Last time, I talked about how every church is “in motion.” This is true even when a church seems to be standing still. I asked you to think about where we are and which way we’re going.
Today, I’d like to talk about where we’re trying to go. What is it that we’re trying to accomplish? Why are we, as an institution, here? Where are we supposed to be aiming for?
One way to answer that would be to poll the congregation. But we’d probably find as many answers as we have constituents. Churches sometimes get into arguments about what sort of music to sing, or which translation of the Bible should be used, or what time to gather for worship. A member of the church once said they came to this church for the red carpet and warned that they’d quit coming if it ever changed.
Those are all examples what theologians call adiaphora, or “indifferent things.” Jesus doesn’t care what kind of carpet we have, or if we have carpet. If he did, he would have told us. We meet at 9:30 on Sundays, but the early church used to gather before dawn. Churches around the world use different translations. And music changes every generation—think how few your favorite hymns are much older than (say) your grandparents.
If those things are indifferent, what kind of things do matter? Well, Jesus told us. After his Resurrection, Jesus told his followers to make disciples—to train new apprentices—from all the different people groups in the world, initiating the process through the rite of baptism, and extending and developing it by passing on what he taught. That’s called the Great Commission. We can’t keep the Good News about Jesus to ourselves, but are commanded to share it with people who haven’t heard it—even people who aren’t part of our group.
In addition to a mission, Jesus also gave us a rule for life, the rule of love. He said the greatest commandment was to love God and love your neighbor. Jesus said our love would characterize his movement: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples.”
Those two directions tell us what we should aim at, because they tell every church what to aim at: the Great Commission is what, and the Great Commandment is how. Those are the nonnegotiables.
Jesus gave us great freedom about how we carry out our mission. We can discuss indifferent matters like the carpet and the music, and we’re free to choose whatever works best for us, recognizing that what works and what we like might be two different things. If the carpet helps us carry out our mission, that’s wonderful. But if it gets in the way of the mission, then what has to go is the carpet.
So think about how you see JLP. Are the Great Commission and the Great Commandment what we’re aiming at?
Are JLP’s efforts centered around making new disciples, and helping disciples put their faith into practice? When you look at our budget priorities, or the pattern of people’s volunteer service, how do they reflect the centrality of our mission of disciple making?
What about love? Do you see JLP as a community characterized by love? Do we consistently ask ourselves what is most helpful to one another, or are we more concerned about our own friends and our own preferences?
We began by asking where we are and where we’re going, and now we’ve asked where we’re supposed to be going. Next time, I’ll begin putting these questions into dialog. I hope you’ll be part of the discussion.