What’s the story of your church? What pops into your mind when you think of mission and ministry? When you look around the sanctuary, what do you see, what stories does it hold? How would strangers describe you?
Churches are living communities. We are a hodge podge of relationships, professed faiths, and performed rituals. We inhale the Spirit and exhale ministry. What we do declares who we are to those who watch us.
With identities comes rules and habits. They become commandments to help form our faith. These traditions help us stick together, finding comfort and security. Rules give us purpose and continuity.
Many of us are good at following these rules of faith and community. We thrive on the clarity. Like the rich young ruler, rules give us a measuring stick. The commandments give us the comfort of purpose. However, they don’t always provide meaning.
What do I still lack? That’s the question he poses to Jesus. After doing the right things, keeping the faith, and following the rules he lacked something. He could sense there was something more, but couldn’t quite grasp it. He was comfortable, but not comforted.
For some people comfortable is enough. Our lives can be filled with chaos and uncertainty. We’d like for Church to be a place of rest. A place where we can walk in the doors and feel the freedom of predictability. We want to feel the embrace of God, loving us rather than challenging us to deepen our faiths.
That comfortable existence works until we stand before Jesus and ask what we lack. It works until the Spirit moves to help us see what is probable and possible. Comfort allows us to approach Jesus and ask questions, courage is what it takes to embrace the answer. Good love always challenges us.
Over time we’d become comfortable. We were a good Presbyterian church with a justice-focused rebellious streak. We were helping others in our community. The ways we worshiped, fellowshipped, and served was good enough. However, as our spiritual journey and commitment to discipleship deepened, we wondered what we lacked.
At the end of the New Beginnings process, when the consultants left, we were alone again. We’d listened and talked. We’d gotten angry, hurt, and frustrated. It wasn’t always directed at one another (though sometimes it was). It was the realization that the future would be different than the past.
Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
As a church we realized doing the same things that brought us comfort would no longer be enough. Being disciples meant taking courageous steps. It meant redefining how we understood Jesus, church, and service. We had to ask what we lacked and hope we had the courage to respond.
To redefine our mission, we answered five questions together. Who is Jesus? What is church? What is salvation? What is service? What is evangelism? [You can see our answers here] We took this one step further by trying to be active and engaged with our surrounding community.
These were our first courageous steps. They were cairns on our journey together. When we strayed off course, they helped us find our way again. Our next step was to build a Spirit-driven vision for the church.