Check out the most recent edition of the Diocese of Pittsburgh's E News featuring Jonah's Call @ Church of the Ascension.
Ascension Prepares to Do Something New
"Jonah's Call" is intended to reach out to the thousands of people around Church of the Ascension, Oakland, who don't know Jesus.
On an average Sunday morning, the pews at Church of the Ascension in Oakland are about eighty percent full.
That is a good thing. Church of the Ascension has a lot of pews. It is also a challenge. Churches tend to see fewer visitors become regular attenders, then members, when most of the seats are filled. “Historically, this parish saw straightline growth for years, but it reached a plateau and we got stuck,” said the Rev. Jonathan Millard, rector of Ascension.
Ascension could have responded to getting “stuck,” by settling into a comfortable life of caring for the several hundred people who are already in church on Sunday morning. That, however, was not an attractive solution. “We can’t just sit here getting bloated,” said Millard. Settling in also wouldn’t fit Ascension’s desire to take Jesus’ call seriously to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
So, instead of settling for stuck, Ascension is already deeply engaged in doing something new. With the help of the Rev. Jay Slocum, a church-planter most recently in ministry near South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island and now on Ascension’s staff, they are launching a new service, and with it hopefully a new congregation at their current facility .
“We are not interested in providing another consumer option for the people who are already here, we want this service very intentionally to attract pre-Christians,” said Millard.
As Slocum sees it, there are plenty of “pre-Christians” in the neighborhood. Surrounded by major universities and medical schools, Ascension literally has people from all around the nation and the world on their doorstep. “Pittsburgh is a mission field,” said Slocum.
In fact, that sense of being surrounded by tens of thousands of people who don’t know Jesus has crystallized into a name for the coming expansion of Ascension’s ministry. They are calling it “Jonah’s Call,” after the story in the Old Testament book of Jonah of God’s concern for all those who did not know him in the great city of Nineveh.
“We are not interested in providing another consumer option for the people who are already here, we want this service very intentionally to attract pre-Christians.”
- The Rev. Jonathan MillardPreparations are far advanced for launching Jonah’s Call, but there still is much to do before the service officially begins when students return to campus in the fall of 2008. According to Millard and Slocum, Ascension members just completed a season of prayer and fasting for the diocese, the church and for the launch of Jonah’s Call. “The overwhelming sense of the feedback was that we were indeed hearing God properly and were being encouraged to move forward,” said Millard.
This coming winter and spring, Slocum is working to gather leadership for Jonah’s Call and with that leadership, as well as the entire congregation of Ascension, fine tune the vision that Jonah’s Call will embrace. That vision points Jonah’s Call to focus on worship, connecting to neighbors, causing transformation in people’s lives and serving the city.
Ascension will begin “beta” Jonah’s Call events and worship in just a few months. In fact, the first planned happening for the new service as a Fat Tuesday party this February.
Millard, Slocum and other members of Ascension are obviously excited by the opportunities they see. At the same time, everyone involved knows there is a lot that they won’t be able to predict. “We don’t know what will happen. We don’t quite know how the child is going to turn out,” said Millard.
Ascension is convinced that it is supposed to find out. “This is part of what we are called to be and to do. It’s the great commandment [to love each other] and the Great Commission [to make disciples]. This is what you get. It is about bearing good fruit,” added Millard.
- Posted December 30, 2007 -
Created by pfrank Last modified 2007-12-30 08:30