In my series on the computer keyboard, we’re now at the Shift key and another way of thinking about missional ministry. In Ctrl-Alt-Delete, we looked at missional ministry initiatives as a way to “Reset-Restart-Rethink” what we’re doing as the people of God. In ESC, we found creation care implications to ashortcut that stops, quits, cancels, exits, or aborts the situation so that you can start over. Fresh.

The shift key gets used a lot. It is a key that alters the function of other keys, like making lower case keys upper case. The shift key is a metaphor for the paradigm shift that has to occur in a congregation that takes on missional priorities. Here’s a story of a church that made a powerful paradigm shift from traditional to missional, told by the senior pastor, Paul Dunbar, DMin (’07). I think it’s an inspirational story.

From Traditional toward Missional

By Pastor Paul Dunbar

                In 1995, I was called to serve a small, struggling congregation in Carlisle, PA.   Though I gave it my best shot, within five years our board voted to close the church.  Another pastor in our community contacted me about our building, and we both realized that we could accomplish more for the Kingdom together than separate.  Our two churches began worshipping together and within two months, both congregations voted to become one brand-new church, in spite of the fact that we were from different denominations.

                A suicide within our congregation in early 2010 jolted us into a realization that we were not doing more to care for at-risk teenagers, and we began meeting with youth leaders from another local congregation (again, theologically compatible though from different denominations).   Together we organized a BMX and Skateboarding outreach event that attracted 300 people, and the next night we began a follow-up ministry (The Refuge) at a youth/retreat center in our community.   Our congregation was able to purchase that facility in October 2010 and every Sunday afternoon and evening, we are reaching 40 to 80 young people.

                One high school student began attending because he liked riding BMX (see photo), and in fact, has competed nationally.  He initially resisted attending the Bible studies but over time the resistance broke down, he committed his life to Jesus, was baptized, and now is considering youth ministry.   He organized an outreach event in October 2011 as a high school graduation project, which was attended by over 140 people.

                The changes that have taken place within our congregation have not been universally accepted, and we have lost people and families through these transitions.  The work load on the youth pastor and me has increased exponentially, and we both often feel that we are in uncharted territory, but we would never want to go back to “church as usual.”  It is much more exciting to see God blessing and multiplying his Kingdom.

Pastor Dunbar serves as senior pastor of Bethany Evangelical Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of Paul Dunbar.

Susan Disston was the assistant dean of curriculum and assessment at Biblical Seminary. She taught project courses in the doctor of ministry program and in ESLPLUS.

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