Be the Church, circa., 2005 – present.
“We believe in the resurrection of the body, not the building.”
Be the Church: Love God, Love Neighbor, Make Disciples.
The story behind the mission statement….In worship on Sunday, October 23, 2005, the congregation voted at both services to re-root their congregational identity and missional vocation in the Great Commandment and Great Commission. A three-year old member drew it on her bulletin, a cross in a circle that represented our vertical relationship with God, our horizontal relationship with people and creation, and the circle representing the Earth, our home and the locus of God’s redemptive mission.
The Be the Church sermon series concluded with a Celebration Sunday, November 13, 2005, when members Covenanted to Be the Church:
What does be the church mean? Short answer: We don’t go to church…We are the Church!
The next question is, “What kind of church are we becoming?”
The Church is a Community of Disciples. Being the church means conforming to the image of Jesus in our life together for others and the sake of the world. (Romans 8:29a) The path of growing in Jesus’ likeness is characterized by deepening love of God and love of neighbor. (Luke 10:27) This for us defines what it means to be a disciple-making church and what First Lutheran understands as the Big Idea.
The Marks of Discipleship. Spiritual and emotional maturity, sacrificial giving and compassion, and mentoring others in the way of Jesus are key marks of the ongoing, dynamic journey as apprentices of Jesus. However, we are often just muddling along the way. Meaning, these indicators are not about human achievement. (Lord, save us from that!) They are the result of God’s grace through our life together with God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Outflow of Discipleship. As Jesus’ presence in the world, we are a community demonstrating and proclaiming the immediacy of God’s Kingdom in our family and homes, neighborhoods, schools, playing fields, workplaces and greater global community. This, too, is an outflow of our lives conforming to the image of Jesus.
Our Prayer: Dear Jesus, make us the church you wish to see in the world. Amen.
For Further Reflection on Being the Church….
BE THE CHURCH is not simply an imperative to GO and DO SOMETHING! It is not an excuse to skip worship to do “social justice” or service projects outside the walls of a church building. Being the church originates in God’s promise, the crucified and resurrected Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit and is a statement of fact about our essence, not our human efforts. We are a community reborn of God’s promise and grace.
BE THE CHURCH is shorthand for our Spirit-fueled faith-response to love God, love our neighbor and follow Jesus. This is the result of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’s covenant to love and redeem and inspire us by his grace through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the outpouring of God’s Spirit calling us into a new communal life conforming to Jesus’ image.
Whew! Yet, it’s how we understand it. God acts and we respond; God calls the church into being, and our doing originates from our being. There’s more…
BE THE CHURCH means that our vision of the church is rooted biblically and in Jesus the Messiah. The finger play of the church starts with the people (wiggly fingers), not the building with a steeple. Biblical foundations of the church include:
- Imago Dei – Genesis 1-2
- Forgiven, Justified and Alive to God – Romans 3:20-31, Romans 6
- Conforming to Jesus’ image – Matthew 11:28-30, Romans 8:28-29a, Philippians 2:1-13
- God with Us – John 1:12-14, Matthew 1:21-23, Psalm 23, Matt 18:20
- Fully-Surrendered and Devoted – Mark 8:34-36, Romans 12:1-2
- Blessed to be a Blessing – Genesis 12
- The Reconciling Community – Matthew 18:18-19
- The Early Church – Acts 2:42-44
- The Great Commission – Matthew 28:18-20
- The Great Commandment – Luke 10:27
- The Sermon on the Mount and Kingdom of God Orientation – Matthew 5-7, Matthew 6:33
- The Outwardly-Focused, Missional Church – John 20:21
- Compassion Matters – Matthew 25:34-40
- The Equipping Church – Ephesians 4.11-16
- Living Stones and a Royal Priesthood – 1 Peter 2.4-5; 9-10
- The Body of Christ and Gifts – Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12
BE THE CHURCH means to live into one’s calling as a baptized Christian, in covenant community, devoted to Jesus and his cause of reaching the lost, announcing and manifesting the Kingdom of God, and growing disciples.
BE THE CHURCH means that our identity is rooted in Christ rather than our connection to a building that the church sometimes gathers in at particular times, on certain days.
BE THE CHURCH means that we will remain clear that the church is NOT the building we gather on Sunday to worship in as a community. Jesus didn’t die on a cross for a building; he died for people. We believe in the resurrection of the body, not the building.
BE THE CHURCH means that church membership is not a casual association with a bar set only as high as a pew on Sunday morning or providing shuttle service for children and youth to Sunday school and Confirmation. Is our congregation living into its redemptive calling to reach the lost and sacrificing a portion of our time, gifts and treasure to this end (both of which are the outflow of a grace-filled life with God)?
BE THE CHURCH means that since the church is made up of people, not bricks, the cement holding First Lutheran Church together is intentional friendship marked by forgiveness, humor, humility, prayer, authenticity, honesty, and love.
BE THE CHURCH means that we know what business we are in and who we are trying to reach. We are in the life-saving and life-changing business. Compassion and humility guides how we proclaim and demonstrate the love and good news of God with others.
