

 

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