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The many routes to Churches That Work

Churches that sweat. Churches that avoid divisiveness and pettiness. Churches that draw outsiders. Churches that know Jesus. Churches shaped by the Book.

Whatever you call them, we call them “churches that really work.”

Churches That Work is a year-old series seeking these ideals among 13,000 very diverse congregations in the U.S. Three times per year, we’re sending out a staff member to bring readers a story about healthy congregations that can teach us all something important. Being selected for the series isn’t an award — but we do try to show strengths. It isn’t an inquisition — though we do ask difficult questions.

Rather than viewourselves as the church police, we’re listening to church leaders working allover the nation and around the world. We’re trying to recognize an importantreality: Each Christian is to play a role in building a spiritual communitycentered on Christ and filled with the Spirit. When these qualities flourish,congregations grow and become beacons to their communities.

Our newspaper seeksto serve readers by going to considerable effort and expense to find suchcongregations. Beyond the stories that fairly demand to be printed, we’re alsotrying to inform readers and inspire the growth of healthy congregations largeand small, urban and rural. It is community-service journalism.

Planning a seriesalways is risky. One member of our staff remembers, “When we came up with theidea for the series, we tried to put a framework together that would allow usto highlight the best features of these congregations, assuming that therewould be only one or two strengths to highlight.” That was our idea then.

In reality, when ourstaff members return from reporting trips for Churches That Work, they arebursting with insights. One said, “After visiting these churches, we couldn’tpossibly fit the information into four pages of coverage. There are so many,varied ministries at each of these congregations, but there also is a sense ofunity.”

In 2005, we providedreaders a glimpse of three such congregations — Metro in Gresham,Ore., Highlandin Memphis, Tenn.,and Fairfax in Virginia. Readers will find this contentgathered on our Web site along with some items we didn’t have room for in theprint edition.

Where will we go in2006? Please help us decide by nominating a congregation you know that isunited, visible, growing and biblical.

Nominations alreadyreceived are listed online. We will use this list of nominations as we seek tobalance the series for geographic regions in the U.S., congregational character andsize. Please send your nominations to[email protected]

Marvelous things arehappening in congregations all over. Are these congregations perfect? No. Thereis no perfect congregation. The perfect family is a mirage. Still, all matureadults know that a healthy earthly family is worth all our commitment. Thehealthy spiritual family is all the more precious.

We also believe thatthese stories tell the good news of the Spirit of Christ moving among us.Churches that Work are to be found in every state, city and region. They arefound in small towns and suburbs and urban-renewal zones. They use a variety ofmodels for work. Some are working in Spanish.

However they might bedescribed, we know healthy congregations abound. And we know they have more incommon — they work — than whatever might keep them apart. They are united,visible, growing and biblical.

We will never be ableto visit and write about even half the congregations that are working in the U.S.

Although our seriesis limited by budget and time to congregations in North America, we continue to use our International pages each month topublish stories about works around the world where congregations are united,visible, growing and biblical.

The drive to buildhealthy congregations is alive around the globe.

Readersvalue this information and inspiration because they know that — just as it wasin the days of Paul — Christians grow when they hear of good things happeningamong the saints in other places.

Filed under: Editorial Staff Reports

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