Strengthening Churches Through Relationship
Partners with the President with Glen Schrieber and Greg Fell
Every month, EFCA President Kevin Kompelien highlights stories, vision and leadership from around the EFCA in his monthly e-newsletter, "Partners with the President." This month, Kevin sat down with District Superintendents Glen Schrieber and Greg Fell (featured in the video below) to discuss how our district and national offices exist to serve our local churches.
In 1983, Becky and I came to a church in Winona, Minnesota, that was hurting.
A few years before we arrived, the congregation went through a significant church split. Several people left the church, and in a relatively small city like Winona, all sorts of hurt feelings and different issues floated around. When I came to pastor the church, the congregation was still dealing with the pain and hurt.
Because of the situation in which Becky and I had entered, the first five years of our ministry in Winona were focused simply on teaching the Truth and loving the people of God. In a sense, we tried to answer the question: How do we bring back health and vitality to a church that is hurting? We wanted God to mend what was wounded—and we saw Him do amazing things in those early years.
God healed broken relationships. He brought people back to the church who had left during the conflict. He strengthened, restored and moved our church forward.
A lesson from Paul's letters
As we look at one part of the top element of the Missional Diagram triangle (below), “Strengthening Churches,” turn your attention to the various letters of the Apostle Paul.
In Acts 13, the Lord spoke clearly to the leaders of the church in Antioch to send Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey. They visited multiple cities where they shared the gospel and planted churches. Sometime after their return to Antioch, Paul said, “Let’s go back and see how they are doing.” So in Acts 16, Paul, Silas and Timothy embark on another missionary journey. In verse 5, we read, “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.”
Paul’s letters to various churches make up about a third of the New Testament. Much of what Paul wrote in these letters focused on strengthening churches. Romans is a wonderful theological treatise to the church in Rome. 1 and 2 Corinthians are two letters to a church dealing with multiple issues. Ephesians is broken down into a theological opening and a practical, application-based conclusion. Philippians is simply an outpouring of Paul’s joyous heart to the church in Philippi.
When reading Paul’s letters, you’ll notice that, yes, he offered wisdom and instruction to these churches, but the key is that he did this all in the context of relationship. Look at the language he used in his letter to the Thessalonians:
“Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thess 2:8, emphasis mine)
In the context of relationship, Paul strengthened these churches in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus and Thessalonica—encouraging and instructing them to stay true to their mission of spreading the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Acts 2 gives us this picture of a healthy, strong church living both in relationship and on mission:
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47)
We're better together
This is why the EFCA national and district offices exist. We want to help strengthen our churches. We want to help every EFCA congregation—regardless of size, location or demographic breakdown—become a transformational influence for Christ in local communities.
We’ve often said within the EFCA movement that we’re “better together.” We want to make that even more of a reality. We want you to know that, as a local church, you don’t have to go it alone. The national office, in partnership with districts, exists to serve you and help you. Let’s take advantage of the interdependent relationships we can have.
Whether it’s pastor clusters, training opportunities or evangelism cohorts, we’re committed to resourcing and supporting you, the local church, to carry out Jesus’ Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations.” We’re here to partner with you. We’re here to strengthen your church.
Two examples of these opportunities for partnership come from District Superintendents Glen Schrieber and Greg Fell, as you’ll see in the video below. In both the EFCA Southeast and Rocky Mountain Districts, Glen and Greg host network gatherings for pastors to discuss current issues, receive training and prayer, and be equipped in their individual ministries. Greg calls it the “Healthy Church Network.” Glen calls it the “Normal Church Network.”
Don't go it alone
What we’re talking about is not for the few, it’s for the many. It’s not necessarily only for the sick, either. When Becky and I arrived in Winona in 1983, the church had more than 150 people. It wasn’t going to die. It didn’t need revitalization; it needed to be strengthened. Now, the congregation is thriving with more than 1,300 people.
Whether you’re a small or large church, sick or healthy, we all need help to strengthen, refocus and maintain the purpose and mission of why we exist. Together, let’s push forward and build each other up in our mission to “glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all people.” Don’t go it alone. Let’s do this together.
In what ways has your church utilized resources from your district and/or the national office? To learn more about how you can connect with the resources available to you, visit efca.org/helps.
This content and video conversation appeared in the October edition of Partners with the President. To receive future updates, you can subscribe here.