Transforming Congregations Through the Matthew 28 Initiative

A few years ago, our conference worked with Paul Borden to develop the Matthew 28 Initiative. This initiative is “a strategy for transforming congregations to greater fruitfulness in making disciples of Jesus Christ.”

This is the third year of Matthew 28 in our conference. As I understand it, there are approximately 45 churches in the initiative, including the nine that began this year. Centre Grove applied to enter the initiative last January, and is currently in the process. In fact, we are now entering the most critical stage of the Matthew 28 process!

There are three major components of the Matthew 28 process. First, pastors participate in a mentoring group for one year (my group started in January). We read a book, meet and discuss it, and conclude the day with a time of spiritual formation (the formational time is led by a different pastor in the group each month).

Second, a consultation takes place at each church. Centre Grove’s consultation starts tomorrow and concludes Sunday morning (we submitted a congregational self-study report a month ago). The team (made up of the district superintendent, a consultant, and a coach) will spend all day Friday conducting various interviews (with me, several leaders, and a focus group of about 20-30 people). On Saturday, the consultant will teach a workshop, then the team will spend Saturday evening writing prescriptions. The consultant will preach Sunday morning. After the sermon, the consultant will present the team’s report, including a list of prescriptions.

The prescriptions are intended to help us be more fruitful in our mission of making disciples. Each task comes with a deadline, all to be completed within the next year.

The church will have a month to consider the prescriptions before voting on them in a special church conference. If the church votes to accept the prescriptions, we will work with the coach for one year. The coach will guide us and help us stay on track. A coaching relationship is the third component of the Matthew 28 initiative.

Personally, I believe the real benefits of the initiative are not necessarily the prescriptions (whatever they are) as much as the accountability we will have with the coach and also the energy and intensity of trying to accomplish so much in the next year.

I am excited about this process. After spending two years leading Centre Grove through an engagement of Bishop Schnase’s Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, we felt Matthew 28 was the next faithful step. This weekend, and more importantly next month’s church vote, will determine our course of action for some time to come (either in working on the prescriptions or in regrouping!).

As we enter into the heart of the Matthew 28 process this weekend, my hope is that this experience will be energizing, inspiring, and challenging for all of us. It should force us to seek God. It may cause us to wrestle with what it means to be the church!

It should be fun!

“The Spirit of Wesleyan Leadership”

One of the books we read as part of the D.Min. program at Asbury several years ago was Lovett Weems’ Leadership in the Wesleyan Spirit. I never blogged about it but I think about it from time to time.

Weems discusses the vision and practices of early American Methodists. When people in America began moving west and into rural areas, many church leaders were reluctant to follow the people. But Methodist circuit riders chose another path—they followed the people and started new churches all across the nation.

Weems notes that Methodism peaked in 1925 at 6.46% (membership percentage of the population). That was also the year the nation peaked as a rural nation with 75% living in rural areas. According to the 1990 census, the situation has reversed with 75% living in non-rural areas (cities and suburbs). (Unfortunately, however, 20th-century Methodists didn’t maintain their predecessors’ pioneering values.)

Weems writes …

The Wesleyan movement became a powerful spiritual force in America by going where the people were. The movement did not exist to serve churches. … It was a passion and urgency for all to know God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ that propelled this movement of God, against all odds, to every corner of a vast nation. (32-33)

In the book, Weems writes about the principles of leadership in the Wesleyan spirit (it begins with people, follows the people, focuses on serving people, and remembers especially the poor), practices of leadership in the Wesleyan spirit (practices multiple leadership, leads from the center and the edge, lives in a tension, seeks to include, and makes ‘connection’ happen), and the passions of leadership in the Wesleyan spirit (knows God, proclaims Christ, and seeks justice).

Weems addresses the importance of knowing God. Weems states …

Leadership and spirituality are inevitably linked. Leadership is only possible to the extent that we are able to discern a compelling and driving vision of what is good and acceptable and perfect. One cannot lead without such a vision. Such a vision can only come from closeness to God and to a community of believers. (118)

Two more quotes to close …

Those of us in the Wesleyan tradition love to talk about the warmed heart. Perhaps we have forgotten the fire that warmed it in the first place. … Surely the crisis of leadership in the life of the church is, at least in part, a crisis in the life of the spirit among our leaders, among ourselves. (120)

Finally, a note about Wesley’s legacy …

The great example of Wesley for future generations is not as a model leader. He was far from that. His lasting example is a spiritual legacy of one who spent virtually his entire lifetime on this same pilgrimage. Until his dying moments he continued to seek growth in grace, peace of soul, communion with God, and perfection in love. (146)

May we do the same!