Congregational Cardiology and Fitness

 

Can the heart of a church and the heart of a person be compared? 

Consider the person whose arteries have narrowed, but who embarks on a series of lifestyle changes, including a revamped diet and regular exercise, leading to new life, renewed energy, hope and vision. Now consider the church that is slowly losing its ability to experience God's Sprit flowing through its "arteries." Perhaps the changes have been subtle, as they are with people, but the results are the same: less energy, a decreased vision, a loss of hope.Is there anything like a lifestyle change that can be used in the heart of a congregation, opening it up to be able to experience the work of the Sprit in new ways?

Or consider the person who is getting ready for new season of athletic competitions and who embarks on a rigorous and energizing program of exercise, leading to new capacity for speed, endurance and grace in their performance. Consider churches that sense God call them to seasons of growth in capacity for hospitality and mission. Is there anything like a new training program that can be used to strengthen the heart of a congregation?

At the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, we take these questions seriously. It’s at the heart of our mission: promoting the renewal of worship in worshiping communities across North America and beyond. And we are gratified when we work with church leaders and hear stories from them about renewed life in their worship and in their ministry.

We have found that, just like diet and exercise, there are valuable tools that can help churches open up to new ways of experiencing God’s flowing Spirit. In some cases it is a year-long focus on worship, including reading books about worship, learning from people who have devoted their lives to teaching others about worship, talking together about worship, memorizing Scripture together, eating together, learning the names of people of all ages and creating art for worship. All of these can bring new life to a congregation.

Some churches with which we work even choose to apply for a Worship Renewal Grant to give focus to their study of worship. We believe that grants can function for churches like aerobic capacity-building exercises for Olympic athletes: strong congregations with great potential that need to further be strengthened can benefit from our grants program. Indeed, just the process of working together to create a proposal, churches tell us, can be renewing; we often hear that the process itself has been so valuable that churches will proceed with their plans whether or not a grant is awarded!

So how might God use “congregational cardiology and fitness” to bring new life to your church? Begin with prayer and a study of Scripture and then explore our website or contact us with your questions. You also may wish to talk with a congregation that has already committed to a year of worship renewal and be encouraged by their wisdom and stories of new life.

We have learned that when there is new life in the congregation it is because people in the congregation have new life. Might renewal happen in your congregation? In your own heart?

Give me a clean heart so I may serve thee.
Lord, fix my heart so that I may be used by thee.
For I’m not worthy of all these blessings.
Give me a clean heart, Lord, and I’ll follow thee.

I’m not asking for the riches of the land.
I’m not asking for the proud to know my name.
Please give me, Lord, a clean heart, so that I may follow thee.
Give me a clean heart, Lord, and I’ll follow thee.

Sometimes I am up and sometimes I am down.
Sometimes I am almost level to the ground.
Please give me, Lord, a clean heart, so that I may follow thee.
Give me a clean heart, Lord, and I’ll follow thee.

~from Psalms for All Seasons 51C page 326, 327

 


NOTE: The next deadline to apply for a Worship Renewal Grant is January 10, 2013.