Energy Flows Where Attention Goes

By Chris Roseland

Recently, the Office of the General Assembly released the 2020 annual statistics report showing a decline in membership last year at just over 56,000, which is about the same loss rate as has been reported since 2016. For 2020, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) counts a total membership of about 1.24 million members, with the total number of congregations at 8,925.

Reflecting on the report, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), said, “We are in the midst of rethinking what it means to do ministry in a rapidly changing landscape. Some people have been hurt by church, so there is a continuous struggle over what church should be. This is not just a PC(USA) problem. This is a challenge for all Christian denominations.”

As we continue to grapple with the pandemic and how it will forever alter the church landscape, perhaps we should focus on some possible positive outcomes. As unprecedented energy continues to grow across the PC(USA) around the Matthew 25 invitation, I think now is the time for us to reflect on the abundance of God’s grace and the possibilities of doing church in new ways. What better time than now to focus our attention on God’s mission, perhaps even on the very vision given to us by Jesus Christ himself in Matthew 25.

The Westminster Chapel at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles has been transformed into a food storage facility to meet increasing demand due to COVID-19. (Photo by MarAnthony Aparicio)

One of the best things about Matthew 25 is that we can do ministry together in ways we cannot do alone. The new and digital ways of doing ministry have also redefined for us and for everyone what community means.

Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles took out its pews to feed the hungry. That’s community.

First Presbyterian Church of Tecumseh, Michigan, dedicated the local share of its 2020 Pentecost Offering to seed a new ministry in Lenawee County for the advancement of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) youth and young adults. That’s community.

Nearly a year ago, I was invited by the Commission of Nurture and Outreach of the Presbytery of Scioto Valley to do a two-hour workshop on “Becoming a Matthew 25 Church.” Since that time, the hunger has only grown for Matthew 25 resources, programming and best practices that congregations and presbyteries can emulate and follow. Our mission engagement advisors stand ready to tell you more. Just invite us!

I think it may have been Tony Robbins — and perhaps others — who coined the phrase, “Energy flows where attention goes.”

As we continue to move through this season of COVID-19, let Robbins’ words be our watchword. Let us together inspire our PC(USA) congregations and mid councils to think about how they can focus their attention on the goals of Matthew 25 so that their energy may flow. And flow abundantly!

Chris Roseland is the Lead Mission Engagement Advisor for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, serving the Northern region of the United States.

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