Three-Way Connections Are Key to Effective Ministry

Article excerpt

IN THINKING OF congregational life, and especially congregational health, I find it helpful to think in terms of striking a balance between three key elements which I refer to as the "three way connection."

These three elements are: connecting with God, connecting with each other and connecting with outsiders. The congregation that is able to keep each of these clearly in view and to focus intentionally on each of them is a congregation that is well on its way to effective ministry.

Effective ministry depends first of all upon helping people to connect with God. This is at the very heart of the Gospel which St. Paul describes (2 Cor. 5:17 - 20) as the good news of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ.

The first responsibility of any congregation is to help its members connect with God. This goes far beyond simply being able to "say the creed," and sing and pray in public worship. As Leslie Newbigin has pointed out, if it is true, as the Bible insists, that the God we encounter in Scripture is a person, then we get to know this person by entering into a relationship with Him.

Most relationships don't get far if they are conducted exclusively in the third person, talking about the other party as if he/she was not there, rather than speaking to and being in conversation with that person. Our congregational life in its worship and teaching should be designed to bring people into a personal encounter with the God whom we know in Jesus, an encounter that issues in an informed life of discipleship and growth. It is in this connection with God that faith becomes dynamic and vital. Outside of this, church life devolves into stifling institutionalism and dreary religious ritual. Churches that fail to help people make this connection are, quite bluntly, destined to fail.

But while the Christian faith calls for and demands a personal response to the invitation of the Gospel, it goes far beyond mere individualism. Given the highly developed individualism of our culture this is sometimes difficult for us to understand. But Christianity is a corporate faith and calls us to a communal way of life. The second key element in congregational life then is "connecting with each other." Healthy congregations make it a point to develop into genuine communities.

I am not speaking simply of helping people get to know each other, although that is certainly a good start. …