Church newsletters often have a brief article from the Pastor, sharing news and information that doesn’t necessarily fit a sermon. The JLP e-Newsletter hasn’t had that. So let me introduce a new feature: the Pastor’s Letter. I’ll try to keep them brief, and, with your feedback, interesting.
I’d like to talk about JLP’s future. I’ve been seeing some positive developments that more people in the congregation should be aware of. But we need to orient ourselves first.
Suppose you want to go to Anchorage and you’re travelling south. That’s great, if you’re in Eagle River. But if you’re in Girdwood, it means you’re headed the wrong way. To understand our future, we need to talk about where we are, but we also need to talk about where we’re trying to go.
It can be hard to think about a church as “going” anywhere. Nevertheless, we’re on a journey. Our facilities, of course, stay where they are, but the church — the congregation — is constantly moving. New people come, some as babies and some because someone invited them and when they did, they liked what they found. People leave, too, for all kinds of reasons. They get a new job, or they want to be closer to their kids and grandkids.
Even when people aren’t coming and going like that, they’re still moving — through time. I’m not who I was six years ago when I arrived, and neither are you.
A final way we’re moving is relative to some fixed reference point. If you put your canoe into a river, the current will carry you downstream. You might not notice how far it’s taking you unless you keep your eye on a fixed spot on the shore.
A church exists within its cultural context like a canoe in a river. The current is the direction and speed that culture is moving. Think how different the U.S. is today than it was twenty or fifty years ago. The surrounding culture influences what sort of clothes we wear and what kind of music is accessible to us. But it also tells us what we should think about money and marriage. It sets the standards for how we relate to our kids, our parents, and our neighbors. And without a fixed reference point, we don’t realize how far the current has carried us.
This isn’t necessarily bad. It lets us relate to the people around us. There’s a song that says “If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus and say he died for all.” True. But if Peter or Paul showed up in your neighborhood, how effective would they really be? (Imagine someone in a toga rang your doorbell and began talking in Greek. Would you invite them inside to tell you more?)
I’ll talk about where we’re headed next time. In the meantime, consider these questions: where are we right now, and which way are we going?