By Jake Hall
published in Family Matters eNewsletter, October 15, 2015
When I pray for us as a church, I think of all of those things that we claim during the benediction on Sunday morning. I picture the sons and daughters of God, generations of faithful folks who have passed on a vibrant faith and the stewardship of this place. I consider the friends and disciples of Jesus, people from different backgrounds, trying our best to follow, learn, worship, and serve together. I consider a congregation who is gifted and empowered to be the people of God in powerful ways.
I see and sense something else in our congregation. There is a restlessness. Let us be honest: last year, we had a tense family discussion about ministry and money when we were facing a looming deficit. This year, we had a tense family discussion about ministry and money when we are facing a looming surplus. We are restless, but maybe that is a good thing. You know what? I am restless, too.
I am not restless about the health of our church…Highland Hills is an amazing community of faith with a deep history and abundant gifts. But the Holy Spirit at work within us begins to stir our restless hearts and awakens the ways we can and must do better. I am restless about the mission of our church, for such a time as this. How are we to live, work, worship, and engage in missions, in this very city, with these very people, in this very culture? This is where we must listen to the movement of the Spirit and look at our engagement with a changing world. Our work here is bigger than tense family conversations. Our task here is beyond looking back with nostalgia at how things used to be. We are called to do more. We will do more.
How are we answering the command of Christ in our time: the Great Commandment and the Great Commission? As the people of God, we are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are called to go and make disciples of Jesus in this world. These are the two imperatives of any Christian community.
We need better metrics for vitality and faithfulness in ministry than the popular adage of counting “nickels and noses.” Our culture is changing in the way that people worship, serve, and even engage sacred spaces. Churches like ours are working, giving, and serving differently than they have in the past in order to love God, serve neighbor, and make disciples, in this time.
Those three little words are important: in this time. We are turning our attention to the question of how can we best love God and love our neighbors in this time.
In the coming months, I will be initiating two next steps for us, by asking our deacons to explore best practices for a visioning process for our congregation in 2016. We will ask, “Who are we called to be and what we are called to do? Here and now, in this place.” Secondly, I will be reviving our church council and communication between ministry groups as a means of shared mission and communication.
As your pastor, I look forward to sharing thoughts about the direction we are going and hearing from you as we seek to be faithful servants of Christ in this time. Our prayers will move us forward as we trust that God is at work in this community of sons and daughters of God, friends and disciples of Christ Jesus, gifted and empowered congregants whose love, laughter, focus, and faithfulness is at loose in this world, through our very life together.