A “Hopeful Imagination” seminar hosted Oct. 22-23 by First Baptist Church of Wilmington brought together more than 300 church leaders from eight or nine states, all hoping to find help in imagining a new and brighter future for their congregations.


The conference, a joint effort of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBFNC), CBF national, and the Columbia Partnership, sought to provide just that. In plenary sessions, leaders of FBC Wilmington (like Jayne Davis, at left) told the story of their church’s remarkable transformation, and more focused groups offered nuts and bolts advice for redreaming music, missions, Christian education, worship, and other aspects of what makes a dynamic church — well — dynamic.


You can watch for a story on the event by Steve DeVane on the Associated Baptist Press website.

My intent here is not so much to report on the meeting as to praise the two words that make up its name: Hopeful Imagination.

Many congregations, like some of the individuals who make them up, seem to have given up any hope of ever growing, developing, ministering, or making a difference in their community. Some churches seem to exist for the sole purpose of being their for the current members until they die, and nothing will change if those members have no passion for Kingdom work, no hope of greater ministry.

Hope is at the heart of congregational transformation, but it doesn’t stand alone. Imagination puts hope into meaningful action. Traditional churches often struggle with the notion of imagination, which inevitably leads to trying the sort of things of which it is said “but we’ve never done it that way before.”

The stories told by the FBC staff include multiple things they’d never done before. Some of them bombed, but others bloomed. That was important to hear: knowing that not everything will work should reduce the pressure and encourage congregations to try more new things.

One of the most important messages from the meeting was the importance of church staff members working together, supporting each other, and never criticizing each other in front of church members.

Being hopeful and imaginative will go a long way toward helping us to be faithful as children of God involved in Kingdom work.


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