Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What is the Church for?

Throughout my twenty-plus years in ordained ministry I have frequently stepped back from the everyday work and busy-ness to ask myself "what is the church for? What is its purpose?" It is so easy to get caught up in planning and attending meetings, writing reports and preaching sermons, attending conferences, reading about the latest approach to church growth or to encourage giving that the larger purpose of the Church slips out of sight. What are we here for anyway?

The purpose of a Christian Church is to worship God and witness to Jesus Christ. By "witness to Jesus Christ" I mean teach the gospel, reach out with compassion to those around us in need, love others in our actions and our words, support each other in faith, look for opportunities to tell how faith makes a difference in our lives, and visit the sick, the lonely and the imprisoned. All those things constitute "witnessing to Jesus."

Mainline churches these days are fixated on growth. A small group of authors is getting rich selling books on "the seven steps to congregational growth" or "12 principles of effective outreach". While many of these books have great ideas, increasing the membership of a congregation is not that simple. At the heart of the matter is the question "why?" Why is this church trying to grow? Why should people attend this church? If we're trying to grow simply to stay in existence as a church, that doesn't cut it. If we don't know who we are - our strengths and our gifts - well enough to say why others should come to our congregation, clarifying our identity is a good place to start.

What is the Church for? It is to be the presence of Jesus in a given neighborhood, in the city, in the world. Every program, meeting and goal within a congregation ought to be congruent with that statement. Shepherd King is seeking to grow by gaining more young families and children. Why? Because families need the help and support of a Christian community; because children need to learn about the love of God from caring adults and with other children; because the more we grow the more we can give back to the community through ministry in Christ. Shepherd King is seeking to grow, not only for growth's sake, but as we carry out ministry and for the sake of furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world.

What is the Church for? It is a Body to address the needs of a hurting world. Together we glorify God with our worship and our lives of faithfulness. A church is a place where our own faith is strengthened by fellowship and service with others. It is a place that challenges us to grow in our relationship with God and to give our time, our financial support, and our love to other people - the poor, the hungry, the neighborhood with its challenges, the elderly, single parents, people who endure violence, the unemployed, children.

Shepherd King's current goals are ministry with youth and families - especially our involvement with Eisenhower Middle School, and feeding people in both body and soul - through Angel Food, CAM collection, weekly worship and other programs.

All are welcome to be a part of our worship and our work in Christ.

Pastor Kris

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