Our upcoming Covenant Quarterly issue engages the congregational vitality initiative of the Evangelical Covenant Church. In it John Wenrich, director of Congregational Vitality for the ECC, roots vitality efforts in the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Covenant pastors Ryan Eikenbary-Barber and Corey Johnsrud share the results of their respective doctoral research assessing the impact of the vitality pathway as a whole and of the Veritas seminar in particular. Here’s a sneak peek.
John Wenrich currently serves as director of congregational vitality for the Evangelical Covenant Church. He has recently been nominated executive minister of Start and Strengthen Churches for the ECC.
“A Chinese proverb says, ‘The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name.’ Churches often have an easier time telling the truth about Jesus than they do about themselves. Telling the truth about our current reality and trajectory is no less a work of the Spirit than a powerful miracle, sign, or wonder—a lot less glamorous to be sure, but no less significant. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of power and the Spirit of truth. Power and truth must go hand in hand in congregations as they do in the person of the Holy Spirit. Power without truth is dangerous; truth without power is lifeless. Power without truth is abusive and arrogant; truth without power is dry orthodoxy.”
Ryan Eikenbary-Barber is lead pastor of Bethany Covenant Church in Mount Vernon, Washington. His Doctor of Ministry research at Luther Seminary investigated the impact of the vitality pathway on a single Covenant congregation.
“The vitality pathway helped us navigate our way through new realities. We began to seek the continual conversion that Darrell Guder advocates. Bethlehem employed both servant and transformative leadership styles to help guide the congregation forward. We were inspired by Heifetz’s, Grashow’s, and Linsky’s teachings on adaptive leadership. We sought deep cultural change instead of cosmetic tweaks. We understood congregational change to be a spiritual practice, not just an exercise in human autonomy. Conflict led to change, which ultimately led to growth.”
from “New Life at Bethlehem”
Corey Johnsrud is pastor of adult ministries at Redwood Covenant Church in Santa Rosa, California. He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Luther Seminary, researching the efficacy of the ECC’s Veritas seminar.
“There is a strong tendency in the Covenant ethos that values friendship over mission. That is demonstrated especially when there are hard conversations to be had or difficult directional decisions to be made. We generally seek to preserve friendship over mission. If we are truly to live into the missional ecclesiology that I believe is at the core of our DNA as a denomination, we have to recapture the tension between mission and friendship. If we continue to value relationship over mission we will continue to see our established congregations, for whom the Veritas seminar was developed, languish and decline. Alternatively, if we embrace the wind of the Spirit and the gifts given to the church, we may yet see healthy, missional congregations emerge.”