by Kathye Hamm
DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING?
No, this is not a trick theological question regarding heaven or hell! I ask it to determine the focus of your congregation’s mission. I am prompted to ask the question based upon my driving habits as I cruise around the synod territory.
First of all, a confession: I don’t have a GPS either built into my cars or a plug-in. I keep thinking I need it, but so far MapQuest has guided me into places I am not familiar with. Well…kind of guided me…The first two times I drove to Fremont to work with four congregations seeking ways of cooperating, even with MapQuest! I had to be guided in via helpful persons on the other end of my phone. In truth, I was WAY lost! I had no sense of direction, no real idea where I was.
I can’t help but think it must feel the same way among congregations today who have been used to directions in their ministry that have been time and true. But today, doing the same thing year after year may no longer work. Our population is more diverse, our youth often are no longer in church, our leaders may be tired, our finances drained. Our call still is there: sharing the Good News of Jesus’ Love with all. But, the directions to and for our ministry have changed, and we may feel lost. And, the harder we try to find out the answer, the more frustrated we may become, and we start questioning our competency or direction in our ministry.
Well, soon I know I need a GPS to guide me, and my guess is most of our congregations need some ministry guideposts to get the wheels of ministry going again. One source of that could be the ELCA Congregational Vitality Project. It’s GPS is set on three vital mutual relationships: God, each other, and the world. Through these relationships flow the Holy Spirit so that congregations carry out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. But, it’s not just about being vital congregations, we also are called to sustain the ministry so vitality is an ongoing quest of ministry beyond our four walls, and not simply to maintain what and who we have to always look at new opportunities God nudges us towards.
I have no doubt all of our congregations live out the Great Commandment: “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. “ I believe however we may struggle mightily with “Go into all the world”. I emphasize the word, “Go”, because as congregations we want to invite people “into the church” We have this notion if we can only get them “in” to our sanctuary, then we can give them what they need. Rather, the direction of the church today is a call outside of our doors to where people are and by listening carefully, being in the community and part of it, we can learn how we can become a catalyst for compassion, new life and a presence that brings new hope and vitality to all people. Jesus went out into the towns, villages and countryside because that is where people were, and most often when he observed their needs for physically healing, food to sustain their lives and their families, they were
taught a new story about a God who came to be with them, and guard, and guide them to a new life, centered not in a building, but in a Savior who gave his all for them, and us today.
And, when Jesus gave his all for us and our world, he turned it over to us, and the Holy Spirit to continue that life-giving ministry God sent for all humanity. So, I suggest we continue to discover that call by being outside our four walls, and guided by the Holy Spirit listen attentively to our neighbors, our communities, wise leaders, and the children, to help our churches find the way. It is letting the word of Scripture float off the pages of the Bible into our communities, neighborhoods, and villages and guide what we are called to do next.
So ultimately, I will learn that relying on a map or a guide gets me only so far. I can miss a turn, or turn too quickly before my destination. But listening to God, listening to each other, and listening for clues in our community, will get us to the destiny God is calling us towards. Take God’s GPS on your journey and you will find the way.
God’s Blessings bring new life to you and your congregation,
Pr.Ron Zoesch, Interim DEM, Sierra Pacific Synod
January 18, 2018
January 08, 2018