A Mission for the 22nd Century

This morning, I asked you all about what is it that you love about Claylick because it is important for us to claim what is special about this amazing church. I ask, as well, because I love hearing the stories about what makes Claylick special to each of you.

It has been four months since Abbi, Noah, and I moved here. Every day since we arrived we have been amazed by what God has been doing. A lot has happened in these four months. We have all laughed. We have all cried. We have all been challenged. We have all pondered about what it means for us to be the church God desires us to be here in our communities. It has been a busy four months.

Perhaps, then, it is appropriate for us to call a time out. To pause and reflect on where we have been and look ahead to where we are going. To get a sense of what God is doing in our midst as we discern what God might be asking of us as individuals and as a church.

Part of this “time out” allows an opportunity for me to share some of the things I have learned about Claylick. I recognize there is a lot still to learn, much of which will only take time to learn as we walk more together. As well, I want to let you know how valuable all of the conversations that we have shared have been to me. From private conversations to the ice cream socials, you have allowed myself and my family into your hearts and told us the story of this most precious community of faith.

Here is what I have learned: We are an amazing church with a rich history that has stood as a beacon of hope for nearly 150 years. We are a church that has withstood many different seasons and trials. We are a church that is loving and generous. We are a church that desires a connection with our community. We are a church that prays for and with one another. We are a church, as well, that is anxious about our future, yet at the same time desires to grow so that others may experience God’s love through the witness of this church and its people.

It is this last point that I want to think about in our time together this morning. Growth is something we all desire but wonder about what this looks like. What does it mean to grow as a church? In order for us to begin to answer that important question, we have to consider an equally important question first. What is our mission? Who are we and what are we about? At the most basic level, our mission is found in the words of Jesus from Matthew 28:19-20a. He says, “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, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.”

This is our mission. It is at the heart of how we identify ourselves as a church. In response to our faith in Christ, we are about “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” I add in the words “and our local community,” as a reminder that we live out our mission in our local communities and in the places where we have influence. This is our identity. This is who we are in response to Jesus Christ and all that Christ teach and does for us. Yet, this is not just the mission for the United Methodist Church and our local congregation. It is the mission for the entire global church. We are to be about the work of making disciples.

In response to our faith in Christ, we are to be about this work building relationships with others in such a way that allows them to see Christ at work in their lives. Jesus sends us out to continue the work he began during his earthly ministry. The “Great Commission” is Jesus’ call for us to do as he did and continues to do through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls us to be the church and gives us our mission to love God and love others in such a way that tells our community about the love of Christ through both our words and actions.

The Great Commission is the launching point for the church to be the church. Because Jesus is alive we are to be about this important work of building the kingdom so others may know the depths and riches of God’s love. This mission to make disciples and to teach them about what it means to follow in Christ’s footsteps is the basic identity of our purpose. It is in our DNA. Jesus calls us to be people who inspire others to follow Christ because of our example that allows them to see Christ at work.

How we go about making disciples is going to be look different in each local church. Not every church is going to make disciples in the same way. How we live out this mission to make disciples must reflect the needs that exist in the community, the gifts and talents God has given us, and the passions of our heart.

What helps us to live out our mission is our vision. A vision takes our mission and makes it realized within the context of our community. It makes a statement that says this is what it means for us to make disciples of Jesus Christ in Salvisa, Lawrenceburg, Anderson County, and Mercer County. It directs who we are, what we do, and everything we desire to be. It aligns us in such a way that we naturally live out what it means to love God and love others.

Crafting a vision takes time. It is a process that requires prayer, to hear God’s desires for us, and to come together to be the church God wants us to be. It is not the work of one, but it is the work we all invest in, claim, and allow to give us an idea of what it means for us to live for God here.

It is a process that continues today. I say continue, because we have already begun this process of thinking about what it means for us to live out our mission of making disciples here at Claylick. The ice cream socials and leadership sessions have been one part of the larger puzzle of us coming together to sense what God desires for us as a church. Our fellowship time, next week, is another part of the puzzle. As is a group I will be inviting to work with me to specifically craft a vision statement for us as a church that guides us to make disciples of Jesus Christ in our community.

A community that I believe is crying out for us to be a church that is preparing for the 22nd century. Now this might seem like an odd thing to suggest. We are just 14 years into the current century. Yet, it is not fool heartedly to begin to think about the 22nd century of the church. Look at our youngest members and begin to think about the medical advancements that have already been made and will continue to be developed in the years to come. Our youngest children will be the ones who will lead the church into not just the deepest days of the 21st century, but into the 22nd century. It is important for us to begin to build the roads of fruitful ministry into the 22nd century that is paved by us coming together to be the church God desires us to be today, tomorrow, and always.

As we move forward, let me say a few quick words about this process to calm any fears. First, I believe we must honor the witness of the past as we look ahead to our future. We cannot abandon the witnesses of those who have proclaimed the name of Jesus throughout the generations. We stand on their witnesses and build upon it by asking ourselves what does it mean to be the church God desires us to be in this community today.

I believe there is a role for all us to play in the church. Some might be saying, “I’ve served my time and am too tired.” I honor that. There are seasons of ministry and seasons of leadership. How God uses us in one season may not be the same as how God uses us in the next. Yet, no matter what season we find ourselves in we all have a part to play in the church by praying for our church. Praying for our mission. Praying for our community. Praying for our leadership. Praying for God to open doors for us to be the church.

At the same time, I believe we all must take ownership of our mission of making disciples. This is not the mission of one or a few. It is not the work of “them” or “they.” It is our work and this is our church. It is our work of making disciples and this is our community God has called us to be his hands and feet in. We all have an important role and part in being the instruments of God’s blessings and love in Salvisa and Lawrenceburg.

This is not easy. Being the church God asks us to be is hard and important work that we must be about, not just in this coming year, not just in these next 10 or 15 years, but for today, tomorrow, and always.

For us to be about this work, we must do some important things together. We must work side-by-side in loving and supporting relationships. We must hold each other accountable and support one another to being about the mission and vision God has for us. As well, we can no longer say what we cannot do as a church for Jesus. We must begin to ask and say what we can do, through our gifts and talents, for Jesus.

This is an important time for Claylick. I believe God is doing something here, and I hope you feel it. I cannot promise you what will come out of this time and this process. I do not know what the end of this process looks like. I can promise you this: If we are faithful to the process and in seeking God’s voice for our church, we will find our vision and understand how God desires us to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of our world and our local community.”

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