Transitions, Prayer, and Discernment


In my previous article I shared about the transition I anticipate will happen in the next year and the blessings I have witnessed by investing in others. Another important aspect of my transition involves the church reimagining her mission in light of new leadership and community change.

In 2000, when the church began our two-year ministry apprenticeship program, we also identified a mission statement that fit. Ministering to a transient community with an active Air Force Base meant we had numerous evangelistic opportunities with a “displaced” group, the military members and their families moving to Great Falls. Our first apprentice and I had great access to the airbase. We could easily follow-up with new families and strengthen relationships. This unique opportunity prompted our mission, “Seek, Save, Strengthen, Send! All for the glory of GOD!” This fit the opportunity God had provided and others commented that we had a “Catch and Release” ministry. God provided the strength for us to faithfully live out this mission for over fifteen years.

After 9/11, the opportunities God provided for us gradually changed. Access to the Air Force Base, Malmstrom, gradually reduced and is almost non-existent at the present time. Fewer Christian families moved into Great Falls through Malmstrom. The church also changed her meeting location in 2019. We needed more space as our old facility was landlocked and an opportunity arose for us to obtain additional space while not exceeding the monies we had raised in two capital campaigns. So, on April 7, 2019, we began worshipping in our new facility. Our gain with a new building meant losing our close proximity to Malmstrom. From 1950 through March 2019, we had met on the east end of Great Falls, about two miles from Malmstrom. Our present location has us on the far west side of Great Falls. Couple the move with the Covid-19 pandemic and it has been apparent for some time that our previous mission statement no longer captures what God has prepared for us as the Great Falls church of Christ.

Two major transitions in a relatively short period of time means the church is in a shift that requires learning and growth by all parts of the body. This is called an adaptive change (see Empty Church, p. 36) and is difficult. To facilitate the learning and growth required the church was encouraged to participate in 100 Days of Prayer from June 14 to September 22, 2022. During this 100 Days of Prayer, we invited the entire church to establish what we called, “Prayer and Share Triplets.” These triplets were gender-based groups of three that met together seven to ten times during the 100 days. They fellowshipped together, reflected on a section of scripture that all the groups were working through, and prayed. Each triplet meeting lasted from one to two hours and were extremely encouraging. Fifteen triplets were formed and represented about 25% of the church. At the end of our 100 Days of Prayer we invited Grady King with HOPE Network to facilitate our understanding of what God was revealing through our time of prayer. During our weekend with Grady, we ultimately explored the question, “What do I want to create together with God and others that will make a difference?” The responses were summarized, and we came up with a top three areas of growth in our transition: leadership/mentoring, mission, and relationships. One outcome from this congregational discernment practice is that we are undergoing a selection process for additional elders. This will be followed by a deacon selection in 2023. These two activities are accompanied by a continued commitment to intentionally mentor others. We are still exploring what growth in mission and relationships looks like and appreciate prayers.

Congregations and their community’s change. This reality calls leaders and churches to discern how God can best use the body’s gifts, skills, and time as the church intersects with the needs of the local community. This is not an easy work, but the church is the Spirit filled people of God and we can expect God to collectively guide the wisdom of the church as we seek to do His will. I don’t know if we will discover our new mission quickly, but I do know that it easier for God to redirect his people who are moving than for God to get a stuck church going. May we all strive to become the people and churches God is calling us to be. As we keep moving have confidence that God will providentially direct us to accomplish his purposes.

Grace and peace to all. Dr. Scott Laird, Minister, Great Falls church of Christ

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