When They Prayed
FROM THE BISHOP DAVID GRAVES   I chose the theme of our 2023 Annual Conference session, “When They Prayed,” based on Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they ...
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Mixed Ecology and the Church

August 17, 2020

“.. and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

It’s back-to-school time across South Georgia, and I recently went back to school, too - “Charm School,” - that is. Charm School is the term used for the General Board of Higher Education’s training for new District Superintendents and new Directors of Connectional Ministries. 

Because of the COVID-19 virus, the training quickly shifted from a week at beautiful Lake Junaluska to a week of online, intensive training. The teachings and their practical application were so good, and I am still processing much of what I learned. 

One significant focus of the training was adaptive leadership. In order to adapt, we must seek to accurately understand what is happening and changing around us in order to evaluate what it means and requires from us as leaders and as a church to be fruitful in ministry. 

There are two resources that I found very interesting, and I want to offer them to you in the hope that you will find them as insightful as I have in light of trends in our culture and how COVID has impacted the landscape in our world today. 

The first resource is the short publication, “God’s Mixed Ecology: The Changing Spiritual Landscape,” by Lisa Greenwood, Vice President for Leadership Ministry for the Texas Methodist Foundation. This is a great dive into the reality of the spiritual landscape and the ever-increasing category of individuals who classify themselves as “Spiritual But Not Religious” - the greatest potential for the church’s mission. 

Looking at this mixed ecology of ministry we see attractional model churches, missional model churches, innovative faith communities, faith-based not for profits, and more, which are representing the church’s witness across the ecosystem. 

Where does your local church fit into the scene? The publication provides important questions to ask as a church in light of this current spiritual landscape. There is no better time as a church to evaluate what ministries are fruitful, what ministries or programs need to be adapted post-COVID to be effective, or what might need to be laid to rest. Resist the temptation to simply go back to the way things have been done pre-COVID as we long for normalcy.

The second resource is an article by Bishop Kenneth H. Carter and Audrey Warren, “The New Mixed Ecology: People Property and Priorities After COVID-19.” The authors peel back the layers of the attractional church mindset that was brought to light more than ever when churches were no longer able to gather for worship or programming in the church building. They move us into the shift of the “mixed ecology,” or hybrid ways, which primarily presents itself virtually right now for sharing the gospel and making disciples. 

Many see the benefits of technology, but there is an underlying tension between the physical and virtual community for the ways we do church. This tension is a reality that many church leaders are currently and will continue to navigate. Fortunately, we do not have to think of these places on the continuum as an “either/or.” I continue to be inspired by the different ways our South Georgia churches are pivoting, thinking about “both/and,” and proving that Church Can Happen Anywhere. 

I hope you will take some time to check out the resources and discover more about this new spiritual landscape so that we, as leaders and local churches, can find our niche, our relevance, and thrive in this mixed ecology and collaborative ecosystem for kingdom building. Could our being “witnesses... to the ends of the earth” be virtually? 

At the end of the day, I continue to be thankful for the connection and the understanding that we do not navigate this landscape alone - our connection matters. 

Allison Lindsey is the director of Connectional Ministries. She has a passion for the local church and its people. Contact her at allison@sgaumc.com

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