“Remember way back when, when the sanctuary was packed? You couldn’t find a seat!”
“Everyone is leaving. We’re dying.”
“I wish more young families would come.”
Immanuel has a rich, wonderful history to be proud of. The school was booming. The church was thriving. We were the talk of the town. Things change. It’s not quite like it was before. The people are different. Ministries look different. Attendance is different.
But, there are two things we can all do that will mean a culture-shifting, church-revitalizing, Kingdom-coming change that will see the next generation of our Immanuel family flourish. Ready?
- Positive Attitudes
- Valuing Failure
That may sound a little funny. Maybe not quite as over-the-top as you were expecting? Hear me out. I’m not big into magic, but I think that that’s as close to a magic formula as we can get. Here’s why.
Perception creates reality. The world around us starts looking the way that we say it is. Case in point: if everyone says the church is dying and everyone is leaving, people start to believe it. They get sad, they get mopey, they tell their friends. They leave. A negative attitude creates a negative reality.
So let’s use this to our advantage. Let’s start saying the church is booming. Let’s start saying exciting things are happening at Immanuel! And not just because perception creates reality, but also because of a much bigger reason. Because one, glorious, wonderful, beautiful truth has not and never will change: Jesus is still in charge around here. Jesus is still King of Immanuel. It’s not our church. Immanuel belongs to Jesus. He calls the shots. Jesus has a plan for the church in Wisconsin Rapids. Immanuel is still around, so we must still be a part of it! Awesome!
One, glorious, wonderful, beautiful truth has not and never will change: Jesus is still in charge around here.
Jesus may have at one time used an Immanuel where every seat in the pews was filled. Awesome. People may have left, but Jesus is still here. And so are some wonderful people. We may not have numbers around us like we used to, but we have some beautiful people in our church who have fascinating stories and deep need for Jesus. These people (yourself included!) matter. Next time you’re in church, look around. The Church is still here. Ministry is still happening. The Kingdom is still moving. That’s something to have a positive attitude about!
Next time you’re in church, look around. The Church is still here. Ministry is still happening. The Kingdom is still moving.
And having a positive attitude means we should value failure. You read that right. Why? Because failure is the lifeblood of success. Failure means things are happening. It means our church is taking risks. It means we’re trusting that Jesus is still in charge, and that he is working, and we are trying things for the sake of his mission being carried out.
Failure is the lifeblood of success
Failure doesn’t happen at stagnant churches because there isn’t the opportunity for failure where nothing is ever tried. Stagnant churches may not experience failure, but they also don’t experience success. Successful churches experience failure. And failure breeds success because failure is the greatest teacher (okay, I stole that one from Master Yoda in Star Wars). Churches that value success also value failure. We should embrace failure, laugh it off, and give thanks that we have a church where we are willing to take risks (and fail!) for the Kingdom.
And here’s the best thing about failure: failure can’t hurt us. Why? We’re baptized. And because it’s Jesus’s church. It’s his mission. He’s the one responsible for the Kingdom moving. He’s the one who brings people to church, changes lives, and brings salvation. We’re just along for the ride. We get all the fun of joining him and the privilege of working with him, and the added bonus that our failure can’t ever foil the plans of Jesus.
A risk taken to join Jesus in his mission that ends in failure is no failure at all—it’s faithfulness. Success doesn’t necessarily mean more people in the pews (because that’s Jesus’s job). Success for a church means taking risks to join Jesus in his work. If you’re keeping score at home, that means that we can fail at something and be successful at the same time, because the goal is to follow Jesus!
A risk taken to join Jesus in his mission that ends in failure is no failure at all—it’s faithfulness.
So, have a positive attitude. Value failure. Share the excitement of Immanuel. Take risks and value failure. Here’s some ways you can do that:
- Immanuel recently gained access to MissionInsite, a powerful demographic analysis tool that gives insights to our community’s spiritual status. The #1 thing that people in our town look for in a church: not traditional or contemporary services, not fancy buildings, not even good preaching. Warm and friendly encounters. That’s right: the biggest thing locals look for in a church is people being nice to them in the narthex. So, say a simple, “Hi, it’s good to see you!” to someone you don’t know next time you’re at church.
- Tell people that Immanuel is growing (even if you believe it isn’t—and actually, according to our numbers, it is!). And tell them it’s because people are so warm and friendly (see above point).
- Start dreaming. What might Immanuel do to join Jesus on his mission in Wisconsin Rapids? If Jesus is the kind of guy who hung out with sinners, the sick, the lonely, and even wiggly kids, what would Jesus be up to in Wisconsin Rapids? What IS Jesus up to in Wisconsin Rapids? How can Immanuel as a Church and School take risks—and even fail!—to join Jesus in that mission? What might our buildings look like? Even better—what might our ministries look like? What risks do we need to take (remember, we value failure!)?
- Get in the Word. Success means following Jesus. And a positive attitude is a biblical attitude. Growing in your faith accomplishes both. So, develop a regular, personal, Bible Study habit (if you fail, that’s okay, remember?).
- Join a Group! We have a ton of awesome opportunities coming up!
- Reopening the Back Door caring for inactive members class. All are invited to learn how to care for people (and maybe your own kids) who have become inactive from the church in a loving way. September 13th, 20th, and 27th,7:30-9:00 pm at the School.
- Fit for Life. Our new member class available as a refresher to current members too, we explore basic and deep truths of our faith. Saturday mornings 8:30 to 10:30, September 8th to October 2nd at Blu Play Cafe. $4 per child, per week. Play scholarships available upon request. Register: https://ilcs.breezechms.com/form/fitforlife
- Become a Stephen Minister. Stephen Ministry is launching at Immanuel as a one-on-one confidential, caring ministry for people going through hard times. Stephen Ministers go through 50 hours of training so they feel equipped and confident to help those in need. Talk to Pastor Jonathan if interested.
- MOMSnext or MOPs. MOMSnext is a new way for moms with kids of any age at home to take a night off with other moms. MOMSnext meets every 3rd Thursday of the month from 7-9 pm at the School. MOPS is a way for Mothers of kids as old as preschool to get a break with other moms with childcare provided. MOPS meets every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month from 9-11 am at the school. Register: https://ilcs.breezechms.com/form/mops
- Find a Bible Study. We have multiple Bible Studies available Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Check out our website or ask Pastor Jonathan for more details about our Bible Study options. Don’t have one that fits your schedule? Wish Immanuel had more options? Dream! We want to hear your ideas! Please share them with Pastor!