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Scripture tells us that the primary reason our church, and every church, exists is to share the gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ.

ECO has provided an opportunity for us to be part of a Church Transformation Cohort (CTC) to learn how to grow and thrive in fulfilling the Great Commission to go and make disciples. As the session, staff, and congregation wrestle with and discern the path forward for FPC:E, this page will serve as an information hub for things related to the CTC.

On Sunday, June 16, Paul Borden, our consultant, delivered a message and a report on the health of our church and the prescriptions he recommends:

If you would prefer to read the report, you can view it here.

One of the requests we have heard is that it would be helpful to hear from other churches who have already been part of a Church Transformation Cohort. Here are some testimonies from a couple ECO churches that are a bit further in the process:

An excerpt from a blog entry by Dana Allin, ECO Synod Executive, highlighting McDonald Presbyterian Church:

McDonald Pres has more people in leadership, using their unique gifts, than ever before. They are pursuing exciting building renovations and staff hires.

I also want to put a couple of the numbers that Henry shared into perspective. At the time of the consultation, a year ago, Church at the Rock was worshiping 53 adults on a Sunday. They are now worshiping 75 adults. This is a 50% growth in one year! Most impressive is the fact that 8 people have accepted Christ. The average church in America brings one new person to faith every year for every 100 people in average worship attendance. The Church at the Rock has seen one conversion for every seven people in worship. If you only measured the success of a church in conversions, the average church has one conversion for every $300,000. Henry’s ratio is one conversion for every $11,000.
While Henry and Justin are the furthest along in the process, they are not unique. While the average church that has been in ECO for more than 2 years has lost 2% in worship attendance the last year, the average church in the cohort has gained 15% in worship attendance. The average income of these churches is up 25% over the previous year.

What is most encouraging to me is that these congregations that are in the cohort are being led by the same pastor who has been there for a several years, not new pastors. The process provides the training, support, and encouragement for these pastors to lead the revitalizations. Sometimes I hear pastors and churches say, “We would be able to grow if…”. This statement is followed by “… a younger pastor” , “…. an associate pastor” or “… a full-time pastor”. We have churches in the Western PA cohort that worship anywhere from 20 people on a Sunday to 400+ people on a Sunday. All of these churches have something they would love to have in order to take the next step. But all of them are pressing on regardless of their current situation.

Excerpts from their “About Us” page detailing this journey:

“Check out how God REVITALIZED a church that began in 1772 to be ready to serve today’s world!” OUR MISSION HAS BEEN RELAUNCHED! We exist to reach the lost at any cost!

We’ve found the joy of knowing Jesus Christ, the peace that comes with being forgiven and the hope that gives us for tomorrow!
• If you’ve never met Jesus, we’d love to introduce you!
• If you’ve had a bad church experience, we’re ready to give you a good one!
• We are a family… a hodgepodge of generations, personalities and passions – imperfect, vulnerable and ready to welcome you!
• We invite you to be our guest… so we can get to know each other.

Hopefully you have taken the opportunity to listen to the two testimonies above of fellow ECO churches who have participated in a Cohort. But you may have thought – that is not us. We aren’t in a 53 member church, we aren’t in a church established before our country was established, we aren’t …. It is easy to come up with excuses why we aren’t like these other churches. But this third testimony from an ECO church located in Albany, NY, sounds eerily similar to our situation. Kaitlyn Wood, pastor of Cohoes Church, shares how they are located in Barna’s least biblically-minded city in America (4 of the bottom 5 cities are located in the Northeast, 2 of which are in NY!). At about 3 minutes into the video, the following quotes are particularly reminiscent to many thoughts session has had concerning our own congregation and some of the prescriptions Paul shared with our congregation as well:

Our church is fully invested in the community and its needs . . . We do all sorts of good deeds in our community . . . we had a favorable footprint in our community but our church proper had been in decline. Clearly we are doing something wrong.

Dr. Borden says we have been faithful to the great commandment but we have been grossly disobedient to the Great Commission. Most of our prescriptions were based on that . . .

Restructuring our organization and systems, renewing our vision and most of all learning how to share the gospel in a community that is not just resistant to the gospel but is actually pretty hostile to it. It’s difficult for us because we have never really figured out how to cross that bridge, from serving our neighbors to sharing the good news of Jesus with them. We have failed to find opportunities to invite them into a transformational relationship with a God that wants to see them restored!

Fusion Community Church is a church in Cobleskill, NY that decided to take some risks and depend on God for transformation. Dr. Borden has said that FCC has one of the best Welcoming/Assimilation processes that he has seen. What a transformation!

 
 

Our Session met on Wednesday, July 10. After looking at the results of the congregational poll, more prayer, and discussion, it was the decision of the Session to accept the CTC prescriptions, continue in the process, and lead this congregation to live into our new Mission Statement: “FPC:E exists to honor God by making more disciples for Jesus Christ.”

A letter was sent out to the congregation on July 15. If you did not receive one, you can view it here.

This decision was not made lightly. We recognize that each prescription will push all of us beyond what we would choose if our sight were set only on ourselves. Each prescription will bring hope as well as loss. Each prescription is designed to help us fall on our knees and put our trust in the only One “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. . . so that. . . to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)