GA News: Transformation is beyond quick fixes, pastor says

SAN JOSE — Being a minister of a growing church used to be about the “three Ps” said the Rev. Mark Lau Branson, speaking at the Congregational Transformation luncheon June 23, during the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “Preaching, pastoral care, and program would be the basic job description.

If you did those three things well, you were in good shape.” Then, with a knowing eye to the large crowd at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, he added, “Of course the fourth P, Pension, would come in handy, too.”

Branson is an associate professor of ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. His speech, “Missional Church, Appreciative Inquiry, and Leading

Change,” was sponsored by the Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [].

The speaker was careful to divert attention away from seeking a pat program, which, if followed step by step, would lead to congregational transformation. The transformation needed today, he said, is far beyond the reach of quick fixes; certainly beyond any number of Ps.

Congregational leaders need the courage to live in the confusion of declining members, lack of workable programs and loss of spiritual energy. “There is something the wilderness can teach us,” Branson said. “There’s a reason for being exiled in Babylon.”

Branson urged church leaders to be calm despite the pressures of church life

today, and to expect setbacks. “Failure is a normal part of being the people of God,” he said. “Just read the Bible.” Leadership in the church is interpretive, helping the people discern God’s vision for them and God’s initiatives on their behalf.

“If we really believe that God is the God of initiating grace, then a vital congregation relies not on programs, but on God‚s grace. As church leaders change the conversation, learning to ask the „appreciative question,” room is allowed for real, deep, consequential change.