Sources of Fulfillment

It’s good to be back after my training and vacation in Gettysburg. The leadership training was fantastic and the time off in a historically rich location was relaxing.

The training itself was focused on two main subjects: ‘Pastoral and Congregational Identity’ presented by Peter Steinke and ‘Staffing and Supervision’ led by Susan Beaumont (both nationally known speakers and authors). As I read through this week’s texts regarding Jesus as the bread of life, there were 3 specific points from last week’s sessions that connected with me.

1) Make sure the mission of the church is clear and understood.

2) Know the difference between Covenantal relationships and Employee relationships.

3) Pastor, staff, volunteers, and the congregation must be held accountable for their individual roles and the mission of the church.

So starting with the first point, we are to make sure the mission of the church is clear and understood. Zion’s mission statement reads, “Connecting to Christ, Connecting to one another, Connecting Christ to the community and the world” is clear and easy to understand. The mission statement is the goal of the congregation. Related to today’s text, as believers we eat the bread and drink the wine (body and blood of Christ) in an action of taking Christ into ourselves (Connecting to Christ and other believers).

The presenters suggest that we be careful not to confuse resources with the end goal. An example being, Sunday morning worship services are a resource that can move our congregation in the direction of Connecting to Christ, Connecting to one another, and connecting Christ to the community and world. But we must be mindful that the worship service is a resource for the mission, and not the end goal itself. It should be one of several available resources to meet the mission and therefore not prioritized above the mission.

Secondly, there is a difference between Covenant relationships and Employee relationships. God made a covenant with Abraham, Moses, and the Israelites; and in Christ, a covenant relationship was given to the Jews and Gentiles (us). The Church is in a covenant relationship. That is a relationship like you experience with God and hopefully with family including protection, promises, mercy, and support. Nothing in covenant relationship is earned. We love and support each other without a need for something in return. Jesus giving his broken body and blood (unearned and undeserved) as we remember during the Lord’s supper is covenant relationship.

On the other hand, in an Employee relationship that includes volunteers, there is an agreement that relationship is built to bring value of some sort to the organization with an agreed exchange. This type of relationship is based on job descriptions, expectations, and meeting bottom lines.

The Church and its mission are built on covenant relationships that cannot easily be measured other than by the fruits of the spirit. In Galatians 5 we read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Peter Steinke suggested that congregation’s measure their fruits by asking the surrounding neighborhood the following questions…1) How does the community know that we care about them? 2) How are we motivating people to make a difference in the community? 3) Will the neighbors be willing to write letters of references for our faith community? These questions transform the perception of church from a place to believers BEING the church (Body of Christ). The building and worship are resources, not the end goal.

Lastly, we are to be held accountable for furthering our mission. The original purpose of the Church was to go out and teach, baptize, and make disciples (Great Commission). The intent of the Body of Christ was to spread Jesus message, love, and mercy so that all might know him. Each of us is the Church and as such, we are accountable for our words and actions that are meant to point to Christ. Just like our mission statement, we are called to be Christ centered.

Jesus Christ came to us, we didn’t go to him. Likewise, we as the Church are called to go out and BE church to our families, friends, and neighbors. The mission is not our specific organizational survival, but rather that each of us (the Church) is Connecting to Christ, Connecting to one another, and Connecting Christ to the community and world. Amen.