By Phil Maynard

January 2, 2016

Pushing aside the debris of discarded wrapping paper and pushing away from the table after one more round of delectable Christmas feasting, I find myself pausing to be grateful for all of the blessings of the past year and how much our team here at EMC3 has accomplished in helping congregations and their leaders build more solid ministry foundations for the new year ahead.

This past year has been one of sustained growth, new connections, and change, and all of the hard work has laid the foundation for an even bigger 2016.  It is inspiring to be connected to so many diverse congregations across the United States.  Families of faith, large and small, are invigorating their worship and ministries and finding new ways to be relevant in their communities.  It is humbling to work so closely with clergy and lay leaders as they take an honest, in-depth look at their congregational identities and cast new visions for where the Holy Spirit is leading them next.
happy-new-yearWith the publication of our new book this fall, Membership to Discipleship, we are journeying more deeply than ever into the transformational processes that unleash the potential of people who have committed themselves to following
Christ in local settings.  Over the past couple of years, we have listened carefully to what churches need—what spiritual skill sets have the greatest on-the-ground impact and what hands-on experiences produce the strongest action points to launch leaders successfully towards new goals.  All that we do to provide you with the guidance you need grows out of not only our decades of hands-on church leadership experience, but constant conversation with real people in real churches about what is happening in real time.  It’s a dynamic environment out there!  There are historic shifts in play, and it is far easier to surf these shifts with helpers, mentors, and teams.

Thank you for inviting us into your church families.  It is humbling to be in your church homes to hear how God is blessing you, as well as to share in your struggles.  Although we all share similar challenges, every church is unique, and every story of faith has its own variations.  The principles of spiritual growth are universal in their application—the power of Scripture and the value of accountable community, for instance—but every journey (for individuals AND for congregations) is different.  One of the things we are proudest of at EMC3 is the way in which we help leaders blaze their own pathways to renewal and vitality.  We don’t believe in “one size fits all,” and we take particular delight in watching the process of leaders learning to articulate their own particular story and then develop the way forward that is particularly suited to their community.

We are constantly refining our tools and training methods.  We are attuned to the feedback you generously share, and we have a host of new ideas coming in 2016.  In just a few days you’ll be experiencing our new web site design, which will feature more interactive content.  We’re also working on a couple of new publications which will make it easier than ever to facilitate the move from membership to discipleship for congregations, as well as to fully embrace (with dozens of practical ideas, as usual) the move from classic evangelism to a model for sustainable and more relevant incarnational hospitality.

One of the most important parts of this process is always the feedback we receive from you.  Let us know what is working—how you’ve succeeded in implementing these ideas within your local churches.  Also, communicate to us where the gaps are.  What are concepts you are not fully understanding (or understand on an intellectual level, but are struggling to put into practice on a practical level)?  We get better through sincere, earnest discussion, and this process of listening and adapting is a core value of our organization.  It is an essential element that makes us who we are.

I give great thanks for the people who inspire and empower me.  As our ministry grows, so does the circle of teachers, writers, facilitators and tech wizards who help make it all happen.  When I started this enterprise some three years ago, I was following a path for which God had been preparing me and to which I was clearly being called, but I wasn’t sure quite where it would lead.  The blessings have been beyond my expectations, not only in the fruit we have harvested together (the changed churches and changed lives), but in the rich and rewarding relationships that have resulted.

We plan on challenging ourselves to the fullest in the coming year, to be fearless in embracing new ideas and diligent in bringing to life the concepts that we know are Spirit-inspired and consistently fruitful.  I encourage you to do the same in your own professional growth and in the organizations that you help lead.  We are meant to live to the fullest, to serve to the fullest, to grow as richly as possible, and to delight in the journey along the way.

This is my prayer for 2016 . . . for you . . . for me . . . for us all.

God bless and Happy New Year!