Wow! Another calendar year begins January first. Hard to believe 2023 is gone just as I was getting used to writing 2023 instead of 2022. Truth be told, I have a hard time remembering what day it is! When a new year begins we get a new calendar. If you are old school like me you have a paper one (I still keep appointments on a desk calendar) that has every square open. These squares represent each day of the year. We get to write in what we will be doing on those days. In Bill Hybel's book "Simplify", he suggests that we use the calendar as not just something to record activities, but to use those activities to shape the person we would like to become.
For example, if I am trying to become more fit, I should write in time for exercise and avoid an unhealthy diet. If I want to improve my walk with God I need to plan time in service, Bible study, prayer and meditation and cut back on the junk TV.
We have an opportunity to do that as a church as well. I am going to spend this news letter and next months on talking about what God would like our Church to be. Think about that question for a moment. What does God want Our Redeemer to be? What is the purpose of our existence in this place at this time? I suggest we consider our purpose with the following three active verbs, GATHER, NURTURE AND EQUIP.
To nurture individuals to become living, growing disciples of Jesus Christ
Then to equip the body for ministry and mission in the world
…so that, through the life of this congregation, lives would be changed and we would model what it means to be a21st century New Testament church.
It's right in line with St. Paul's vision for the early church in the wonderful third and fourth chapters of the Ephesians letter. He begins with the message of reconciliation through Jesus Christ. Through the blood of his cross, we have been reconciled to God and given the ministry of reconciliation; through him we are no longer strangers and sojourners, but brothers and sisters in Christ.
Mid-course, he shifts to the image of a household built on the foundation of Christ Jesus, and he encourages them to "maintain the unity of the Body in the bond of peace." One spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and in all and through all.
Then he says that within that household, we have all been given various gifts—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and
teachers. And I would expand the list to include: every vocation!
All gathered in the Body of Christ. All nurtured in their discipleship by the spirit of Christ. All working together with one clear
purpose: "To equip the saints for the work of ministry, building up the Body of Christ."
It can be boiled down to three active verbs: Gather, Nurture and Equip.
We gather….we welcome, we include, we receive all persons into the inclusive, life-giving, joy-filled Body of Christ.
Let me give you an example from the animal world. There are two primary ways of gathering God's people together (also called evangelism). There is sponge evangelism where we soak up those who come to us. For the most part, we are pretty good about sponge evangelism—soaking up folks who come by, get close, walk in the door. There is also octopus evangelism. Octopus
evangelism is something else. It means reaching, stretching, finding, touching, drawing in those who are in need of the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and may not have even realized it yet. Are we actively reaching, actively inviting, and actively
gathering all into the body of Christ?
A recent study of the rapidly growing mega-churches confirms what we already know. They are growing, not primarily because of their programming or preaching, buildings, video screens or cute, thirty-something pastors. They are growing primarily
because members are actively inviting others to join them in worship. Eighty percent of all first time visitors to a church come because a friend or neighbor invited them.
It's the active verb…inviting, reaching, gathering…which makes all the difference. (Reaching and gathering next month)
Happy New Year!