Aug. 10, 2021.
Watching your church lose its momentum is an awful feeling. It was 2004 when this happened to us. That year our church dropped in attendance by a dramatic 14%, and that metric would continue for several more years. It was sickening. Sunday after Sunday I could see our people looking around at the empty seats more than they were looking at the stage. I could literally feel the ministry turbines slowing week by week, even though I as the pastor had never taken my foot off of the gas pedal. We immediatley employed numerous leadership ideas to re-energize the congregation, all of which were consider best-practices at the time. But none of them had any effect. What was occurring was a mystery, and as the pastor I knew I was out of my depth.
The BBQ That God Showed Up: Our eldest daughter graduated from college, and following commencement Melodee and I hosted a BBQ at our house to honor her. It was a wonderful time with BBQ chicken, friends, laughter, and celebration. That afternoon I had been able to escape the frustration of my waning church and enjoy our daughters success. However, near the end of the party as I was barbecuing the last of the chicken, one of our daughters professors, Steve Chandler, came and stood beside me. He started to talk about the need for reframed vision at certain junctures in our ministerial life. The more he talked the more my heart burned within me; I knew God was talking to me. Steve must have sensed it, because he turned and asked, “Do you need new eyes for your church, Verlon?” But what I heard in that moment was God saying, “Verlon, you need new eyes for your church!” So on that back deck Steve and I talked through a plan to get me my “new eyes”. Within the hour, I knew I was to give the next season of my life researching the missional future for my urban church. Twelve weeks later I entered a graduate program that started ripping off more scales from my eyes than I ever realized possible, and by Christmastime an entirely new lane of ministry was already becoming visible. While it would take years for me and our church to learn to navigate that new lane, it all began on a back deck amidst the sound of sizzling chicken.
Your BBQ Moment: Perhaps your heart is burning as you read my story. Have you lost your ministry traction? Do you need to find ‘new eyes’ to understand and lead your church? This is the exact reason why the Lord has placed seminaries and graduate programs in his body – to give leaders new eyes, new tools, new lanes, and new callings for their churches. These is not insignificant moments in the life of a minister, nor the churches they serve.
A Shameless Invite: The fact that you are reading this blog means there is a desire in you to investigate the ReMissioning path of the Church. That being said, would you take a few moments to look at the DINNER CHURCH SCHOOL of LEADERSHIP? This is a nine-month graduate-level program designed for busy leaders: Virtual Live Lectures on Wednesday Evenings, practical assignments to be woven into your ministry context, and practitioner-based reading assignments. The cost is $300/mo ($150/mo to audit), and begins September 8th. For more Information and Registration: DinnerChurch.Com/DCSL
I’d love to spend these months with you unpacking some deep church history that is rebirthing in our day in the most interesting of ways. AND THEN…I’d love to witness what The Spirit tells you to do with it. Because this I know…our Lord is not the least bit interested in you spending another minute of your ministry losing traction.
Blessings and Boldness,
Dr. Verlon and Melodee Fosner have led a multi-site Assemblies of God Dinner Church in Seattle, Washington since 1999 (www.CommunityDinners.com). In this decade when more churches in the U.S. are declining than thriving, and when ninety-six churches a week are closing, Verlon and Melodee sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 97-year old Seattle congregation. It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones in need of a different path. They joined the FX team in 2016 and founded the Dinner Church Collective. And then in 2019 founded the Dinner Church School of Leadership. There is a lot to be gained when church leaders begin to see open doors in the American landscape that they had previously overlooked. Therein lies the journey for those who will forge a new future for the American Church.