The approach of Valentine’s Day next week reminds me of working with various UMYF or Youth Fellowship groups over the years. As Valentine’s Day approached, especially if it was the theme of the youth meeting, teens would call out their favorite Scripture Memory verse that called for “greeting each other with a holy kiss”. They would share this with laughter and longing. Today, I commend this verse as a guide for ministry in the emerging future: KISS – Keep It Simple, Saints!
KISS- “Keeping it simple” was a key principle for the Coastal Plains Regional team as we gathered, discerned, prayed, and considered what we will do in the months and years to come to support local churches to build Spirit energy, focus resources, align training, and move forward in growing vibrant and fruitful ministry that connects, engages, and cares for our communities.
The KISS (audacious Spirit-powered goal) of the Coastal Plains Region for the next 3 years is working with clergy and congregations that are willing and ready to connect, engage, welcome, and embrace 10,000 new people as first-time visitors to our worship services and ministries and build life-giving, Christ-centered, relationships with them.
SIMPLE, NOT EASY
The Apostle Paul, in Romans 16:16, commands believers to greet each other with a holy kiss. What he is doing is inviting people, in an appropriate (culturally and with respect of persons and healthy boundaries) manner to build/be a community of faith, where unity is found in the central relationship in Christ through which God’s ever-flowing GRACE is always made available to all. Paul keeps it simple- “Now, abide faith, hope, and love but the greatest of these is love. Make love your aim! (1 Corinthians 13:13 & 14:1a)
Jesus also kept it simple in the Great Commandment. He boiled it down for us—”Love God with your entire being, love your neighbor as yourself”.
While we tend to complicate things, Jesus and Paul make it simple, not easy, but simple! The early church had issues that Paul, Peter, James, and John along with others sought to address in their various letters. Yet the hallmark of the church, viewed by those outside of it, was love.
In the early Church, Tertullian wrote that those viewing the communities of faith from the outside were struck by the witness and way of Christian love. “See how they love one another!” It was contagious! Jesus shared with his closest followers in an upper room, “By this shall all people know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another.” John 13:35.
ENGAGEMENT Vs. ATTRACTION
“This is the church, this is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people”! The old concept around “opening the doors and they will come…” was called an “attraction model”, and it no longer works!
During these past two years, people have rediscovered those relationships that are life-giving are primary! Many are in the process of reordering their lives to focus more on relationships and are looking for ways to live with more meaning, joy, and purpose.
In the emerging “new normal” it is key for churches to meet people where they are, engaging with them and building relationships in person and line as we leverage new technologies that help us gather and build relationships. Moving forward, attractional ministries need to be coupled with an intentional shift outward into the communities in which our facilities are located and equipping disciples to be “salt and light”, out in the community where they live, work, play, go to school, and do life. It is in the community (not the building) that we will find people longing for something more and better, for meaning, value, purpose, healing, and hope.
Together, with God and each other, we will stir revival by growing vibrant communities of faith that connect and engage people in the community with the good news of Christ, where people feel they belong, they experience the love of God lived out as it is shared in meaningful ways.
As we begin this journey of renewal and multiplication, we encourage all CPR clergy and congregational leadership teams to engage the following missional questions,
- What would your congregation and community look like if your church constantly engaged new people, welcomed them into the faith community, felt they belong, and experienced God’s love to live out in meaningful ways?
- In what ways is your congregation already connecting and engaging people in the community?
- What needs to be different in your congregation so that you can live into a more outward/engaging strategy of ministry into the future?
People today, all around your church, are longing for love lived out in simple, authentic ways. They are yearning for life-giving relationships, and they want to make a difference. We are called to engage them, welcome them into the community, help them find a place for their gifts, and then with us live out our faith in relationship to God, each other, and God’s world.
KISS – Keep It Simple, Saints! Join us as we engage, welcome, and embrace 2,500 people in first-time contacts this year, 5,000 first-time visitors by the end of 2023, and 10,000 first-time visitors by the end of 2024.
Rev. Brian Roberts, Cape Atlantic District Superintendent