New church renewal resource

The folks at United Theological Seminary have launched a new Church Renewal web site.

I’ll let the site explain its own purpose from its “About” page:

Many local congregations in the United States and in Western Europe are struggling to survive. In virtually every Christian denomination, membership and worship attendance is on the decline, and spiritual and sacramental vitality is waning. Many churches are also struggling financially. To make matters even worse, church properties have not been well-maintained. And then there is the ever-present question that every church must ask itself, “How effective are we in creating disciples of Jesus Christ?”

Amid the struggle to survive, it is hardly surprising that churches and church leaders often lose sight of their divine calling. Churches that are on the brink of death are rarely centers of evangelistic and catechetical activity, nor are such churches capable of caring for the poor. In many quarters, the situation is truly grim. The church is not what God calls her to be. This is the bad news.

The good news is that there is an abundance of resources for churches and church leaders who are longing for renewal. Of course, the most important resource is the resource behind all resources, namely, the Holy Spirit. At United Theological Seminary, we believe that the Holy Spirit is present and at work in churches throughout the land, renewing and equipping them for the work of worship and ministry in the world.

This website is an attempt to gather resources that we believe can aid churches and church leaders in the long-haul work of renewal. These resources include blogs, videos, books, and conferences that offer insights and suggestions related to church renewal. Our hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit will use these resources to inspire, encourage and equip churches and church leaders who are longing for renewal.

The site is developing, so is worth watching. I found UTS dean David Watson’s blog post in the Biblical Foundations section quite refreshing. Using Philippians 2:6-11 as a starting point, he argues for renewal to begin with a spirit of emptying.

What if we Christians, on a large scale, allowed our sacred texts to form us in a kenotic model of renewal? What if kenosis became our paradigm for church renewal? If kenosis was our model, would service come more naturally in our congregations? Would Christians find themselves viewed, as they often are, as hypocritical and judgmental? If our model was to serve, rather than to be served, how would the tenor of our meetings change? Do we not argue over worship because we like a certain style and don’t like some other? But what if what we liked was not the driving force within these arguments? What if the question was, “How do we put others first through our worship?” How would the tenor of our debates change around controversial issues? What if the question was not simply, “What does the Bible say?” but “How can we in authority in the church genuinely emulate Christ through our decision making?” Would we still threaten to divide our communions? How would people with disabilities find different attitudes among able-bodied Christians? I maintain that, in fact, our churches would grow, but not because we are after church growth. They would grow because our will would be more in tune with God’s will and the church would fulfill her intended purposes more fully.

I’ve put a link to the site’s RSS feed on my side bar. I’ll be following it in the months ahead.

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