Evangelical Congregational Church
Our Structure » Communities » Kingdom Extension Community » National Conference 2018 Education Experience » National Conference 2018 Education Experience - Session 3, Article One
National Conference 2018 Education Experience
Theme... ALL IN
Session Three, Article  One


He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life
will no longer live for themselves.
Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
2 Corinthians 5:15 (NLT)

 
For the last four articles, we've been thinking about the redemptive plan and purpose God has woven into our relationship with him and with each other. We've been discussing identity, our own and our congregation's. YOU ARE WHO YOU ARE and WE ARE WHO WE ARE, captures a solid platform from which to think about our part in God's redemptive mission.

This redemptive mission, defined for us in four words, "go and make disciples", seems so simple, maybe even easy. That is, until we actually attempt to obey the Great Commission. One problem is that we try too hard. We actually are capable of making "go and make disciples" so complicated that few can rise to the occasion.

In this and the final article of this series, we'll take a look at engaging the community and serving the Great Commission and Great Commandment. Hopefully, we'll discover together that the task is more adventure, the challenge less daunting than we might imagine. The Great Commission is our mission. The Great Commandment is our game plan.

ALL IN, our 2018 National Conference theme, has an "engage the community" element. Simply defined, we are to go forth with the redemptive message. Not simply enough to be saved, we need to "be" part of the faith community Christ makes possible...
2 Corinthians 5:15 (NLT)... He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

 
  • Christ gave us a Mission... Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)... Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
  • Christ provided a Method ... Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)... Jesus answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
  • Christ blessed us with an Empowerment... Acts 1:8 (NIV) ... But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
We begin our spiritual journey one-on-one with the Holy Spirit. It is in this early encounter that we discover our own sinfulness and realize the danger of living without Christ. Our spiritual journey with Christ is supported and encouraged by the faith family (a local congregation) that we worship, fellowship and serve with. But that is not the end of the matter. Note well: we have not been saved simply to go to heaven. If that were the case, we might expect to be taken home at the moment of conversion. But no! We have been saved to become part of Christ's redemptive mission on planet earth. 

It is this larger than me, larger than my church, aspect of the Kingdom and Mission of God that moves us out of the church building and into our community. In so doing, we become a blessing to those around us - around our homes and around our church buildings. In a very measurable way, God uses our immediate community, our church families, to engage and set up the larger community for redemption.

Being community (church) within a larger community (neighborhood, town or city) provides a context for team play as we carry the Kingdom mission beyond what any one of us (or any one church) might be able to do. If done well - actually even if done poorly (don't tell anyone I said this) - we find that our lives and our churches' corporate lives are altered by the Christ of the Cross.

ALL IN at this level assumes (I know that's dangerous to do) we are ALL IN or working toward ALL IN at the personal level, at least pastor, delegate(s) and leadership team. These individuals are leading the charge that might sweep up an entire army, the congregation. ALL IN at this level assumes (once again a dangerous thing to do), we are ALL IN or working toward ALL IN at the congregational level - at least portions of the congregation, small groups, youth ministry, certain families, ministry teams, maybe certain age groups.

NOW...JUST TO MAKE SURE WE'RE ALL ON THE SAME PAGE...

All along... that would be from the beginning... God has longed for people to enjoy and be enjoyed by. This was his intention. We see this in Creation. We see this in Eden... before and after the first sin. We see this... as his redemptive plan has been unfolding. This remains his intention. And today, as Christ followers, we have become part of God's intention as he works his mission.

One might begin to think God is single-minded. He is! Just not in the sense that he only thinks one thing, or that he only thinks one thing at a time. But definitely in that he has just one overarching mission... his people, his Creation. Our mission is his mission. The church exists to serve his mission.

God didn't launch us as church to find a mission; though we act as if that were the case. We are to engage the community with a redemptive agenda. We are to go forth with the redemptive message, not sit and wait for... In a very real way, God uses our community to engage and set up the larger community around us for redemption.

Our corporate identity is one with this mission. We are the people of God. We are the sent ones of God. We are God's hands, feet and voices proclaiming the Kingdom to those around us today. Here, there and everywhere, the people of the church are to be on mission.

BEING ON MISSION... is often a significant problem for many congregations, especially congregations deeply enmeshed in the work of "doing church." Reviving the desire to reclaim an identity aside from our clever vision and mission statements that distract us from God's mission can be downright complicated and difficult.

