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These churches show God at work

From Tennessee to Oregon, Virginia to South Dakota, Texas to California, our Churches That Work project has taken reporters from The Christian Chronicle all over the nation these past two years.
As part of this project, we’ll highlight more outstanding congregations over the next year.
But as a new year begins, we thought it appropriate to pause and ponder: What have we learned so far?
First, we have learned what we already knew: Many congregations are busy making meaningful connections with Jesus and one another. They are building communities of faith able to draw others into deep commitments to Jesus. These congregations inspire boundless energy and sacrifice. They nourish spiritual growth.
Second, where you find these congregations, you find numerical growth not far behind, whether that growth is measured in tens or hundreds. God’s creatures are simply too hungry for meaning and connection to ignore such opportunities for fullness.
That’s what we have learned from Churches That Work. So far, we have visited the Highland Street church in Memphis, Tenn.; the Metro church in Gresham, Ore.; the Fairfax, Va., church; the Southern Hills church in Dallas; the Northern Hills church in Spearfish, S.D.; and the Cordova church in Rancho Cordova, Calif. These forward-thinking congregations are busy in purposeful work. They are dedicated to a mission and on a quest to fulfill it.
The lessons of our first six installments in the series remind us that we set out looking for congregations that were united, visible, growing and biblical. What we found were snapshots of the Body of Christ. Yes, it is inspiring to see these churches at work.
What we found in our search also has taught us a lot about churches that embody the characteristics of the New Testament church. We found our thinking changed. Here are a few myths shattered along the way.
Myth: Church leaders must find a single, magical model of how to do church and rigidly follow that regardless of their history, location or other contexts.
Reality: Congregations should begin where they are with their own strengths and opportunities from God. Where can you serve? To whom can you extend gracious welcome?
Myth: It is impossible to grow without jettisoning the identities that congregations developed in the 20th century.
Reality: The growing congregations we have profiled fall along a spectrum of doctrinal orientation, but each has a strong identity and is committed to thriving.
Myth: The growing congregations will look much the same across the nation.
Reality: We see amazing diversity. Small churches are growing, but we’ve covered urban and suburban churches, too, and found they flourish when they are united, biblical, visible and growing. The diversity of congregations in the orbit of our fellowship is remarkable.
Praise God for congregations that are deeply committed to Christ, congregations that have determined to be united, visible, growing and biblical! We know they give the credit to God and we do, too. These Jesus people are an inspiration, indeed.
Yet the challenges of building a healthy congregation in the 21st century will require far more than sheer inspiration. Significant challenges remain for Christians across the nation and around the world in 2007. Beyond our Churches That Work project, we plan a special emphasis this year on the numerical and spiritual health of Churches of Christ in the United States.
Let us now praise God for all the churches that work both in the U.S. and around the world. It is the united, visible, growing and biblical congregation that always has been our inspiration for reporting to you every month.
Please click on Churches That Work. Help us celebrate God’s work among faithful people.

Filed under: Editorial Staff Reports

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