Last year at this time, we were gearing up for a 40-day all-church study of the book, Unbinding Your Heart by Martha Grace Reese. It was a wakeup call to remember who we are and what we are called to do and be. The focus was evangelism – but it was really about realigning our priorities with the ministry of Jesus. At its most basic, our job is to help people connect with God, connect with one another in the community of faith, and send disciples of Christ back out into the world to serve. Or, as we have captured in the mission statement of our church: deep Christian spirituality, true community, and a passion for justice.
An article that came out this week in the Christian Century about the failure of so many churches to successfully reach out to young people (entitled “The Almost-Christian Formation of Teens: Faith, Nice and Easy”), argues that the biggest danger for churches today is getting away from historical, orthodox Christianity into a sort of “moralistic therapeutic deism” – something that looks and acts “Christian,” but in the end is something else entirely. Needless to say, if our focus isn’t where it should be, nothing we “do” will have any lasting impact.
A study funded by the Lily Foundation called “the Exemplary Youth Ministry study” found that congregations who were doing the best job of forming young disciples were also more likely to:
–portray God as living, present and active
–place a high value on scripture
–explain their church’s mission, practices and relationships as inspired by “the life and mission of Jesus Christ.”
–emphasize spiritual growth, discipleship and vocation
–promote outreach and mission
–Help teens develop “a positive, hopeful spirit,” “live out a life of service” and “live a Christian moral life”
Churches that are experiencing real growth in spiritual maturity and in “numbers” are churches that do not call people to be moralistic do-gooders – but Christ’s representatives to the world.
Last Sunday, we began a sermon series on the Foundations of our faith that touch on all of the bullets outlined above. The first sermon, “Why God?” (now available online) focused on God as “living, present, and active.” This coming Sunday will lift up the importance and authority of scripture.
Right now, we have a tremendous amount of energy and momentum. However, we also are seeking input. We need to take our mission and purpose and make it concrete. What kinds of things can we do – practically – to help people connect with God and one another? What can we do to increase the outreach and mission of our church? In the weeks ahead, we invite you to join us in dreaming big dreams for the ministry of Central Christian Church. Would you like to see us build a house for Habitat? Expand our ministry to youth and young families? Do a better job of caring for those already in the fold? Come and share your ideas as we take our big vision – and make it a reality.