Should we be nurturing? Or provoking?

Should we be nurturing? Or provoking?

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By Wendy Vander Hart
Associate Conference Minister

I’ve been praying a lot these days about the changing landscape of ministry (the decline of the mainline church, an increasingly multi-option society, and the fact that on any given Sunday only 17% of any community is in worship). I join those prayers with a commitment to our Conference mission “to nurture local church vitality and covenant to make God’s love and justice real.” I wonder if “nurture” is the right word for the times in which we are living.
 
The word nurture comes from the Latin nutritura -the act of nursing. Some synonyms amplify the meaning: advance, cultivate, encourage, further, incubate, nourish, promote.
 
Somehow these words don’t speak to the urgency of what the times tell us. They are softer verbs than the changing landscape of ministry demands.
 
The word which has arisen from my prayers comes from the focus text of our Conference Annual Meeting in 2010.   “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:25 
 
The word provoke is from the Latin provocare, from pro- forth + vocare to call. Synonyms for provoke are: arouse, excite, fire up, impassion, instigate, rev up, spark, stimulate, build a fire under.
 
What might be different in our life together if the mission of the MA Conference was to provoke local church vitality and covenant? Think about our work together if we were to arouse, excite, fire up, impassion, instigate, rev up, spark, stimulate, build a fire under local church vitality to make God’s love and justice real.
 
Provoking is not an end in itself. Making God’s love and justice real is the goal. Provoking local church vitality is only worthy if it reveals something of God’s love and justice!
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