I’ve been serving as a Preacher/Minister for the Randolph Church of Christ since July 2010. Over all it has been a great experience and one I hope will continue for sometime. There are many great things about the congregation. The make-up of the congregation for the most part is both economically and ethnically diverse which is a reflection our our geographical context. The congregation is a generous people willing to make necessary sacrifices to help others. The church also is full of people who, though faithful Christians, are down to earth people filled with love and humility.
This is not to say that the congregation is perfect. After all, we, as a church, are still people and people will always have struggles and challenges. What we are is simply a bunch of ordinary people who confess faith in Jesus Christ and want to live by that confession.
And yet, we are also a congregation that was established a little over fifty years ago among a cultural era that has passed by. Along with that we are a congregation with inherited traditions (neither good nor bad) that has experienced decline in recent years.
Out of a courageous faith, the Randolph Church of Christ asked me to come and serve as their preacher/minister believing that God still has a role for the congregation to play in his grand mission. My family and I moved from Denver to Jersey believing the same thing (which I still believe). But I also recognize (rightfully, I believe) that I am no congregational messiah who has all the answers needed for renewal.
I have learned some things about the scriptures, theology, ministry, and missional church, which I believe helps me to be a leader. One of the things I have learned is that we are living in the frontier era of postmodern and post-christendom culture which is why there is such a need for the church to be the missional church. However, being in a frontier era means wading in unchartered waters. Though the literature on missional church is quickly becoming vast (perhaps too much) and can serve to help provide insight as the ship is steered in unchartered waters, it can only take church leaders so far. Or to use another metaphor, the literature can provide a very rough map to follow but the journey is still full of many surprises.
So where are we at? As a congregation we have discerned our mission in this simple phrase Living, Loving, and Leading like Jesus. That is too say that we want to be disciples ourselves and teach others to be disciples of Jesus as well. We do this by living, loving, and leading our lives like Jesus so that we can help others to do the same.
But what is next? What does it look like for a church to live this mission out in the new cultural context we find ourselves in? I don’t know the answer to the question yet. What I know is that after the first disciples received their mission to “…be witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Act 1.8), they came together in a time of prayer. We are told “They all joined together constantly in prayer…” (Acts 1.14).
The role of prayer cannot be overlooked or underestimated. It was a vital component of Jesus’ life as he lived out the mission of God and that same importance was carried over in the life of the first disciples. The Gospel of Luke and Acts makes that clear. Individual prayer or informal prayer gatherings among a few Christians are nice and needed. However, the language of Acts 1.14 conveys the purposeful intent of the entire community. It means that joining together in constant corporate prayer as a church is the first step in participating in God’s mission. Without that time of prayer and the continued prayer, whatever efforts we try simply become our work rather than God’s work.
That is what I am learning. My job right now is to lead our congregation into a season of prayer. I am confident that God will bless us with the power and wisdom through the Holy Spirit to live out his mission if we first join together in constant prayer.
For those of you who find yourselves on the same journey, I hope this has been helpful. I also would appreciate your own thoughts if you care to share.
I’ve been very busy and have not been able to keep up the dialogue with Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins.” I hope to pick that back up in a day or so. I just wanted to drop this post since it has been burning on my heart and mind for a day or so.