Friday, April 10, 2020

The Church in Mission

A message from 2015 as we examined what we state we believe in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Semper Fidelis

I’m going to demonstrate from the start how connected to the modern world and its vernacular I am by using the word “trending.”  I have noticed some themes are trending within the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Such as?
What’s in a name?
Traditions or modern connections?

OK, maybe nobody really cares about deflated footballs anymore, but there is a lot of discussion online and in print about our name and our church names and our traditions.

In April of this year, the Red River Presbytery will bring in an outside consultant to help those who attend the spring meeting in Burleson, Texas take a serious look at ourselves. 

Make no mistake, the discussion has begun.  Many have posted comments or published articles on these trending subjects.  These are well written and professionally presented, but all share one thing in common as they wrestle with names and traditions and other such trending thoughts.

Nobody is talking about the mission of the church!

Changing the name of the building or the denomination or the signs that are displayed in front of them may offer some greater connection in the advertising sense, but without the passion for the mission; they have little effect.

Changing the style of worship may please one demographic and alienate another, but in itself won’t change the Sunday attendance much.

We are looking at the scoreboard and taking our eyes off the ball to only partially malign Blanchard’s and Peals’ thoughts on the matter.  It seems that we are trying to get people into pews and missing the purpose of the church.

We are those who are called out of the world.
We are set apart from the world.
We are sent back into the world.

Sometimes we forget that last part.  We are sent back into the world.

Christians often forsake the mission of the church for some Field of Dreams theology.  If you build it, they will come.  Again, is the goal of the church attendance?

Most of the people in the small towns where I pastor don’t remember the name that we put on the outside of the building.  Here is what they remember:

·       You guys came to my door last spring.
·       You helped us with school supplies.
·       You are the people who took lunches to the kids each week during the summer.
·       You came and prayed with me and my family.
·       You gave away coats for the last couple of years.
·       You helped us when we didn’t have any food.
·       You helped us with our water bill.
·       You challenged me to help others—to serve the Lord.
·       You challenged me to trust God when I didn’t even trust myself.
·       You guys did the Egg Hunt and gave out Bibles and God Loves You wristbands to everyone who came.

·       Now I remember, you are the guys that told every kid in school that God loved them.

OK, so what is the name of our church?

I don’t remember.  I just know that you guys are always helping people and praying with people and even just walking with people as they try to make it day-to-day.

Do you know anything about our history?

No.  I only know what I have seen.

Do you know anything about our theology?

I don’t know anything about anybody’s theology.

Well, what do you think we believe?

God loves you.  Love one another.

That’s a wonderful starting point!

Yes, there is so much more than that, but that is a good starting point.  That connects with people.  That is the church that is called out of the world, set apart from the world, and sent back into the world.

If you want to change the name, fine; but realize that doing so is not the heart of the matter.

If you want to revisit customs and traditions and appeal to different demographics, fine; but realize that is not what makes the difference in making connections.

For all of the things that we may or may not want to change, we nailed it with our Confession of Faith when it comes to the church.  The doctrine and direction is sound.  It is relevant in the current culture.

What it’s not is trending.  We are not looking for so many ways to hold on to our denomination that we forgot to just be the church.

Here’s is what should be trending in the church today.

·       Love, love, and more love
·       Coming to worship and going to the world to witness
·       Being the light of the world
·       Being the God-seasoning of the world
·       Loving one another as much as Christ loved us
·       Putting our pointing fingers in our pockets and walking with those who need more guidance
·       Discipleship
·       And more, much more, but it starts with being the church again.
Let’s explore multiple names and ways to worship and educate and reach those who currently live at the intersection of apathy and ambivalence, but let that be secondary to revitalizing the core mission of the church.
Mission first, new names later.

Into the world with good news and salvation first, paint the sign a different color later.                                       
Light of the world now, window dressing later.

We need to be faithful to the mission of the church.  If we will focus here, other things such as attendance, budget, and a full range of ages, ethnicities, and gifts will follow.

So are we focused on attendance or not?

No!  Absolutely not!  We are aware of our attendance and offerings and education but we are focused on our mission.

We are focused on our mission!

God will equip the faithful church with what it needs to flourish.  When we focus on our mission, those things that seem to concern us so much will just fall into place.

We don’t need to out-think God.  We trust him over the worldly patterns that invade that trust.  He will provide the increase if we do things his way.

Let us be faithful to being the church.  Let us be Always Faithful to being the church.

Semper Fidelis!

The Church in Mission
5.28 The church, being nurtured and sustained by worship, by proclamation and study of the word, and by the celebration of the sacraments, is commissioned to witness to all persons who have not received Christ as Lord and Savior.

5.29 Growth is natural to the church's life. The church is called into being and exists to reach out to those who have not experienced God's grace in Christ, and to nourish them with all the means of grace.

5.30 In carrying out the apostolic commission, the covenant community has encountered and continues to encounter people who belong to religions which do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord. While respecting persons who adhere to other religions, Christians are responsible to share with them the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.

5.31 The covenant community is responsible to give witness to the mighty acts of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Where and when this witness is lacking, God is not without a witness. Therefore, it does not belong to the covenant community to judge where and in what manner God acts savingly through Jesus Christ.

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