Dear Central Friends,
By God’s grace, Central is in the process of becoming a church more useful to God in the realities of the 21st century. It is not a matter of changing our theology or focus. Our mission statement crafted in the 1990s “moving people toward Christ by being a community of faith which loves, encourages, and equips them in Christ, sending them out to serve” still expresses the church we need to be.
What we’ve discerned is that to be a faithful church today requires new skills, and a new focus of ministry. Sunday’s program is strong – worship, children’s ministry and student ministry as well as adult classes. We send people to serve with partner ministries in Baltimore city. We send missionaries out to serve in other countries. Now we need to intentional go into our neighborhoods, our schools, and our workplaces and be Christ’s presence, show his love, and proclaim his message. We must recapture ministry to the world immediately around us, our Judea. This is new territory for Central.
For the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost. Luke 19:10
For the last 30 years in the American church world, the word “seekers” has meant people who notice their spiritual hunger, and decide to try out church. So, the main responsibility of the church has been to be a place that is welcoming to non-churchy people. Central will continue to be a place where people with spiritual questions can feel like they are welcome and belong as they seek answers.
This approach is not enough for the future. People have stopped going to church as part of their spiritual search. They have the same hurts and questions of other generations, but they are coming to the church less often for answers. To be the church we are called to be requires that we recapture the truest meaning of the word “seeker.”
This meaning for seekers goes back to Jesus’ description of himself: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus was the seeker. As Christ-followers we must be seekers too. Biblically, this is not unusual. But it turns our common perception of church life upside down. The main responsibility of this more biblical kind of church, is to equip Christians to be seekers. It requires a new passion for God, a deep rootedness in Christian community, and a willingness to reach out and love others.
Over the last year there have been many things that we have done as a church to move toward this vision. This calling requires that we become a different kind of people. The vision of being seekers can NOT be lived out simply by adding a few church-related events to our normal schedules. It will require soul-searching and deeper change in the way we live day to day. So, as we look toward the year ahead, watch for certain themes to come up again and again:
- Are you spending time with Jesus?
- Are you connecting deeply with other Christians?
- Are you blessing your neighbors?
These three questions are foundational. Everything about the Christian life has to flow from a love that is burning bright for the God who loves us and saved us. It’s out of that love that we love our neighbors, and seek to bless them by serving them and sharing the gospel. It’s not rocket science. But it’s not the way we really live, either.
So, the first step of being a new kind of church is to make room for the things that are really important. Time with God, time with our brothers and sisters, time with our neighbors. If you have these three things nailed in your life, then you are one of the pioneers that will help us discover how to live this way more faithfully. But if you’re like me, you have much to learn.
Over the next few weeks you will receive a new letter digging more deeply into each question. I ask that you prayerfully consider these questions and think how God may be calling you into something new.