A Vision and Invitation for Renewal

Greetings, Dear Gibson Family,

I remain deeply grateful for God’s call to come and serve with you as your Interim Commissioned Pastor. One of the specific tasks for which you called me was to lead a process of renewal. This was something I talked about with the search team each time we met a year ago. Leading such a process excited me because a significant part of my life in education as a teacher and administrator was seeking God’s next for what we were doing as a Christian school and in my own classroom. To some degree, we were in perpetual renewal. Even more personally, I have experienced the Holy Spirit leading my life into new seasons very significantly and clearly, the greatest of which was discerning the Spirit’s leading to let go of a blessed 30-year career in Christian education for an unknown future into which the Spirit would lead. Little did I know then, almost a year ahead of time, that you were that future, and I remain humbly grateful. 

None of us could have predicted the path of our journey together back on January 1, 2020 when we first began together. Even through the bumps, bends, and turns of a global pandemic God has been good and continues to lead us by his Spirit into his good future, a new season for Gibson Church which lies before us. I admit, I have had to remind myself often to be expectantly patient through the last 9 months. Yet, the Spirit has used this time to allow me to get to know you better, and to hear the Spirit’s voice, even to plant some initial dreams and hopes for the future. Through it all, I have been eager for a tried and true tool to begin a structured process which would provide the guard rails for our renewal journey. That tool is The Church Renewal Lab (CRL) from the Center for Church Renewal (CCR). I want to share more about this tool and process and invite your prayers, and your participation. We’ll need all hands on deck as we seek renewal at Gibson Church together. 

The Center for Church Renewal is directed by Rev. Keith Doornbos, a wonderful friend, advocate, and counselor to Gibson Church, along with a team of others committed to “serving leaders who renew churches.” Their organization partners include the likes of the Christian Reformed Church of North America, the Reformed Church of America, Calvin Theological Seminary, and more you can find on the CCR website linked above. CCR’s shared vision and focus is to provide “North American church leaders the tools and training necessary for increased Gospel impact in a rapidly changing world” while addressing “the challenges of congregational membership decline.” Simply stated, their goal is “To develop intentional missional congregations that make more and better disciples who transform lives and communities for Christ.”  

In the past seven years at least 100 congregations from four regions (Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Northern Alberta and the Pacific Northwest) have participated in the CRL with promising results demonstrated by dozens of congregations who have experienced renewed hope, fresh vision and greater capacity for outreach and discipleship.  Approximately a third have become turn-around congregations and two-thirds are welcoming into membership individuals who joined as a result of intentional evangelism. 

The Center for Church Renewal is a strong partner for our renewal journey at Gibson Church, and their tool, the Church Renewal Lab, is a well-tested process for churches like us seeking renewal. Our objectives for the CRL, specifically, are:

  • Identifying a unique mission and vision
  • Developing tools for making more and better disciples
  • Becoming Gospel-Centered in everything we do
  • Changing the atmosphere through congregational health
  • Implementing the priorities of the Acts 2:42-47 New Testament Church

The CRL process is a 2-year journey toward establishing vibrant missional faith communities by providing:

  • Cohorts of 5-10 churches journeying together
  • Quarterly renewal training (The Learning Labs)
  • A 3-step process: Listen. Imagine. Do.
  • Peer learning environments
  • Team formation to help guide the renewal process
  • Congregational involvement
  • Multiple coaches for various aspects of ministry
  • Unpacking the essentials and tools of renewal

This week’s initial meetings will be followed by a similarly structured quarterly meeting schedule of Thursdays and Fridays with Pastors, and Saturday mornings with congregation members and renewal leadership teams over the course of the next 2 years. 

That is a lot of information to give you in one shot. I hope you are not overwhelmed. I wanted to give you as clear a picture as I could, of the organization we are partnering with in this renewal journey, as well as the tool we will be using. Are you sensing that this is not a journey for the faint of heart? You are right! This journey will require lots of work and prayer on the part of everyone already at Gibson, as well as those God will add to our numbers, Lord-willing. As I said earlier, this is a call for all hands on deck. Nothing less than our existence and future mission at Gibson Church are at stake. I feel the urgency. I am excited. I am expectant. I invite you to the same.

What can you do right now? I love it! Thanks for asking!

First, you can pray! Pray daily, even more, for God to do a transforming, life-giving, renewing work in us at Gibson. 

  • Pray that God will use us to be that tree in the garden of Laketown Township where the birds find nest and rest and shade, where people find the Kingdom of God to be present, sweet, and desire to be a part of it. 
  • Pray for courage and strength for this vital journey.
  • Pray that God will add to our numbers through the process and as we engage even more missional tools for evangelism and discipleship.
  • Pray for me, and the rest of the leadership yet to be formed, and including many of you…for faith and trust, for perseverance, for hearts tuned to the Holy Spirit’s leading, for protection from the Enemy, and anything that would distract from this mission.
  • Pray for that continued submission to the Holy Spirit’s leading, willing to let go of the things the Spirit tells us to let go of, while embracing the new things the Spirit leads us to for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom. 

 

Second, we will need people with spiritual insight, people willing to pursue the Spirit’s leading with singular focus, people with a heart and passion for God, the Gospel, the Kingdom, and for others, people willing to engage deeply and personally in this renewal process, as well as people with a variety of gifts, experience, and passion. Is this you? I hope so! We need you on this journey, not to be a bystander, but to be an invested member of this team in prayer or other ways. None of us will do this alone. We can’t. We need each other. We need people not yet even part of our community, but whom God will bring to us. So, please pray and consider your commitment and participation in this renewal process. I promise you, it will be an exciting ride you won’t want to miss whether behind the scenes or on the front lines. 

Third, pray some more. God is a deeply relational God who is moved by our prayers because of his deep love for us. I am eager to see how God will move, even encouraged by our prayers inspired by the Holy Spirit along the way.   

God has been preparing you for this, as he has been preparing me. I know that he will give us what we need for every step of the journey. So, while there continue to be unknowns for our future, we go with confidence, boldness, trust, and even joy because we have a God who is already there, and is taking us on this journey by his Spirit. 

I will keep you up to date with reports on this renewal journey, sisters and brothers. If you have any questions about anything here, please feel free to ask. I’ll be happy to listen and offer an answer if I have one, or find one if I do not. 

As always, shalom, Sisters and Brothers.

Pastor Rod