Church Life, Outreach, Missions
A Church with a Mission
by Ed Vasicek
You've heard me preach on it. You've seen it posted. It's in our bulletins. That's right, I'm talking about our mission statement: "The mission of Highland Park Church is to REACH people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, CONNECT believers with one another and God, and DEEPEN them in their Christian walk."
The elders have worked long and hard to produce this mission statement. We wanted it to be Scriptural, complete, and provide a rubric (measuring stick) for our ministries. We have also decided to make this mission statement our emphasis for 2003. In 2000, we benefited from LEAP 2000, reading through the Bible together. "2001: A Spiritual Odyssey" was the prayer and "Jesus study" theme for that year. In 2002, we hailed, "Celebrate the People." Now, in 2003, we are postured to focus upon "A Church With A Mission."
In reality, our church has always been a church with several missions in the heads of our leaders, but few of us shared a thorough, comprehensive sense of direction. Our incomplete and undefined mental mission statements sometimes displaced one another. But now our leaders, and hopefully most of our folks, are enthusiastic about the simplicity and completeness of our newly adopted mission statement. This can help us all march in step.
What makes our statement different from that of many other evangelical churches? In my perusal over the Internet, most evangelical church mission statements acknowledge a responsibility to reach out to the lost, often at home and through missions. Such a goal partially defines what it means to be an evangelical church-that concern for evangelism. Most churches offer some statement about helping believers mature, be it called discipleship, spiritual growth, or Christian education. A number of churches, though far from all, suggest connecting to God (our definition of worship) as part of their church's mission. But few include this element of "connecting believers to one another."
When you read the New Testament epistles, you are left with the impression that the early Christians knew one another, enjoyed one another, and were emotionally attached to one another. In our day of great dysfunctionality, the "consumer" church mentality, a day in which many people have little experiential understanding of family loyalty and are poor in the relational skills necessary to connect to other people, part of the task of a good church is to serve as a "relational pilot program." As others observe how we love one another, how we get along, how we enjoy one another, well, it should move them to consider that maybe we've got something special. Besides motivating us to maintain beautiful buildings or provide great music, maybe God is actually working in our lives, within our very being! Indeed, a connecting church is a church primed for reaching! People are impressed with people who can connect.
Take a look at just one passage from Philippians just oozing with connection and affection: "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus."
This isn't the warm wigglies of shallow emotion, but the deep warmth of firmly rooted connection. This connection is not forced or contrived, but comes from believers opening up to one another and enjoying one another's company, folks enjoying being human (and comfortable with their humanity) in the fullest and purest sense.
We church leaders have tried to make it easier for folks to connect these past few years. Last year's theme, "Celebrate the People" was one such effort. As a matter of fact, our prayer list inserts have been continued into 2003 so that we have a mechanism to help us pray for one another. The quarterly social drawings have evolved into the "Good Eats Club" quarterly drawing. The women have begun a super Women's Bible Study. I am really excited about that! And our food contest/church fun nights have helped us mix. We are slowly becoming more attached to one another. We are preparing to be that "pilot plant," that small-scale model showing the world what God could do on a large scale.
When it comes to our mission statement, our leaders (across the board) know we fall far short. But we're walking in step, side by side, we, "stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:27) Stand with us. In 2003, we are determined to be "A Church With A Mission." Now let's roll up our sleeves and get to work!
Reprinted from the February 2003 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA