BY TIM BYERLY |
If you’ve read the previous posts in this series about Living Faith, thank you for staying with me on this. If you haven’t, you can find themhere (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7). I hope you will check them out.
You will need a little background information for this post to make sense. If you aren’t familiar with how the Moravian Church is organized, you need to understand that the Southern Province of the Moravian Church in America is governed by a body called a Synod which meets for about four days every four years. This Synod consists mainly of the pastors and educators who are serving churches along with elected representatives from the member congregations.
Something happened at the last Synod which was held two years ago in the spring of 2014 which could alter the future of our Church. I’m not saying it will, just that it could. A resolution was passed calling for the establishment of Manna Ministries–or maybe a way to recognize Manna Ministries–to be overseen by the Provincial Elders’ Conference (PEC) or by an entity designated by the PEC. This was not so much about creating a new “department” in the church or even about creating a new ministry. It was about recognizing “new and emerging ministries that do not otherwise fit into the existing models and categories of ministry.” There seemed to have been a lot of interest and energy among the delegates over this concept. It reflects the belief of some that the church’s ministry–or a portion of its ministry–needs to move in an innovative, non-conventional direction if it is to be relevant to our current culture.
One of the exciting things about Living Faith is that it looks in two directions. It connects with the past by using the model of Moravian prayer bands (see blog post 6), and it connects with our present and future by connecting us with each other and with God in a time when it’s easy to become disconnected. It capitalizes on the dynamics of spiritual unity and fellowship more fully than most of us are currently experiencing. It offers to invigorate our faith and our congregations through a practice that is a part of Moravian heritage but which is rarely found in Moravian congregational life today.
When I heard of the adoption of the Manna Ministries resolution, I sensed in that action an eagerness to do something innovative, something non-conventional, not just so we can say that we are being innovative, but to search for something that offered to make our experience of Christ more powerful and life-changing. And I sensed a desire to find a way for our church to have a more profound impact on our world.
Not always, but many times when I’m describing Living Faith, I hear responses that reflect some of this eagerness to make our congregational life more transformative. That’s what I’ve sensed in many conversations.
I’m not sure Living Faith fits the vision of Manna Ministries the way it was conceived at Synod. I wasn’t there. And Living Faith is intended usually to begin within a congregation’s fellowship rather than something apart from a congregation. But I do see some of the same characteristics that one might find in a ministry that doesn’t “fit into the existing models and categories of ministry.” Our existing way of “doing church” doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on spiritual growth. It’s offered, it’s presented as a good thing, but not as a major priority for the entire congregation.
Coupling spiritual growth with outreach is another unique quality of the Living Faith model. Outreach doesn’t usually grow out of spiritual growth as it occurs in small group fellowship. They seem to be done independently of each other. Let me hasten to add that I’m not suggesting that they are never joined in this way in our churches. It just doesn’t seem to me to be the norm as it is in Living Faith.
I’m excited about this yearning for a deeper church life that impacts our lives and our world. This is what I sense in this resolution on Manna Ministries. I believe it’s something we need. Living Faith can enable our congregations to move beyond themselves in ways they are not currently doing. I look forward to seeing how this plays out.
Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.
The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)