For the past year, our council has been prayerfully asking, “How has God uniquely gifted and called Faith Lutheran to live out the gospel?” We studied the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), we read the descriptions of the early church in the book of Acts, we named Faith’s strengths and Chico’s needs. And then we wrote. And we discussed, and lovingly argued, and prayed, and wrote some more. After a year of prayer and study, our council has written a new mission statement for Faith Lutheran Church, a statement to give clarity to our priorities and purpose. Our mission is to be:
“A community reflecting God’s love with a place at the table for everyone.”
The mission statement is intentionally short. We want everyone to be able to memorize it. But its brevity is deceptive. These 13 words (one for Jesus and the 12 disciples) contain profound theological depth.
A community: While Faith has finances that we have to balance, we are not a business. While we have a mission, we are not an institute. We are first and foremost a community. Being a community means that we are people who care about each other beyond each person’s ability to contribute to a balance sheet or an objective. Our mission is to be in relationship with each other because we care about each person as a person. Our mission is to share life together, love each other, and to forgive each other when we fail to love each other.
Reflecting God’s love: We are a community with a purpose. At the Last Supper, Jesus says to his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Our purpose is to love. But we only have love to share because God first showered us with love. Or in the words of 1 John 4: 19, “We love because God first loved us.” And so our mission statement says “reflect God’s love.” This is a reminder that it is always the Holy Spirit who accomplishes our mission. God’s love is always present and abundant. Our role, like that of lighthouse mirror amplifying a beacon, is to make God’s love visible to those who cannot yet see it. We share God’s love both through our words and our deeds, within the church walls, and more importantly, beyond the building.
With a place at the table for everyone: As we share with others the love that we have received from God, we invite them to become a part of our community and the mission that we share. On a literal level, this means that we welcome everyone to share with us the body of Christ at the communion table. But what we celebrate around the communion table is that when we share the body of Christ together, together we are the body of Christ, and individually members of it (1 Cor. 12:27). And so having a place at the table means that each person can bring themselves fully to be a part of our community, not just to be a spectator, but to be a vital participant. Our mission is to value each person’s voice and gifts and give them opportunities to shape our life together. Finally, a place at the table for everyone means committing ourselves to asking who is not currently present at our table, and why that might be. Just as the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12:21), so too we cannot be satisfied to have empty seats at our table, to have parts of our body missing. We strive to have a place at the table for everyone to strengthen the individuals around the table, to strengthen our community, and to strengthen our ability to reflect God’s love.
In the year ahead, the congregational council will be asking themselves and you how we can better live out this mission. How can we better reflect God’s love outward to people who do not know that they are loved unconditionally by the creator of the universe? How can we better ensure that people truly have a place at the table we share, are making a meaningful difference here at Faith, and aren’t just watching from the edges? How can we better know and care for each other as a community? We already live out this mission in vast and beautiful ways. And the council is already taking steps to help us do so better.
The capital campaign that you will be hearing about in other parts of this Faith Talks has as its first goal the installation of a new audio visual system capable and broadcasting clearly and smoothly across the internet, because we recognize that in the years to come, reflecting God’s love effectively out into the world will mean having a strong visible presence on the internet. The capital campaign’s second goal is to raise money to repair our sanctuary’s roof, which has begun to leak. We realize that if we want to literally gather around a table, it helps to have a roof over our collective heads.
We have also been working with the Equipping Ministry team, as they attempt to develop a system by which we can better keep track of each person’s gifts and passions, match each person with a mentor, and train each person how to utilize their God-given gifts for the sake of the kingdom. In this way, we hope that each person will be able to bring themselves more fully to our shared table, and more effectively reflect God’s love out into the world.
These are some of the ways we are striving to more effectively reflect love out and empower people to gather in. But our journey will be one of continually reminding ourselves of our purpose and continually striving to live it out more fully. “A community reflecting God’s love with a place at the table for everyone,” this is what we strive to be. It is a worthy goal. It is a sacred goal. It is a goal towards which we are already headed and which we will never fully reach. May God bless us as we strive toward it together.
Your brother in Christ, Pastor Ben Colahan