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Reorienting our goal as the Church
This coming Sunday, I have the privilege of preaching at First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs and I plan on using Acts 1:1-8. My title for the sermon is, “God’s Mission has a Church.” I believe we often reverse the relationship between mission and church.
As churches, we often spend a long time seeking to articulate our mission. And while I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with this practice (because it is necessary to clearly articulate your church’s mission), I do believe the best way to tell the mission of a church is by its behavior. Often, as churches, we pursue our stated mission until the mission threatens the church’s organizational comfort. When this occurs, there’s pressure to abandon the mission in pursuit of regaining stability. When this happens, the functional mission of the church ceases to be what is printed, and instead becomes organizational preservation and growth.
The Church will be helped when we realize we are not the authors of the mission, but rather, as the Church, we are the agent to carry out the mission of God.
In other words, church is not the goal. Instead, church is the means by which God has chosen to fulfill His goal of bringing about His kingdom on earth. This sounds obvious, but my guess is we can all think of ways our churches have allowed our unstated goal of organizational comfort to hinder the purposes of God.
In preparation for preaching this passage, I am also reminded it’s not just that God’s mission has a church, but God’s mission has denominations and networks, too. The temptation a church faces to usurp God’s mission for organizational stability can be the same temptation for ECO. Perhaps there’s a greater tendency for denominations to lean toward stability instead of mission because this is often what congregations desire from a denomination.
While there are ways denominations need to provide stability, I hope and pray those of us in ECO do more than provide stability. My hope is that by providing stability we will create the space for each other where we can experiment, dream God’s dreams, learn, challenge, and take risks. I hope we will continue to be thoughtful about our approach to ministry, and yet, not wait for the perfect plan to move forward. I hope we will help each other organize and plan to optimize success rather than to prevent worst-case scenario failure.
I hope congregations have ten times the energy and passion to pursue God’s vision as compared to the energy it takes to make a denominational transition. As we continue to grow, there will be a greater and greater inner drive for stability. I pray we embrace this stability only to the extent that it helps us create the environment to purse God’s mission with greater élan.