What kind of world would you create? Our scripture passage today reminds us that we are agents of God in this world who are here for a purpose. This purpose is spelled out in the very beginning of the Bible. We are called to image God, fill the earth and govern it wisely all in relationship and partnership with God. So we are co-creators with God. With all of that said, what kind of world will you create?
This question is especially relevant when we think about our call and task as Jesus followers who have gathered here at Grace United Methodist Church. We have a purpose and a mission to be agents of God here in St Cloud and beyond. This church has a long history of serving this community, of making disciples and gathering each week to hear the word of God.
Because we are approaching the new year, I thought it would be good if we talked together about our mission, vision and core values. Some of these have been defined in your past and just this year, we examined our vision. We asked some questions about our mission and asked the question, what would this mission look like here at Grace.
I’d like to begin with the mission of our conference because we are connected with the United Methodist Church in the region of Minnesota.
UMC Conference Mission Statement: To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Note that this statement of mission is twofold… to make disciples… Jesus followers so that the world might be transformed.
We can each be individual Jesus followers learning, learning, learning to know God and follow God personally. But for the world to be transformed, there is an outward focus that moves beyond my own transformation toward the transformation of the world. It is both a focus on our own growth as people and as human beings but it is not limited to our own growth. We long to see the world better—more whole, more just, more safe and more humane. We long for others to experience a transformative relationship with Jesus Christ and join in the mission to also create a better world. We are transformed, we partner with God in the transformation of the world.
Grace UMC’s mission is deeply connected to the Conference’s mission. It says this:
It is our mission to become a community where people of all ages may become fully developed followers of Jesus Christ touching the world with God's love.
First, it is our mission to become a community of all ages.
This came out in our visioning also, when we envisioned a church that would be multi-generational. This church longs for a multi-generational church of people who are being equipped at Jesus followers.
The words in this statement are even more powerful than the conference’s statement as you feel your mission is for fully developed followers of Jesus.
What does that mean? Being a fully developed follower of Jesus means, that Christians seek to grow both emotionally, spiritually and relationally so that we might be mature human beings. This is about a full-spiritual formation that goes beyond knowing about the Bible or even knowing the Bible. This statement reminds us that we are growing more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are to grow more and more being formed into the image of Christ. We are being Christ-formed, cruciformed, resurrection formed. This is a journey of wholeness.
That’s why we often talk about healthy relationships, and healthy community. Your mission—that was here before me—states as it’s goal that we are to become whole and holy people who image God well.
Touching the world with God’s Love:
The second part of our mission statement is the outward part. We are called as people being made whole and holy to be agents of God who touch the world with God’s love. We are not keeping the goodness of God and the good news of God to ourselves but actively reaching out and touching the world with God’s love.
The Bible tells us to Love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, all of our minds and all of our strength –and our neighbors as ourselves.
Can you see the similarities between the Conference mission statement and our own mission statement. Each involve discipleship—transformation as people –formed into the image of Jesus Christ and an outward focus to bring that transformation to our families, to our communities, to our city, to our world.
So, what will that look like here as we are envisioning?
Last fall, Pastor Lori led us in a SWOT analysis. This analysis helped our church examine our strengths, our weaknesses, our opportunities and our threats.
We noticed many themes centered around some longings that we have as a people. We long to touch families, children, young adults—imagining a strong ministry that included people of all ages. And the threat around that had to do with our worry around our aging community. We also noticed that we love meeting practical needs.
This community reflection led us to 4 main ideas that help us envision our future.
1. We envision: A church filled with young people, families and children who are growing in their faith and living the mission of God in their neighborhoods, community and world.
This relates back to our mission statement especially the part about fully formed disciples of all ages who are being fully developed in their faith. We imagined people being formed and transformed in their relationship with God and in community. But our vision extends to touch the world with God’s love when we notice that we long for people who come here and connect with God to join us in the mission of God living that mission in our neighborhoods, our community and world.
This means, that a big part of our focus will need to be on reaching out to such people in our community and creating a worship experience and a discipleship experience that will see these dreams become a reality.
What can we do to communicate to especially younger people and families? How an we invite them into growth as human beings in their relationships in their parenting, in their discipleship?
2. We envision worship services that creatively communicate the message of Jesus Christ and help people experience the presence of God.
