Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mission First…

I’m writing from Columbus, Ohio, where people from throughout our denomination have gathered for our bi-annual General Assembly. We do some of the business of being church together in these meetings- discussing and voting on pressing issues of social concern, church structure, receiving reports from General Ministries. But mostly- this is my favorite part- it’s a big family reunion. People I only see frequently on Facebook are here in person for reconnecting, conversating and enjoying the fact that we’re in the same family together, gathered around the Table of Jesus Christ. We are privileged to be Disciples!

I thought you’d be interested, though, in one of those business items, something that was the theme of our General Minister and President’s keynote address. She’s calling the church to engage in a new initiative she’s dubbed Mission First, whose intention is what the name says: As a church, we should put our mission in prime position.

We know that can be hard. Concerns about finances, building maintenance, conflicted relationships among members and more can so often- sometimes too often- become our focus. Indeed, for many churches, it sometimes feels like that’s the only reason they gather together or use their gifts and talents; to solve the problems facing the institution of the church. All that, of course, is critical. Without faithful and occasionally challenging conversations about budgets, we can’t pay our staffs or keep the lights on. Without an effective physical plant, we can offer quality hospitality or use our space for good programs and gatherings. Without caring effectively for one another, and healing relationships that break, we aren’t community, we aren’t the people of God.

That said, Jesus didn’t call us Disciples to pay budgets, build buildings, or know one another solely for that sake alone. We’re called into mission. Or, as Jesus put it, to help God’s Kingdom come on earth. That requires we constantly be thinking about how our church affects the world beyond our walls. That demands we use our creative energies for updating and imagining the work we can do to lift up neighbors, especially “the least of these.” All that and more is mission. And mission is the “why” of church.

Increasingly, our GMP is saying, it should also be the “what” of our churches. What do you imagine your role is in the mission of God’s church? I write it that way intentionally. I don’t just mean, “What do you do to help Plymouth Creek survive and thrive?” God wants more. God wants our identities aligned with God’s identity. God wants our language to emerge from spiritual sources, not simply the culture that surrounds us. You aren’t just people I know. You are my sisters and brothers in faith. Therefore, what you do because you are associated with this church can and should matter to the mission of God.

Do you ever consider that fact before you arrive for worship on Sundays? What about when you’re relaxing at home, wondering what to do with your free time, whether to watch another episode of The Walking Dead or Dancing with the Stars, or to use those moments to brighten the souls of people in need? Imagine what could happen if you and I, and more people in our church, and in our sibling churches around the country, made answering such questions in ways that reflect the glory of our glorious God a major life priority!

That’s what this Mission First initiative, as I understand it, intends to spark. Next year, there will be gatherings in many locales to kick the conversation off. I’m not sure when and where those will occur in our corner of this nation, but I’ll keep you informed. There’s no reason, however, we need to wait. You have been baptized, and therefore included, and therefore called into the Mission of the God of Resurrection in our world, in our midst. The necessary steps to make that call a greater reality only wait for your decision to make them. What will you do? Whom will you serve? How will you make God’s Mission first place in your life next year, tomorrow, today?

Grace and Peace,
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