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Transformation in Progress


Lately I've been intentionally mum on our ministry here in Hampton Roads.

Over the last year I've spent a lot of time taking inventory and seeking God anew. At the end of this time (somewhere in the fall) I decided to act in obedience to what I heard from God. This obedience wasn't easy to say the least and it has lead to some of the toughest challenges I've faced as an adult. Most of these challenges were internal.

What lead me to seek God anew was the fact that our church hadn't been reaching people. Here and there we'd have someone come to Christ but by and large our church had gotten stagnent and routine. We were big enough to 'have church' and it appeared that many of our folks were content with that in spite of every sermon to the contrary.

As I sought God and evaluated the situation I came to the conclusion that my ministry here in Hampton Roads was not over. I wasn't released. There most certainly is a huge need here. What I did conclude (and this is a very strong conviction of mine) is that a misrepresentation of Jesus Christ through the local church was unacceptable. Effectively I believe churches that have become social clubs would do better to fold than to continue ruining the world's perception of Christ's Church. To this day I have no clue how a Pastor can find joy in leading a congregation that is not actively seeing lives transformed in the name of Christ.

In our case as I looked back we stumbled out of the gate and never quite caught our footing. To do what we did with what we had was pretty stinkin' amazing to be honest... but that isn't the standard. The goal isn't to beat out the church planting statistics, the goal is to see people come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. So sure we were "healthy" from an outsider's perspective but we weren't healthy on the inside... we weren't growing like healthy things grow.

Coming to grips with the reality of this situation then led to a few questions of what to do. At the end of the day we felt there were basically three options ahead:

1. Continue forward trying to make changes as we go.
2. Fold the place completely and go find new employment. (aka 'God's calling me somewhere else')
3. Refocus and re-start after a period of training and equiping.

Out of our options I felt we had already tried the first one. This evaluation wasn't new. I felt that we had tried to spin the plates over the last year and it was obvious that we didn't have the number or type of people we needed in order to get the church back on track. Incrimental improvements weren't enough at this stage. We had a large amount of people who saw themselves as consumers. This was in spite of all teaching to the contrary. Small changes weren't needed. Something big had to happen.

The second option wasn't appealing to me for one major reason... God had given us some who were growing and eagerly serving... most of them were younger and we were the first church they were attending as a couple. For these families I felt that it was important we gave them the option to continue their growth with us. Additionally as I stated, I didn't feel that our vision or style was a problem for this area. What was a problem was that we only had a few who actually seemed to care about the vision and mission. Apathey had set in and we weren't able to shake it.

So with the first two options out of the way we looked at spending a focused time to retool. While the first option was tweaking the system, this option would be to take everything apart and start over. This was the preferred option.

Toward the end of the year we began preparing our people for some major changes to come in 2008. On January 6 we made the news public. Focal Point Chesapeake was going to re-launch. We warned that this was not for everyone. We spen the next three weeks laying out expectations and each week we saw our attendance drop. While it was sad to see people leave, the message was received better than I thought. People were moving on knowing that we had tried everything we could. I didn't have one person question me about the validity of the decision. It was as if I was saying publically what so many knew in their own hearts.

Many of our folks knew from the time of the announcement that they really shouldn't continue on. Some met with me and we talked about the fact that they'd be better served by moving to another church and growing in Christ. Others met and I shared concerns with their own growth but encouraged them to continue with us. Out of all of those conversations we ended up with a new core team.

I can't tell you how excited I am about the future of ministry here in Hampton Roads. Over the last few weeks our core team has been meeting and I have already seen a revitalized enthusiasm and passion for Christ sweep this gathering of adults.

Over the next few weeks I'll begin to share details of this transition.

I'll share the fear that comes with giving your ministry an autopsy.
I'll discuss the fear of scaling back when you've been in ministry since college and you wonder about finances.
I'll share about the courage it takes to do the right thing in spite of all of the obsticles.

For now I ask you to join me in praying for our city and the ministries here. My prayer is that every church that is focused on transformation in the name of Christ will flourish and those that misrepresent His Name will take inventory and be honest enough to repent, re-launch or retire. Hampton Roads has some great churches but our population base requires many more. I like Nehemiah , love my city and I want the best for her. The path we've chosen is out of that same desire. We want great things for the people of our city because God wants great things for His people in this city.

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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