We are surrounded by stories of challenge, both inside and outside the church. It can seem like all of our passion, care and work are producing less and less. Our denomination (and most Christian denominations in the United States) is shrinking at a time when less people understand concepts of stewardship, membership and leadership, which means less resources and people to do what we want to do. This can be very disheartening as we follow Jesus in the best ways we know how.
However, we know that God is always at work, through us in our faith and our faithful actions, growing the kingdom of God in all places and times and people. We are also a church that proclaims to be “reformed always to be reformed according to the Word of God.” We recognize that the ways we have done things, including the shape and makeup of the church may not look tomorrow the way they looked yesterday or today.
And so we look for those kingdom seeds, those celebrations among the challenges. Because that is where God is. God is also in the challenges, encouraging us to move and change and look for the many ways God is at work. So don’t forget to look for celebrations in the challenging situations, too.
As leaders, this is our call. Not to run away from the difficult conversations or issues, but face them with hearts full of joy. Joyful lives and joyful leadership do not mean that we will not ever feel frustrated, angry or sad about things that are happening to or around us.
We can mourn the loss of members due to death or disagreements. We can grieve as we remember programs and events in the past that brought the church together, but no longer does so. Joy does not mean that we are simply happy and ignore all that brings pain. Joy instead is rooted in the hope given to us by God. The hope that no matter what happens, God is with us and God is still at work, renewing and transforming us and the Body of Christ.
So look for the celebrations. Look for the places where your ministries have found new ways to gather, worship, serve, fellowship and use space (or lack of space). Where is your passion in following Jesus Christ meeting some of those challenging times? Who is bringing joy into your community?
They don’t have to be huge, miraculous events. Remember, Jesus started with 12 disciples, and look at how the church continues to grow today. Outside of the United States, the church is growing, especially in the Southern Hemisphere and Asia. How can we connect to our Christian family in those places, and as they immigrate into our communities? How can we celebrate together?
Don’t forget, we want to hear about all the places God is at work in and around you. So share the good news! With your communities, and with us, so we can all celebrate together. We even have a form where you can submit the stories – they can be short or long, and you can add pictures, too. Let us celebrate together!
 PC(USA) Book of Order, F-2.02