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Regardless of size, purpose is same

Regardless of size, purpose is same

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Regardless of size, purpose is same

Oct. 15, 2006    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0562}

NOTE: A headshot of Stiggins is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By the Rev. Jeff Stiggins**

The director of Congregational Transformation has the reputation of being the “hit man” for the Florida Conference, but I am not in the business of closing churches — any more than God is in the business of sending people to hell.

My role and passion is to help congregations become healthy and fulfill both their Great Commission from our Lord and their charter from our annual conference.
There is value in all churches. Health is not about size. There are some very sick large churches that are strong institutions, but fruitless for the Kingdom. And there are some very healthy small churches that are bearing the three types of fruit God desires: growth in converts, growth in Christian character and growth in community impact.

The main concern is not about size, but about the health and missional effectiveness of a congregation — whatever size it may be. There are certain traits of healthy congregations that make and form disciples who become “salt and light” to the world.

These congregations extend radical hospitality, offer Christ to persons who do not know him, plan and hold inspiring worship, teach the basics of following Christ, introduce persons to faith-forming relationships, and encourage and enable persons to make a Kingdom contribution.

Congregational transformation suggests a journey, in good Wesleyan tradition: going on to perfection. Transformation is an intentional move from where a congregation is (its current reality) to where God wants it to be (joining Him in fruitful ministry). To make a journey, you have to know both where you are and where you are going.

In terms of where we are called by Christ to go, I think — in spite of all the books, Sunday School lessons, sermons, seminars and people telling us what they want in our local churches — that we are fuzzy about what God really expects to see happen in and through a local congregation. For years in my ministry I acted as if (even while I could rattle off the mission of the church theologically) the main things were caring for people, keeping them happy, keeping the programs going and paying apportionments. Then I began to discover that it’s really not about any of those things — at least not at the heart of the matter.

So what is it about? There are lots of ways of talking about it, but God’s desire for the local church is that it can be a community of faith, centered in Christ’s living presence, that is focused on making and forming disciples who are becoming salt and light in their community. More needs to be said, but that’s the heart of it, and that’s the main thing that needs to remain the main thing with clarity in our minds so that it can give shape to everything we do.

This article relates to Christian Discipleship.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Stiggins is director of the Florida Conference’s Congregational Transformation office.