Issue in Context: Nelsen Award winner
H. Gray Southern
The John Nelsen Award is presented to the best Doctor of Ministry project which focuses on Old Testament texts, images, and themes as resources for transforming a local congregation into an example of a missional church. This award is given by Dan Winn, Jr., in honor of his friend and counselor, John M. Nelsen. Nelsen received his M.Div. and D.Min. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and he is now pastor of First church in Sapulpa, OK. For more than 25 years, Nelsen has devoted his ministry to challenging, sustaining, and transforming of his congregations. The missional church has been his primary focus for several years.
H. Gray Southern, of Durham, NC, received the B.A. degree from the University of North Carolina, and the M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. He is a district superintendent in the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. An abstract of his D.Min. project appears at right. The full text can be found online
Issue in Context
Why join the church? That question is a crucial one for contemporary Christians. The United Methodist Church advertises to invite the unchurched, “dechurched”, and inactive to its life. Regardless of how well the invitation to participate is given, or how warm the welcome, the question of what it means to join remains. Even in congregations that are succeeding at attracting new members and are open to growth’s issues, I have not perceived a widespread understanding of what it means to “join the church” or even to join a given congregation, beyond the idea that the person joining will help maintain that particular institutional expression of the church by actions such as giving money or serving on committees. The question has new power as increasing numbers of people now identify themselves as “unchurched but spiritual” or “spiritual but not religious.” Jim Wallis of the Sojourners Community suggests that churched Christians should regard these brothers and sisters “as another denomination.” My pastoral experience, and the reported experience of other pastors, is that this lack of clarity about the meaning of church membership is endemic to our culture and to the culture of the church. Why should anyone join the church?
The full text can be found online at: