If we don’t know what the bullseye is, we’ll have a hard time hitting it. In thinking about where our church hopes to be in six months, two years, and five years there are common themes which will extend through these different seasons of church. What you’ll see below isn’t particularly new but has some specific elements which reflect our unique strengths (and weaknesses) as well as our context. In all of this I am drawing on the work of others.
Main idea: We don’t get to pick the target of who we want the church to be. Since the church belongs to God and is headed by Jesus he sets the course and defines the destination. When you look in the bible and consider who God’s people are meant to be you’ll actually find five mutually informative “bulls eyes,” which a church, desiring to be faithful to Jesus’ vision for his followers, must hit. While we won’t hit dead center on everyone of these – or maybe even none – we need to be somewhere in the black (see above image) on each. So we’ll start with a passage from the Acts of the Apostles which lays out these five purposes.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Worship & Prayer – The church must honor the triune God by gathering to worship him and by promoting greater devotion to God in every church member’s life. Vital worship will balance vertical and horizontal elements, the transcendence and imminence of God, and the corporate vs. private aspects.
We will gather weekly on the Lord’s day to worship the living God in Spirit and truth through the only mediator Jesus Christ. With preparation and prayer we will strive to worship God with excellence, reflecting both our historic roots and the reality that God is at work today. Our worship will be accessible to those less familiar with the Christian faith as various elements (music, reading, preaching sacraments) are explained and the congregation is equipped to more fully engage. Our gathered worship fuels and rises from the regular worship of individuals and families as the are equipped and encouraged to seek God’s presence daily.
Discipleship and learning – The church must teach Christians to obey everything that Jesus has commanded us, living in the light of his presence until he returns.
We will have a clear picture of Christian maturity towards which various process and programs work in a coordinated manner. We will embody a culture of continued learning and self-evaluation in which a developmental mindset is embraced by all ministry leaders. Disciples grow in number and depth through decentralized ministries and creative educational approaches emphasizing truth, care, and accountability. Children and teens are woven into this disciple making process so that the church is characterized by growing health and wholeness.
Fellowship – There must be a sense of responsibility and affection between members of the church as together we are the body of Christ.
Whether gathering on a Sunday for worship, sharing a meal in someone’s home, or serving together we enjoy each other’s company and seek it spontaneously as well as through programed events. Our mutual love and care points to the love of Christ and is expressed through a decentralized ministry model which connects believers along lines of geography as well as interest. We pursue unity through regular face to face interaction and biblical conflict resolution.
Evangelism – The church must equip members to share their faith as well as develop a passion for the global progress of the gospel. Gripped by the good news of Jesus our enthusiasm for the advance of the kingdom will grow.
We are committed to equipping and encouraging believers to engage their non-Christian contacts with the gospel. We will have an atmosphere of spiritual sensitivity and wisdom so that non-Christians connected to the church feel loved and challenged. Nearly all ministries will have an outward face providing various points of contact, while unique events will also be designed for outreach. We will regularly pray for those who do not know Christ, both locally and globally, instilling dependence on God and providing a framework in which sacrificial giving supports multiplication of churches and ministries.
Mercy & Social Concern – The church must remember the poor, being filled with compassion and driven to action on behalf of the needy in the church and the broader community.
We will regularly explore the implications of Christ’s redemption of all things and the reality of all people bearing God’s image. Through member’s mutual love and concern we will care for many of the needs within the church. In our community we will partner with a few organizations, providing relief, building relationships, and eventually addressing systemic issues of mercy and justice.
Out of these five targets I think we are better positioned to hit the first two (worship & discipleship/learning). We need to do all five and have some pieces coming together to make sure that our natural weak spots don’t undermine our strengths.