A part of creating a worship service is to consider who will be present and how we might effectively and creatively communicate the timeless message of Christ to a new world? This could involve the arts, it could involve language, it could involve messages and a musical style that is relevant to their world. To accomplish this part of the vision might require us to submit to one another as the Bible tells us. We might have to give up some of our preferences and some of our territory so that we can make room for others. But if we keep the mission and the vision in focus, we will know why we are doing this and why it matters. It is not purposeless.
We also imagine a worship service that helps those in attendance in connecting deeply with God. We want them to encounter God for themselves. Growing in discipleship often involves an encounter with God. Many belong to the community before they come to a relationship with God. We hope that creative, spirit-filled services help others encounter God in a real way.
3. We envision a people who are serving our community through meeting practical needs, eating together, working together and serving together.
This came out often in our SWOT analysis. All of you want to meet real needs. And you love eating together, and working together and serving together.
Much of this shows up in your LWG meals, the Big Give, our Reverse Advent that just happened and your dreams about a community garden. Many of you have been imagining a new garden on our soil, here at Grace. The dreams is that we and our neighbors could work together in a garden, growing healthy food. From this many have also dreamed about cooking classes and canning classes and gardening classes. The garden can potentially lead to a variety of relationships in our immediate neighborhood. And our neighborhood is very diverse. What would it look like for Anglo’s, Hispanics and Somali’s to work together in a garden. It feels like a reversal of the effects of the Fall, when human beings divided over language barriers. What would it look like to work side- by side? What would it look like to share food and eat together?
4. We envision a welcoming congregation that is filled with a diverse group of people who love and follow Jesus.
We had a taste of this. We’ve sung in Spanish, we’ve listened to songs in Swedish, and Native American. If we sit down and count up the many people among us, we are actually quite diverse. We are diverse ethnically, we are diverse in our generations, we are diverse in our socio-economic status, we are diverse in our rural and urban population. We are becoming more diverse in many more ways also. This is coupled with a community that is largely friendly and welcoming.
I can’t help but think that this friendly and welcoming stance is due to the fact that all of you love and follow Jesus. Many of us have been challenged because we are diverse. Many have risen to that challenge and have grown because of it. It is imperative in that quickly changing world that we can learn to be OK with being a little bit uncomfortable when we are experiencing people of a wide variety of ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. We are not homogeneous in the world today. In fact our population is changing radically. Many of the Christians in this nation are of Hispanic origin, or African American. And we must adapt and take a welcome posture toward others. If we can be on the front end of those changes, we can be a part of leading in our welcome toward others. The ways and skills are in the Bible as the first century churches led the way in mission to the whole world.
Finally, I want us to note our core values: These have not been updated and may need to be updated. They come from the days when this church was being built.
OUR CORE VALUES
- TO LOVE GOD & OTHERS
- TO REACH OUT TO A HURTING WORLD
- TO ENGAGE IN THOUGHTFUL CHRIST-CENTERED, BIBLE-BASED PREACHING AND TEACHING
- TO PARTICIPATE IN COMMUNITY and in BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
- TO PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER AND THE WORLD
- TO LIVE LIKE JESUS
- TO ENCOUNTER GOD IN WORSHIP
- TO DEVELOP AND EQUIP LEADERS
- TO PRACTICE GOOD STEWARDSHIP
Core values are the deeply held values that motivate and drive you. When stated, they help a group of people clarify openly the deeply held beliefs resident within the congregation. Sometimes those core values are implicit or unstated and we wonder why people act as they do. Often they are acting from deeply held core values. Most of the on-going conflicts in churches stem from undefined core values and we have conflicts. If we can define and talk about these values, we may be able to come to a place of respect and understanding even if we do not fully agree with one another. The listed values on the slides are values that were resident when the church moved into it’s new building. These are good values and tell me a great deal about who you are and what matters to you. If you notice, these core values also mesh with the conference mission statement and with your own mission statement. They are also in sync with what you envision here at Grace UMC.
I’m pretty excited about the future here at Grace, you have big dreams.
I believe we are at a critical moment in time when we could choose to go in directions that will bring us life. For some of us this will be a legacy that we leave and for others it will be something we vision and participate in. We will need to make room for new voices, new leaders, and new worship experiences. We may not all like what we are experiencing and we may at times be uncomfortable but if we keep the mission and vision in our focus, we will know why we are doing what we are doing. As your pastor, I too may feel uncomfortable and need to change. I’m on the older end of things and may have places I too will need to give up so that this church might continue in its mission to make fully developed disciples who will touch the world with God’s love.