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Modern Western society attempts to quantify everything – to analyze all things scientifically and logically.  Rarely, however, does the analysis identify the fundamental problem or reveal the solution.  It generally identifies a pattern that must then be diagnosed, and a course of action developed.  The diagnosis is the critical step, not the analysis.  This group’s consensus is the church’s ailment has been misdiagnosed, and that the abundant church growth packages available may be causing real problems and solutions to be veiled behind “smoke and mirrors” of secular consumer marketing, sociological and political theories.

The church is the community where individuals get the support, guidance, skills, encouragement, and motivation to transform not only their own lives, but also assist others who are in need of meaning and wholeness.  The church can effectively ensure that transformation is more than self-help, selfish, and without social grounding.  Unitarian Universalist Marjorie Bowens-Wheatly says “recognizing the interdependence of all life, we strive to build community, the strength we gather will be our own salvation.”[1]  Common Fire gives numerous examples of individuals of many faiths who have taken their ministry out to the community and thus affected the circles of community surrounding them.[2] 

Medieval mystic St. Francis of Assisi inspired the following prayer about transformation:

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow your love,
where there is injury, your pardon, Lord,
and where there’s doubt, new faith in you.

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope,
where there is darkness, only light,
and where there’s sadness, ever joy.

O Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
in giving to all men that we receive,
and in dying that we are born to eternal life.[3]

This is not only a prayer for spiritual individuality; but also a prayer for the hope of interconnectedness for the world.  This prayer speaks to the transformation necessary to create God’s community of peace and love in this world.  Each phrase transforms the individual from the place of brokenness to the heaven of wholeness.  Jesus and his disciples were wandering pastors sharing the love of God with everyone they met.  The movement they started was dynamic and personable, centering in the place where people already gathered: in community. 

From the starting point of this process for transformational growth, the reader is invited on a pilgrimage with God, and others, to engage in meaning-making.  The Great Commandment and the Great Commission, together, call us to live our lives in service to God and one another.  Churches are not called to gain numbers, but instead relevance. Therefore, this project challenges our denominations, judicatories, and local churches to look at growth beyond numbers.  A process has been suggested.  Now it is up to the readers of this project to ask themselves if it has value.  Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California offers this truth:  “A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will grow a great church!”[4]  The authors of this project believe firmly that a great church has little to do with size.

Lastly, a request.  The authors would appreciate your comments, arguments or criticisms.  Our process is not yet finished.  Will you be the next loop in the spiral?

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[1]R. Ross Warren, The Premise & the Promise: The Story of the Unitarian Universalist Association, (Boston: Skinner House Books, 2001), 189.

[2]Parks Daloz, et al, 7.  The authors conducted interviews with 100 people who have made differences in their communities.  Having made a difference was the only common link between them. 

[3] Brother Alexis Bugnolo, ed., “The Story Behind the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis,” <http://www.franciscan-archive.org/patriarcha/peace.html&gt;, accessed 22 May 2003.  The “Peace Prayer of St. Francis” is a famous prayer which first appeared around the year 1915 C.E. during the First World War.  It was found written on the obverse of a holy card of St. Francis, which was found in a Normal Almanac.  The prayer bore no name; but in the English-speaking world, on account of this holy card, it came to be called the “Peace Prayer of St. Francis.”

[4] Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), 103 (italics added).

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... or, preaching from both ends

WELL, HELLO! YOU’RE HERE.

That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

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