June 2011

Act With Great Boldness - Anne Clifton Hebert 


The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the people in the church at Corinth:

 Since, then, we have such a hope (in Christ), we act with great boldness. - 2 Corinthians 3:12

Sometimes when a church begins the Acts 16:5 Initiative, members of the congregation wonder about what the Initiative is and what it involves. As our congregation experienced at one point, some people felt like they were being left out of the process. Perhaps you are a person in the camp of wondering what this Initiative offers. Some of the questions that are at the basis of the Initiative are questions like ones that follow – questions that are troubling the church today:

There have been major shifts in our culture that require us to think differently about the effectiveness of the church. Three critical changes are especially important where the church is concerned:

                        1) The culture has definitely shifted away from a church-centered society.

                        2) We are in the most musically diverse age in the history of humanity.

                        3) The demands required to cope with life appear to be on the increase.

In other words, the way we have “done church” in the past is not working to attract people to the faith. The way most of us were trained to lead in the years past was not bad! But without the church being at the center of society, people do not make commitment to a congregation a priority any more. In fact, one-third of the adult population in this country has not attended any type of church service or activity, other than a funeral or wedding, in the last six months. 

Basically, the Acts 16:5 Initiative helps us think through how we might be the most effective congregations for Jesus Christ in the new millennium. And there is no need for anyone to feel left out, because there is plenty to learn and do! One thing a Session and the Acts 16:5 initiative Leadership Team of a church could do is to study the book, Twelve Dynamic Shifts for Transforming Your Church, by E. Stanley Ott. As the circle of people is enlarged after reading the book, church conversations spread to more people. Then, a church widens the circle of people who are wondering about where God is working and how God wants their particular church to thrive. In addition, sometimes opening the door for people to ask questions is the beginning of a congregation seeing the transparency of the Initiative. 

Stan Ott puts it this way in thinking about a future vision for the church, “We have not yet experienced this congregation’s greatest ministry. Let us bless what God has done among us and add the ministry we believe will touch another circle of people.” (Twelve Dynamic Shifts…p. 6)

Frankly, I am sickened by the loss of membership churches are experiencing. I want to do something about it. I hope you will join the Vital Churches Institute in the exploration of the culture in which we find ourselves and the uncharted territory of being Christ’s disciples in such a culture. In my opinion, like members of the early church, it is time for us to “act with great boldness!”


Anne Clifton Hébert is pastor of the Garland Presbyterian Church of Garland, Texas.  




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