Summer is just around the corner and that signals a change in rhythm. For some it means a change in the role the church fills in their lives as they take vacation. One of the questions that comes up in Disciple Bible study is what is the purpose of church? In today’s changing culture, that question may be more important than ever before. In the past two days I have heard people say things like, “Well of course you can worship anywhere and anytime. God is everywhere” and “If the couple doesn’t want the wedding service in the church, with appropriate scripture and music, then they should use a justice of the peace.” Both of these conversations were with active and loving members of Laurel Heights. Both have their place and present valid points. Conversations about balancing traditions, nurturing one another and reaching out to change lives is an old one. Just read Galatians.
Routinely congregations should wrestle with these questions and others like them. During the last half of 2016, there was considerable conversation about the best method for Laurel Heights to think about these questions and the mission field the church has been appointed to serve. As in Galatians, can someone from outside see things that others might not see like Paul did in his letter to them? Or is it best to have someone who knows the congregation, the people and its unique circumstances? Is there greater commitment to hearing what may be discovered or affirmed if there is a financial responsibility? Are we being good stewards of God’s potential?
Parents, teachers, farmers and entrepreneurs have always understood the stewardship of potential. They may not call it that. They do not know exactly what potential is truly before them, but they each know they want to provide an environment where the greatest potential can be realized. They want to offer all the resources they can so that whatever potential is there can be identified and reached, a place where something new can happen.
Many congregations begin a ministry by asking what do we want to get done and may never ask the question of why is it important for us to accomplish this work. Shifting organizing questions toward those of engagement and purpose can make a big difference in the life of a congregation. Providing an environment for each person to discover and develop their God-given potential creates a place where people come together to take part in something that is meaningful to them. Passion and purpose hold the congregation together rather than membership or status.
I believe congregations are at their best when they are inclusive. Diversity encourages people to engage with the “other” – a person from another generation, a different background, a spiritual orientation or political view. The greatest potentials in science are found in diverse systems. Diversity provides an environment to have an encounter where both people have an opportunity to grow by experiencing difference.
In today’s world, people do not need an existing congregation to explore their sacred purpose or meaning. They have the ability to bypass existing congregations and find or even create new communities for themselves. But if existing and historic congregations can look at themselves honestly, identify themselves by purpose rather than activity and provide fertile ground for new people to engage in purposeful work in a meaningful mission field, then that congregation has a good chance of making new disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
See you Sunday,