I continue to be grateful at the positive feedback we are getting around the vision frame that was presented at our 2019 National Gathering. I certainly understand some of the questions that have arisen in response to vision frame, and those questions are usually easily addressed. The clear majority of what we hear is excitement at the clarity of language and the boldness of ECO’s direction.
As we look at values, we realize that values are different than theological statements. Those statements are contained in our essentials and have a higher ecclesial authority than do values. But the values are to set apart some distinct ethos that your leadership wants our body to feel as you engage with the denomination. One of those values is “The Complete Local”. This value is certainly unique to most denominational contexts.
The value of being The Complete Local emphasizes a few very important and unique characteristics for ECO:
First, it understands that the purpose of the denomination is to foster the health of the local church. When I preach around the country, usually when the pastor of the church introduces me, he or she will say something like, “I am so thankful for the pastor’s heart that Dana has, and his desire is to see all of our churches flourish.” As we think and plan for the future, starting initiatives, and raising funds for leadership development, the entire purpose of those endeavors is be able to do some things nationally to help catalyze flourishing locally.
Second, it is important to understand that God has inherently designed the local church with what it needs to flourish exactly where God has placed the congregation. I love the analogy that Alan Hirsch makes about the local church. He says (and I am paraphrasing), “Just as every apple has the potential to plant an orchard, so every church has the potential to launch a movement.” That’s powerful stuff! If ECO is to become a movement, all it takes is for a few churches, or even one church, to live out their movement potential. Our unique position as a denomination then is to help create an environment where each church can live out its God-given potential.
Third, it validates micro-expressions of church. Our polity talks about a Session training and commissioning people to celebrate the sacraments in smaller forms of church beyond what is experienced in weekend worship. When Jesus says in Matthew 18, that “wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am”, Jesus is not taking about needing a quorum of people to make it worth his time to show up. Instead Jesus is saying that when even a few people are gathered in His name, it is an expression of the body of Christ. It isn’t the totality of the body of Christ, just as the local church is not the totality either, but it is an expression.
Think about the power and unique character of the value, The Complete Local. What does it mean that your congregation has the potential to start a movement? What does it benefit to be a denomination that truly wants you to live out your God given call in the context where He has placed you? How might you empower groups of believers to be sent into various contexts to reach people that wouldn’t normally be reached by your congregation?
I continue to be thankful and pray for you as you seek to represent Christ in every place that God has planted you. I am proud to be a part of a denomination that values your church in your unique community. One local church has the power to start a movement! Could it be yours?