Jesus in the Neighborhood
A Compelling Vision for the Church of the Brethren
Three years ago, denominational leadership recognized that we had reached a critical moment in our life together. While individuals and congregations were engaged in faithful ministry, as a denomination, it could be said we were wandering without a sense of unified purpose. Further, we were mired in soul-sapping conflict. Something needed to change.
As a body, we were called into a time of intentional discernment. Like Noah in the ark, Moses before the burning bush, the Israelites in the desert, Ruth following Naomi to Judah, Elijah on Mount Horeb, Mary during her visit with Elizabeth, Jesus entering the desert following his baptism, and Paul after he had been struck blind, for almost two years, we dwelled in a challenging, disorienting, and uncomfortable, yet creative, exciting, and hopeful season of waiting and watching for God’s presence and direction. Throughout, as a community, we were centered in Jesus Christ, guided by Scripture, and led by the Holy Spirit, resulting in the emergence of a new, unifying, and compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren.
Together, as the Church of the Brethren, we will passionately live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ through relationship-based neighborhood engagement. To move us forward, we will develop a culture of calling and equipping disciples who are innovative, adaptable, and fearless.
There is much in this rich vision to unpack as we look to scripture and theology to further interpret each significant phrase. We encourage everyone to read the full interpretive statement available here.
In preparation for engagement in the process that will continue to unfold at Annual Conference, we encourage people across the church to read the full document, study the scripture passages that undergird the document, and reflect on the following questions:
- How does the compelling vision reflect the soul of your congregation? How does it reflect the soul of the Church of the Brethren?
- How do you see this vision being lived out in your own neighborhood?
- What might you need to let go of?
- What are the issues facing your community which could be healed/addressed by the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ?
- How might we work at calling and equipping innovative, adaptable, and fearless disciples to live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ?
- What are the creative ways your congregation, your district, or the denomination as a whole, might embody this vision?
We also hope everyone will continue to bathe the process in prayer.
Compelling Vision Team
Michaela Alphonse of Miami, Fla.
Kevin Daggett of Bridgewater, Va.
Rhonda Pittman Gingrich of Minneapolis, Minn., Chair
Brian Messler of Lititz, Pa.
Alan Stucky of Wichita, Kan.
Kay Weaver of Strasburg, Pa.
Samuel Sarpiya, 2018 Annual Conference Moderator
Donita Keister, 2019 Annual Conference Moderator
Paul Mundey, 2020 Annual Conference Moderator
Chris Douglas, Annual Conference Director
David Steele, General Secretary
John Jantzi, District Executive, Shenandoah District
Colleen Michael, District Executive, Pacific Northwest District
Compelling Vision Process
Where there is no vision, the people perish (Prov. 29:18a KJV)
The Church of the Brethren stands at a crossroads. Recent decades have been defined by paralyzing conflict. In response to the ongoing conflict, at the 2017 Annual Conference, the delegate body affirmed a report from the Leadership Team and the Council of District Executives regarding “The Authority of Annual Conference and Districts regarding the Accountability of Ministers, Congregations, and Districts.” That report concluded with this assertion: “To stay on the journey together, it is also crucial that the church discern the compelling vision that this body of Christ is called to pursue.”
Denominational and district leadership have worked together to call two teams—the Compelling Vision Working Group and the Compelling Vision Process Team—to work collaboratively to guide the denomination through a process of conversation and discernment in an effort to arrive at a compelling vision rooted in our shared commitment to live as Christ’s disciples. It is an invitation to place our trust in God’s Spirit and engage in a visioning process to discern what God is calling us to do together with the fervent hope that our commitment to one another and to serving our God as the body of Christ might be renewed through this shared journey and a sense of shared mission. For as Eugene Peterson says in his paraphrase of Proverbs 29:18: “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what (God) reveals, they are most blessed.”
Conversations began at Annual Conference this summer, will continue in districts and with various constituency groups through the fall and winter, and culminate at Annual Conference in 2019. We are committed to engaging as many people as possible in the process, providing opportunities for individuals to give voice to their passions and concerns, listen to one another, and work together to identify common threads and themes that might point to a shared and compelling vision.
As we embark on this journey together, it is our prayer that: our relationships with one another will be strengthened and deepened, transcending points of disagreement; we will be able to celebrate the ongoing presence and activity of God’s Spirit at work among us; we will be open to what God is calling us to do together as Christ’s disciples; the vision ultimately articulated will lay claim to our hearts and our minds, our imaginations and our spirits, shaping our identity and inspiring our ministry at the congregational level, the district level, and the denominational level; and we will wholeheartedly embrace the challenge set before us by that vision, affirming contextual creativity as we actively seek to embody that vision.
We hope you will join us on this journey, engaging in the conversations as they occur. Please feel free to reach out to anyone on the Compelling Vision Team at any time with questions, comments, and concerns.
"Describe a Christ-centered ministry you have observed in another Church of the Brethren congregation or in the wider body in the last year that made you more hopeful about our future"
"Christ-centered ministry that gives hope" responses
What is the next big idea to address one or more of the world’s needs?
"Next big idea" responses
Compelling Vision article (Messenger, January 2019)
Compelling Vision FAQ (updated 11/18)