As we enter the last stretch of 2020, we want to share what we’re seeing and learning about pastors and congregations across the country. I’m sure we’ll get into to some nuts and bolts analysis of these themes in the coming weeks, but I simply want to say from the outset how inspiring it is to see so many of you adjusting, adapting, asking hard questions, experimenting, taking risks, and not looking back.
Right now, for example, one of the six-week virtual cohorts we’re hosting is made up of pastors of predominantly white congregations who see the need for their congregations take significant, concrete steps in the way of racial justice, and to recover justice as a fundamental, inextricable expression of the gospel. This includes taking risks, anticipating costs, and navigating systems that are experiencing heightened anxiety from the pandemic and political polarization, and indeed from the cultures of whiteness that often lie underneath. These pastors are asking vitally important questions and are not shying away from the work before them. We’re humbled to be able to work on challenges like this, and it’s indicative of a broader set of inspiring trends we’re seeing.
So also we are in a growing number of conversations with our cohort facilitators, pastors, congregations, and larger denominational bodies who are ready to question their most deeply held assumptions about the church, the world, ministry, and what God is up to in our midst. What have we gotten wrong about our basic ecclesiology? What does it mean for faith formation to be dispersed and decentralized for the long term? How much formation have we tied to what happens “in the building”? Are our congregations pursuing “unity” around the wrong sorts of themes at the expense of the more significant issues at stake? Are we making disciples or burned-out volunteers? These are the sort of elephant-in-the-room questions that frequently emerge in our conversations with you all, and we’re inspired by your willingness to keep pushing on them.
What has seemed like a series of intermittent sprints over the past several months is starting to look more like interval training for longer distances. Just think of the resilience and courage that the Spirit is forming in you for what lies ahead. Much like we’ve said over the past several months in the wake of several acute crises in our culture, we see you, we’re with you, keep going.