I love the picture of Philadelphia’s open door in Revelation. John writes, “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut” (Revelation 3:8a).
This verse (connected to Isaiah 45) always makes me imagine God’s open door for every congregation—and whether the congregation will walk through that door toward new ministry and mission.
For some congregations, perhaps yours, before they can walk through the next open door, they first have to walk through a doorway of renewal. The renewal doorway helps congregations discover their God-given, hope-filled future—the open door Jesus has for them.
How does a congregation know if it is time to step through the doorway of renewal? By listening to conversations and to the nudging of the Holy Spirit.
Every congregation has ongoing conversations. These conversations happen in consistory rooms, committee meetings, small groups, coffee after worship (pandemic permitting!), and many other places. When you listen to or take part in these conversations, here are some things to listen for that may indicate that it’s time to step through the renewal doorway.
The “It’s going well” conversation
The church believes things are going well in ministry and mission, but there is a sense the church needs to stay on top of things and imagine what’s next. A subset of this conversation is “the wondering” conversation, in which the church wonders what’s next as it seeks to follow God faithfully.
The purpose conversation
The church is unsure of its purpose. A key question here is this: “If you ask your leadership to name your vision and mission, could they?”
The morale conversation
The church senses that either there is a split in morale (high versus low) or morale is in decline for all.
The “good times” conversation
The church reflects on its glory days and longs to return to those times. This desire for the good times often reflects a time of having lots of children in the congregation, a packed sanctuary, etc.
The involvement conversation
People notice that it is harder and harder to get people to volunteer and give. There is a sense that 10 percent of the people are doing 90 percent of the work.
The “we are vacant” conversation
A time of pastoral search is a great time to step into the beginnings of a renewal process. This work helps inform which pastor can help move the church toward its God-given, hope-filled future.
The “too many options” conversation
Perhaps your church knows it is time for renewal, but you find that there are too many options to pick from as you seek guidance on the journey. You might feel stuck, not knowing what the next step is. (For this conversation in particular, a discernment process with Vibrant Congregations is a great next step. Vibrant Congregations will help your church—with its unique context and mission—find the best partner for renewal.)
As you listen to the conversations in your church, prayerfully ask if it is time to step through the renewal doorway. How will your congregation begin this renewal journey that leads to the open door that Jesus has for your congregation?
Take the next step
There are many wonderful options as you step into your next chapter as a congregation. That next step into renewal is what Vibrant Congregations is all about. A joint endeavor of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), Vibrant Congregations helps congregations take fresh steps in ministry and mission. Begin your discernment process and step onto the vibrancy pathway today!
Larry Doornbos serves as director of Vibrant Congregations, a partnership of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America that helps congregations discern their next faithful step into fresh ministry.