This thought brings us to the end of ourselves. At once having been launched to "go and make disciples," we have learned to prefer to wait for them to come to us. Our marching orders and design have been set aside and for many of us lost.

To engage the community around our place of gathering, to engage the community around our homes, schools and workplaces, we need to learn - maybe relearn - a unique skill. Well not really a new skill, more a lost tradition what we once were.

To be on mission is to be a missionary. In a very real way we are all church planters. But not in the brick and mortar business side of the work; not even in the organizing and developing polity side of the business. We are plow men, turning over the soil. We are sowers, planting the Word of God. We are caretakers of God's human garden. We are harvesters, walking the hungry and thirsty to their ultimate feast... the Body and Blood of Christ.

All of these aspects of our mission's intention, plowing - sowing - caring for - and harvesting, that we are to be missional - Kingdom focused, are aspects of discipleship. Let me show you how we might do this, not specific acts by the church, but themes of ministry.

WE ARE THE PLOW MEN...
Plow men study the field - potential is measured, stones and stumps are removed, drainage is planned, all this before the blade hits the soil. This is what the church must learn to do:
  • assess the community for potential... spiritual hunger, existing Kingdom ministries, existing connection with the community, access to public gatherings, proximity to or are part of the community
  • assess our points in common ... we use the same gym/rec center, our children attend the same schools, we work in the same buildings, we eat in the same restaurants, we share common ground with our dogs
  • assess our equipment/personnel... who lives in or near the community? who works, schools in the community? whose interests overlap their interests?
WE ARE THE SOWERS:
Sowers put the seed in the ground, place the seedlings in the ground.
  • This looks like... starting relationships, conversations that deepen relationships, being friends with the people around us. (NO ONE wants to be our newest project!)
  • This looks like... recognizing the needs of others, developing a passion for the people with these needs, building a bridge from church to need. (But WITHOUT losing the person/people!) Bridges are missional ministry initiatives, big (for the community) or small (for an individual or the few), that address the identified need AND allow for repeated contact and conversation.
WE ARE THE CARETAKERS... 
Caretakers follow behind the sower and provide for and protect the plants.
  • Caretakers... see that the plants get enough water, guard the plants against bugs and disease, take up the weeds, thin out and/or prune as necessary.
  • This looks like... monitoring the effectiveness of the ministries, providing resources for people on the field, deciding when to fold up, shifting direction and/or focus.
WE ARE THE HARVESTERS...
  • Harvesters bring home the produce labored for, the fruit that God has made happen.
  • Harvesters are there... when conversations turn to Jesus and the Cross, when decisions are made to surrender to Christ, when a new believer shares with their family or friends, when a new believer has questions.
  • Harvesters are also there... when doubts arise, when faith is challenged, when newborns struggle to thrive, or decide not to thrive.
  • This might look like ... an altar call at church or camp, a decision at a men's retreat, a prayer in the corner booth at Marty's Pizza Shop. (No one named Marty should sell pizza.)
As you can see... this agricultural analogy helps us grasp the hands-on involvement you and I should be experiencing as we "go on mission" with God. We are not merely along for the ride. We are not merely voyeurs entertained by the antics of God and a few radicals. We are indeed workers in the harvest. "Go and make disciples" is in reality a lifestyle you and I are invited, even commanded, to choose for our lives.

IT IS AT THIS POINT IN OUR CONVERSATION that we face the challenge of actually assessing our communities and matching what we are wired to do or can learn to do or - and this is important - actually want to do... with what the community needs ... including perceived and/or really needs.

Once again, I present to you a very simple assessment tool, this time an assessment of the community where your congregations worship; easily also applied to the various other communities... neighborhoods where your church members and attenders live and work, play and attend school.

We will address this community assessment process in our next and final conversation. The ultimate "healthy" goal will be to identify the real needs of the community, without minimizing the "felt" needs. Felt needs, like gnats buzzing around your face, need to be swatted aside so a more aggressive attention might be targeted on the real needs.

Les Cool, Kingdom Extenstion Associate

Discussion Questions:
  • What did you hear/read?
  • What do you think about what you heard/read?
  • What will you do because of what you have heard/read?
  • When do you think you will do this?
  • Who do you think needs to be part of this conversation?