Not until members of Reformation Lutheran, Columbia, S.C., changed their emphasis from "What can we do?" to "What would God have us do?" did the dying congregation come back to life, said Jim Nichols, former pastor now retired.
To get the process started, Nichols led a team of four members to a 2006 ELCA Transformational Ministry (TM) training event in Chicago.
South Carolina Synod Bishop Herman Yoos describes what is happening at Reformation as "the story of a church reaching out to its neighborhood, a story of resurrection out of a 'death and dying' congregation."
Indeed, the church's website proclaims: "An old church doing new ministry."
"When we knock on a door we don't know who will answer," Yoos continued. "But we are called to knock. Every congregation in South Carolina needs to be visiting its neighbors and surrounding communities with an invitation to come worship our risen Lord."
|Reformation Lutheran Church, Columbia, S.C., members Harold and Jean Crout offered themselves up to transformational ministry.|
TM member Dorothy Jeffcoat, a longtime congregational leader, maintains "it is in the DNA of this congregation to be welcoming, to take risks, to be hopeful and trusting."
That historical perspective is confirmed by ongoing service through food kitchens and health ministry; more than a decade of monthly Taizé worship; periodic neighborhood walks to invite others to church; and SPLASH (Students Playing, Learning and Staying Healthy), a summer program with Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas to benefit refugee children.
Despite these faithful ministries, it took time for a majority of the congregation to buy into TM. Bible study, prayer and intentional group reflection focused on discerning divine direction. But comments like "This is taking way too long" and "Nobody can tell me what transformational ministry is" were frequent.
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© 2015 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers