Religion is in a time of profound change. Authors from Diana Butler Bass to Phyllis Tickle to Mike Piazza/Cameron Trimble to Russ Crabtree to Brian Maclaren among others have observed the trend, listened to the voices beyond the walls of churches, synagogues and mosques, and analyzed the research. They have shared with us the perspectives of the vast majority of those in every city and town who believe in God but don’t believe in institutional religion. They see it as too rigid and dogmatic, too intrusive and hypocritical, too boring and irrelevant, too dangerous and harmful. We know that some churches are adapting and flourishing in this time. We also know that at least 9 churches are closing their doors each week. This is a profound time of change that is not only impacting our churches but is also touching every aspect of our culture, our economics, our politics and our faith.
Interim ministry is well acquainted with this in-between time. In the life of the church it is the time of shift from the familiar into the unknown. It is in times like these that congregations can be most anxious. And it is in times like these that God has always been most active. God continuously calls us into the wilderness of uncertainty in order to encounter new understandings of ourselves and our God.
And in this era of profound change the interim time has a critical role. Much work may need to be done in this time to prepare the church for its next chapter. But foundational and fundamental to this process is a partnership with God, the congregation and the community to determine the answers to 3 questions with crystal clarity:
1. Who are we (our skills, character, assets, resources, gifts, and historical trends and DNA)?
2. In this Changing Landscape of Ministry, Who is our neighbor (around the community and commuter radius and around the world)? What are their burdens, dreams, longings and strivings, Spiritual needs, challenges, fears, struggles?
3. And given the answer to the first two questions; What is God uniquely Calling us to become and to do in this current time and place?