Friday, September 04, 2009

Why are we here?

Since I'm a pastor, I do a lot of thinking about the purpose and mission of the church - my church particularly. I was able to take a sabbatical this summer. A sabbatical (a break from the normal everyday stuff) is good because it helps you separate the things that are most important from the things that are less important. So I did a good bit of thinking, praying, and writing about the things that are most important for our church.

I put my reflections on paper and have been sharing them with others in leadership. I'd like to post them on my blog for you to read too. Since they deal with different subjects I will break them up into smaller pieces and, when necessary, add some commentary. I welcome your feedback.

Here's the first piece:

What must be the focus of UPC? Winning, equipping, empowering, and sending mature followers of Christ (i.e., disciples) into east Orlando and around the world who are deeply grounded in the gospel and armed with a rich theology, love for God and neighbor, and the know-how to help unchurched people become friends and friends become followers of Jesus – the goal being nothing short of the transformation of the entire culture to the glory of God.

Simply put, our purpose is to obey the Great Commission. We are here to grow the Kingdom of God. Our mission is to:

o Win – convert, attract, persuade

o Equip – build, develop, establish, disciple

o Empower – enfold, enlist, identify gifts

o Send – deploy, commission, anoint

To borrow from Mark Driscoll, “The mission of [UPC] is nothing less than bringing the entire world to Christian faith and maturity.”

To do this, we need constantly to remind ourselves why we’re here: not for ourselves, but for those outside the family of God. As Jesus came not for the healthy but the sick, so must we reach outside our walls to those who do not know the Savior. We are here for them. It’s not about UPC. We are here not to be served, but to serve. It’s time to turn the arrows out.

We also need to be clear that we want to win lost people, not steal disgruntled sheep. This will necessarily require that we constantly contextualize the gospel. We will speak to the needs, concerns, and problems of our east Orlando culture. We will keep our message consistent with the Word of God, while freely adjusting our methods with the unchurched resident of east Orlando in mind. It also means we will take whatever risks are necessary and pay whatever price is required to reach non-Christians in our community and throughout the world.

I don't know what risks God may be calling us to take. But I do know this: it's time to make some hard choices. Our church is 18 years old. We are like that 18-year son or daughter who must decide whether to live for self or for others. It is very tempting for us to say to ourselves, like the rich fool of Luke 12, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." But that would be a denial of Jesus' plan for his church.

We're at a critical place. Let's ask ourselves:
  • Do we exist primarily for ourselves or for lost people?
  • Will we grow by programming or by relationships?
  • Do we want people to go to UPC, or from UPC? (see the difference?)
  • Will our ambition be to build a church, or disciples?
  • Will we stay the same and be comfortable, or be willing to change and welcome the conflict it may bring?

Let's turn the arrows out.

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