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Love grounds vibrant congregations

Dirk Elliott

As he enters retirement, Rev. Dirk Elliott gives thanks for the conference ministry he’s helped lead and looks ahead to the ongoing work of congregational vibrancy.

Michigan Conference

One of the most meaningful songs for me in recent years has been “Nothing More” by The Alternate Routes. They wrote this song in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Here are a few lines from it:

We are love, we are one
We are how we treat each other when the day is done
We are peace, we are war
We are how we treat each other and nothing more

The song reminds me of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:3, “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing” (NLT). We do a lot of things in ministry, but it is the quality of our love and how we treat each other that bears lasting fruit. I have always believed that vibrant congregations are grounded in love.

As I conclude forty years of appointed ministry, including twelve and a half years serving in Michigan, I am grateful to God for calling me to be part of the ministry of congregational vibrancy. As I have looked ahead toward retirement, I’ve also reflected on the many ministries we have shared: the Reach Movement, including the Reach Summit, Reach podcasts, and Reach Leadership, as well as other Reach groups, Vital Church Initiative, the New Church Planters Academy, MissionInsite training, Simplified Accountable Structure workshops and webinars, Local Church Assessment (one and two), Church Unique, God Dreams, coach training, Ready to Launch, Both/And training, Fresh Expressions Vision Days, Fresh Expressions Cohorts, church mergers, Vital Mergers, Adoption Mergers, Churches-Planting-Churches training, Lay Planter training, Church Planting 101, Church Planter assessments, Roads to Vibrancy, Multi-site workshops, Mission and Vision workshops, strategic planning, church ministry audits, Leadership Development, Paragraph 213 Assessments, and others. We also hosted workshops for the North Central Jurisdiction, including MultiSiting and Intentional Interim Ministry Training.

We’ve worked together to start new churches and faith communities, reaching new people. We’ve worked with churches to become multi-site churches and helped others adopt churches or be adopted. We’ve partnered with churches across Michigan to start Fresh Expressions. (A Fresh Expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people not yet part of any church). As a result, here in the Michigan Conference, we have groups of motorcycle-riding first responders, gamers, and moto-cross racers. We have many pub theology, beer and hymns, and coffee and conversations (pub theology with coffee). We also have groups that do Bible journaling, have dinner church, and eat pizza. All various forms of church that reach new people and offer church that meets them where they are!

Spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many churches have started digital campuses, and an online-only church was launched. We’ve seen churches start in diners, pubs, breweries, and laundromats. We’ve started churches for English, French, Spanish, Swahili, and Vietnamese-speaking people.

Over the years, I have continued to be impressed by and thankful to work with many gifted and passionate leaders, both lay and clergy, in the Michigan Conference. These leaders have started churches, launched new ministries, and revitalized existing churches. They worked with conference staff who provided valuable training and support for churches throughout Michigan. I have seen churches become more passionate about their spirituality and compassionate in their outreach. These leaders with strong faith and vision have created and sustained all these ministries and programs.

The Office of Congregational Vibrancy has been a hub and support for many of these ministries. It has been my hope and endeavor that, in all these ministries, we have treated each other well and shared the love of God. While the office is discontinued, the work of congregational vibrancy continues. Leaders have stepped up to fill the gaps. Some of those ministry areas and leaders are:

It has been a joy to be a part of the Michigan Conference. May the people and churches of the Michigan Conference be inspired, guided, formed, and sustained by the love of God through the Holy Spirit. Jesus reminds us, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35).

Last Updated on January 11, 2024

The Michigan Conference