Pastor's Note | Monday, August 26th
As you may know I have been helping with a church in downtown Long Beach that has become a very small congregation; so small, in fact, that the Presbytery is nearing a decision to close that church.
Like many churches, this one has seen dramatic shifts in the demographics of the community it is situated in. As the ethnic makeup of the neighborhood changed the congregation remained an enclave of like-minded and like-looking people but did not - for whatever reasons - become representative of the community around it. Over time, many people moved from the area and others entered into life eternal. Without effectively connecting to the immediate community and inviting people in, the church has declined.
This morning I met with two people who have a vision for this church and hope to see things turned around. One heads an inner-city ministry that reaches out to drug addicts, prostitutes, AIDS victims, and street people, introduces them to Jesus Christ and seeks to help them develop leadership skills. The second is a pastor from a very traditional church background who has a heart for inner-city ministry and for that congregation.
They see this declining, small church - the facility and the remaining congregation - as a foundation for an entirely new form of ministry in the downtown area. Their vision is of a ministry-shaped church. That is, a congregation that recognizes it exists for the purpose of specific mission, and a partnership between that congregation and ministry focused on the city's needs.
I have to admit I am enthused by this prospect - not because it means there will be another congregation in the downtown area (okay, that's a big part of it), but because this means young women currently trapped in prostitution will find new hope and new life in Jesus. It means young men strung out on meth and other drugs will have an opportunity to discover the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Because it means those in AIDs hospice care group homes will be invited to hear of the One who offers life everlasting.
I also am enthused by the prospect of Good Shepherd developing more of a mission-shaped ministry. By that I mean being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit to show us the needs in our immediate community and to shape our ministry programs, budgets, staff, and energy into meeting them. There is no doubt that we are moving that direction - recognizing we exist to make disciples who Connect with God, Grow in Faith, and Serve in Love. I also believe God will be using us in wonderful new ways to advance the Kingdom and draw others to Jesus as we intentionally offer ourselves to God's Kingdom.
Would you pray for this congregation in downtown Long Beach, for the growing possibility of a new mission outpost in that location, and for us who are part of Good Shepherd to see the opportunity we have to be a mission-shaped church in our community?