It is Saturday, January 1st, New Years’s Day 2011. I am sitting in a Starbucks (surprise, surprise) on the north side of South Bend, Indiana near the campus of the University of Notre Dame. Another year has gone and another one has began.
Last year my family and I made the move from the Denver Metro area to Dover, New Jersey, a suburban area about 30 miles west of New York City. There are things we miss about living in Colorado both from a ministry standpoint and just as a matter of personal preference. But we have been very blessed to move to New Jersey and be a part of what God is doing through the Randolph Church of Christ. The picture is of the church building which I know is not the church but it is, for better or worse, a physical representation of the church and the presence of God at work.
As a preacher/pastor/evangelist-minister, I am looking forward to the coming year in the work with the Randolph Church of Christ. Though we are a small congregation, there is desire and drive among the church to be about God’s kingdom business.
This year we are beginning to think in terms of a new vision and mission that is focused on specifically being God’s missional people to the community around us. The tag line of our mission (if you will) is Living, Loving, and Leading like Jesus. We want to be a church that live and loves just like Jesus so that we can lead others in becoming mature disciples of Jesus. On January 16th of this year I will be presenting an address in our assembly that lays out this vision and mission along with its necessary values. My prayer is that it will be concrete enough to provide a specific direction and yet be abstract enough to allow for continued conversation as to how to proceed.
In many ways, this will be a new paradigm of thinking and living for the church. In many ways, we are attempting to take a boat out to sea at night during a storm as we enter the turbulent waters of mission as God is trying to break forth his kingdom where sin and darkness reigns. But we must remember that another group of disciples ventured out into the sea on turbulent waters and Jesus was with telling them to be courageous and not be afraid (cf. Mk 6.50).
As a minister, my experience and education has taught me where the church needs to be in order to be healthy participants in God’s mission. How we get there is still in many ways a mystery. We are part of the first generation of Christians being called to mission in a new postmodern, post-Christian paradigm that was not in existence twenty years ago and that’s why understanding the course ahead is a mystery in many ways.
As for our mission… It would be easy to try the same approach because we know that approach by the back of our hand because many of us have been doing church that way most of our life. The danger in that is not only its likelihood of unproductive mission (the same approach usually achieves the same results) but that it requires us to remain on the shore where it is safe rather than venture by faith into the nighttime sea (where Jesus is going) of turbulent waters and cover of darkness. And if there is one thing I have learned about participating in the mission of God is that such mission is impossible for those who are unwilling to venture by faith into the sea.
So in the new year of 2011, I am looking forward to the mission of God that we, the Randolph Church of Christ, have been called to be participants in. I am looking forward to venturing out into the sea even if it is scary. I trust that Jesus is there saying “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”