This logo is from the first Next Church back in 2011. It's old. It was in Indianapolis. And the logo is now obsolete. Little did I know then that I would be still going 4 years later. And even less I knew that I would be on the Strategy Team, trying to figure out how Next Church can provide leadership and space for congregational leaders to dream and share. Little I knew how much energy I would be giving to trying to discern how Next might be a vehicle for transformational dialogue and practices. All the while trying to do this work without being dogmatic or overly didatic.
This work is vital work. I will confess the exhilaration I feel in being involved in a conversation that seeks to walk longside and with our larger church. There is an excitement when I see an idea that we might apply in Raleigh. There is enthusiasm when I hear a young pastor or speaker I have never met before who shares an aspirational idea.
I truly love that Next is optimistic. There is a confidence about the future of the church, rooted in the faith that the church belongs to God and not us. This is vocational and it is confessional. Next is optimistic because there is a trust that God will deliver. To be sure, things will have to change. They already are. But the response to change does not have to be crisis. It can be hopefulness. Which is always optimistic.
While optimism is not a fruit of the Spirit, I sure wish it was.
Over the four years, it is apparent to me that Next is growing.
Growth, because of the Spirit, is always to be celebrated. God calls, Jesus directs, the Spirit equips the church to tend the garden.
Next is changing.
We are committed to inviting more and more people passionate and optimistic about the future of the Presbyterian church to share and we are going to try to make that more available even beyond the national gatherings. We are learning as we go, and by God's grace we'll be nimble, adaptive, and find pockets of positive deviance.
Next is impactful.
Reading through the blog-o-sphere we are hitting a stride of a sort with the conferences and we are (I think) about to hit some strides with our other other attempts to connect congregations and promote great ministry. God has not created a complacent world or church. Jesus did not call the church to stagnate. We want to be part of positive inertia and when we help that energy be felt, shared, and known then that feels like success to me.
I don't speak for Next Church, but it is an important part of my ministry. I thank the people who came, who watched online, who have blogged or shared your impressions, your praises, and your critiques of what we offered and what we did not offer. I want to personally thank Minneapolis and Westminster for their incredible welcome and hosting hospitality. I learned the phrase "Minnesota nice" this week, and I felt it at Westminster.
If you are someone for whom the ideas, conversations, or connections of Next Church is aiding your ministry, or helping you ask some new questions, or even explore where the Spirit might next be leading you, I (and we) would love to hear your story.
Looking back over the last 4 years, Next Church has impacted me with its optimism, its growth, its changing and adaptive nature, and its impact.
How has Next Church impacted you?