As an adult, and hopefully more mature Christian, “church” has become something much more personally powerful. Church is the place where believers actually help each other experience God in daily living. Church is the place where believers tend to one another’s wounds and allow others to see our scars. Church is the place where I can join others on life’s pilgrimage to learn more about God and how God desires us to live in a difficult world through sharing time together studying Holy Scripture. Church is the place where we should be able to find joy and laughter in one another’s company, is the place where we should feel “safe enough” to cry, is the place where forgiveness should not simply be a word, but an action of our expression for one another. Church is the place where grace is not only spoken about but the place where all of God’s children find a welcoming at the base of the cross!
In my now 16 years of ministry, I have been amazed by the number of people who view church as a “consumable product.” These sisters and brothers in Christ see church as a place where they pay a certain amount of money and expect certain services in return. My sisters and brothers in Christ, nowhere in Holy Scripture, nowhere in the confessions of the Lutheran Church will we find such a model of faith. This model of faith is a by-product of the world in which we live, not the model shared with us by God or the founders of our faith.
Why share all this with you at this time? On September 9 at our worship celebration we will be polling those in attendance to gauge whether or not the people of the United Proclamation of the Gospel should extend our agreement for shared ministry to extend until September of 2022 instead of September of 2019. Should this movement be approved, we will be forming an ad hoc ministry team to provide guidance for visioning and ministry as we continue our pilgrimage together. This will provide an opportunity for us to evaluate and re-define how we understand “church.”
I write to you today hoping that your visions for “church” and the ministries we enter into and the feelings that prevail within our community, will be openly discussed and shared. Instead of simply lamenting on the loss of the “church” we might have grown up with, use your gifts, talents, and voice to redefine, reestablish, or revision “church” as you would like it to intersect in your life and in the life of the world.
My hope and prayer is that we would be able to energize our community of faith to engage the world that exists in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the year 2018, that helps more and more people engage God and engage faith with zealousness and joy in order that more and more people can feel the love of our God.
Peace and blessings for now,