Last August 25th, a multi-generational leadership team from Davis Street UMC went to “Spring Forest” upon the invitation from Dr. Elaine Heath, former dean of Duke Divinity School. It is a 23-acre United Methodist intentional community located in Hillsborough, NC that is a home, farm and a place of hospitality. During this immersion visit, we learned about fresh expressions, dinner church, holistic spirituality, neighborhood seminary, hospitality around the table and sustainable living in community.

The “Spring Forest” immersion visit was very timely because the church leadership meets on Sept. 21st for a Strategic Planning Retreat. During this retreat, we as Davis Street, will envision God’s preferred future in the next 5 years and identify our missional priorities with specific action plans (who, how and when) for the next 24 months. Therefore, I want to share with y’all some of my thoughts as Davis Street prepares for our 5-Year Strategic Planning Retreat.

First, Davis Street must “keep the main thing the main thing.” This means that as a body of Christ, our driving force is to partner with God in His mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ and move to the neighborhood. It is embodied in our mission statement: “to reach out and connect with all people, making disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Moreover, Davis Street needs to discover its “current reality”. The neighborhood demographic within the one mile radius of our church facility has significantly changed in the last 20-25 years. Where is God breaking through in our neighborhood today? How do we participate to what God is already doing? Where is Jesus today in our neighborhood? After we discover our “current reality”, Davis Street needs to articulate its “shared vision” for the next five years. What do we perceive God may be up to in the next five years? What is the preferred future to which God is calling this church, this community, and God’s world?” How do we as individuals and as a church join with God in His mission for this neighborhood and beyond?

Finally, we need to develop bridges between the “current reality” and the “shared vision.” What are those actions and systems that enable Davis Street to cross the bridge between the current reality and shared vision? Our ultimate goal “is not fix the church” but rather, to pay attention to what God is already doing and join with Him in shifting and growing Davis Street.

Having said that, let me offer you I what think are two most important missional priorities that Davis Street needs to do for the next 24 months “so that” we will continue to become a vital, growing and thriving congregation.

First: Building Authentic Relationships
Davis Street must focus on increasing the culture of invitation to all people (especially new and diverse people) and build authentic relationships that connect people with the radical love of Jesus Christ. We need to foster relational connections at every opportunity such as Sunday School Class, Bible Studies, Missional Community, The Caring People, small groups, lay ministries, mission and service opportunities. And we need to encourage the entire church to engage their neighbors and help people leverage their relational networks.

Second: Community Engagement
As we build authentic relationships that connect people with the radical love of Jesus Christ, we need to intensify our community engagement by serving as a hub for creativity, innovation and impact. This means that our Missional Community needs to move to the next level using the Dinner Church model. We also need to birth fresh expressions such as a Celebrate Recovery Program or envision having a bakery employing former felons and gang members in partnership w/ Sustainable Alamance. Finally, community engagement may mean re-purposing the church building to serve as a “mix space” for community engagement, innovation and impact.

Pastor Edgar