I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of people complaining about the decline of the church.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as aware of the dismal statistics as you are. But I’m tired of hearing them for two reasons. First, precisely because we already know them, I’m just not sure how helpful it is to repeat them to ourselves endlessly. Second, because it’s not the whole story. There is a lot of growth, a lot of potential and a lot of hope in our congregations as well as decline.
Moreover, the Spirit is moving in exciting ways, and I am firmly convinced we are on the cusp of exciting, if unpredictable, renewal.
And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. You may feel the same way—aware of the challenges but far more excited about the opportunities in front of us. Recognizing we’re not alone is important, as together we are a lot more likely to participate in the Spirit’s renewal than you or I could possibly do alone.
The movement we are a part of is growing, and a new e-book is evidence of that. Renew 52: 50+ Ideas to Revitalize Your Congregation from Leaders under 50 is a free e-book from Luther Seminary that features short essays from 54 Christian leaders in 15 different traditions. The authors are guided by the conviction that congregations are the primary place where the Spirit is at work for the renewal of the church.
This conviction is important because there are a lot of folks who have all but given up on congregations and, along with it, their leaders. Most tragically, some of the people who have given up on congregations and their leaders are, in fact, the very people appointed to positions of leadership in the first place.
But not the folks writing this book!
Each of them has had her or his share of challenges and setbacks, but each has also learned from those and continues to dream, work, plan, write, learn, hope and lead. And this book pulls together more than of their best ideas for congregational renewal.
A quick story about how the book came together. A year ago, three things collided to push me to do something different:
1) I’d grown convinced the way I was taught to lead—and the way I was teaching others to lead—was no longer adequate to the needs of the church and world. Too much had changed too fast to just keep doing it the way we always have.
2) I found a network of people who felt the same … and were doing something about it. I didn’t actually know all these people personally, but I was reading their blogs, their online articles and some of their books. And it was a great feeling to discover my tribe.
3) I stumbled onto the work of Seth Godin, not only his work on marketing, which has been incredibly helpful to me, but also his work on publishing, where he is challenging the status quo and convincing a lot of us that while it’s a very difficult time to be a publisher, it’s a great time to spread ideas.
In sum, I realized something needed to change, I knew a lot of folks who could help make it happen and I discovered we had the means to share what we were learning and thinking and dreaming with just about anyone who was interested.
So the invitation went out to 50 leaders all under the age of 50 (that was the original “hook”—clever, eh?) to write up one great idea they had for congregational renewal they wanted to share. And the word “share” matters, as this project was meant from the beginning to be a gift, as all the contributors did their work without compensation to produce a resource anyone interested can download and use for free.
Then things started growing—that’s often what happens as a great idea spreads—and other folks heard what we were doing and wanted in.
As you read, take note of which ideas seem to prick your imagination or tickle your fancy. Let your mind wander to how you might adapt or apply that idea in your context.
And then try it. Do it. Put it to work. And let us know the results.
We’re hoping to create not just a book, not just a resource, but a movement—a tribe and generation of lay and ordained church leaders who are willing to place cherished assumptions on the table, and to challenge the conventional wisdom. Together we can make a difference.
Download Renew 52 today for free — it’s available for Kindle, Nook, iPad and PDF. Visit our site for your free download.