Yesterday I cast the vision which I believe God has given our congregation to impact our community. It included several programming changes, but requires large shifts in our mindsets.
First, we decided that our mission should be the same as the mission of Jesus Christ, as he expressed while quoting Isaiah in Luke 4:18-19. Worded succinctly, we have stated our mission as follows:
To bring the healing and hope of Jesus Christ to people in Greene County and beyond.
Our purpose is effortlessly lifted from a suggestion by Brian McLaren in The Church on the Other Side:
More disciples, better disciples.
Everything we do over the next two years (and, ultimately, as long as we are biblically minded, I believe) must be directly connected to our mission and our purpose. I'm convinced that the ministry of Jesus and of his disciples and the apostles is the ministry model for today, although in many circles it's still taboo to talk of miracles, signs and wonders. But I'm not interested in impressing religious circles (praise from men). I want the praise that comes from God.
I outlined to our congregation that there are five key components (a five-spoked wheel) we must thrive in to remain faithful to the vision. First, and foundationally, we must become people dedicated to prayer. We must also be commited to building relationships, first with one another, and then with those who do not yet believe. Further, we must commit ourselves to worship, learning, and sacrifice.
What does all this boil down to? A passionate commitment to allow the Holy Spirit to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. Is that a lot to ask of a group of 17 or 18 folks? I believe it's precisely what Scripture not only asks but expects of believers.
Of course, these changes will not happen overnight. We're beginning 2005 with 50 days of focused prayer and fasting -- including the always dreaded media fast. I believe there's no better way to let God (and the enemy) know that we're serious about impacting this community.
The immediate programming changes that we'll make as a result of this vision are challenging, to say the least. We are changing the name of our congregation from First Apostolic Church to CrossRoads. The name change is based on two primary thoughts. "Apostolic" is an unfamiliar word to most people, even believers, and, as a result, is extremely hard to pronounce correctly. In addition, for a variety of reasons, the name has connotations which distract from the vision and message which we want to portray.
We are also doing away with the age-old tradition of having a Sunday evening service. While one-service Sundays have become more common in recent years, we do it not to follow a fad, but rather to focus more on building relationships. At least two Sunday evenings each month will be devoted to spending time with unbelievers or with believers in small group settings.
Finally, we are switching classes (learning times) to Wednesday evening and making the Sunday worship gathering a family-focused, participatory affair. How will we accomplish this? That remains to be seen, but I believe it's something we must strive for to be relevant to those who would join us each week
Wish and pray us Godspeed.