BE THE CHURCH means that we invest our resources in Transforming Relationships, Experiences, and Environments (TREEs) and divest ourselves from anything that does not help people grow Christlike in all dimensions of their lives. It’s more important to decide which ministries need to stop than what to add. Adding new seeds to a field full of weeds and rocks will not produce much of a harvest.
BE THE CHURCH means that the mission field is not a sanctuary on Sunday morning, but our homes, neighborhoods, workstations, soccer fields, hunting cabins, bars, lake cottages, vacation spots, and all those serendipitous, chance meetings with someone who God sees to it cross our paths. Idea: Send out invitations for a “Invite a Friend to Church Sunday” with a map to your home address on it.
BE THE CHURCH means that we live between the Table and the Field.
TABLE. During our community’s worship, we gather around the table to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion. We gather around tables with friends and guests and family and strangers in our homes. (Jesus said, ‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’”)
FIELD. “Follower” and “missionary” and “servant” and “minister” are equally weighted terms to describe what it means to be the Church within God’s Kingdom. We are missionaries called to minister and serve in the fields God matched us up with – where we live, work, learn and play. Each one of us is uniquely called to serve in mission with God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as co-laborers with Christ for the redemption of creation. (“Remember, I am with you always.”)
YOU ARE THE CHURCH. Be what you are; what you are will change the world!
Next: The Big Idea. While reading about Church of the Savior, Washington, D.C., and reflecting on a passage from Paul, Romans 8:38a, a big idea began to take root about what it means to be church. Ultimately, the church is the Body of Christ, the living presence of the collective, diverse Jesus in the world. Over the first four years of the transformational journey, our faith community wrestled with the meaning of our mission statement, especially, what “making disciples” meant. Paul suggests it means conforming to the image of Christ, a lifelong, communal process with implications for the whole creation.
Read the story behind Church of the Savior: a journey inward, upward and outward.
Big Idea: 2009 – present, Conforming to the Image of Christ.
“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” – Jesus
From the Apostle Paul:
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:19b-20
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son… Romans 8:28-29a
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8
Further Reflections on the Big Idea @ First Lutheran Church, Lodi, WI
First Lutheran’s goal is to de-clutter and eliminate all competing ideas in order to focus solely on the one simple, big idea that matters to the Church. Why is this so important? Because churches are notorious for being busy with many things (even good things) while giving short shrift to the main thing – (Luke 10:38-42). Overcoming all the distractions “In sheep’s clothing” is a church’s first step to getting to the main idea.
If you could say in one or two concise, descriptive statements or paragraphs why First Lutheran exists, what would you write? What are the sources of your inspiration for that concise statement of the Big Idea?
Another way to ask the question to get at the Big Idea is: what happens in, through, with, and for whom as a result of our life together – rituals, habits, serving, community, worship, discipleship, stories, and evangelism?
What results in people’s lives: seniors, children, youth, couples, singles, strangers, Lodi area community members, teachers, drug addicts, drifters, the abused, the hungry, the confused, the powerful, the poor and dispossessed in other parts of the globe, because First Lutheran exists and does what it does?
Reflect on it for a while. Pray that God leads you to a response that reflects his desire in Jesus through you. Meditate on the Kingdom of God in Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 5, 6, and 7. At least, lean in the direction that God is leading you. Trust. Don’t worry about grammar and perfection or things that you are supposed to write. Put pen to paper and begin to write. Scratch out, rewrite, erase, wrinkle up the paper, and start again. But, write it. Reflect on it. Pray it.
Here’s one humble attempt…
The Big Idea: Jesus.
Jesus, the Lord of all creation, the Messiah, the Christ of us.
Jesus in and through us for others, the community and the world.
The Jesus whom the Gospel communicates – a servant-messiah, a leader, who challenges those who have power and those who abuse others with it,
who calls people to abundant life,
exhibits a wildly, outrageous forgiving habit (70×7)
sacrificially loves his enemies,
spends time alone with God,
heals those untouchable by the dominant culture’s standards,
feeds the hungry,
elevates the sight of those who have way more than enough to the place and stature of the poor in God’s economy,
visits the imprisoned,
speaks Big Truth,
obedient and singularly focused on God, the Father’s will,
changes the conventional rules and wisdom concerning who can be touched,
eats with outcasts as though they are family and even calls on them to play a preeminent part in God’s kingdom;
walks and talks with the confused (Emmaus),
teaches adults and blesses children
shows mercy, laughs, weeps publicly over the loss of his friend,
washes feet as a slave would only do,
counsels families to be emotionally mature and healthy by avoiding gossip and directly dealing with conflict,
tells stories that make people think way more than even twice,
silences storms and the self-righteous,
inspires hope by his presence and proclamation,
invites sinners to the head table, keeps his promises,
lives as a friend in real time
– the one who submitted to the will of God and obeyed it even to the point of death on a cross…for you, for me, for the world and made it simple, “follow me.” And, by grace we follow. To what end?
Is it Jesus whom we are wrapping our efforts around? Is he our Big Idea…yet? What clutters, clouds, and confuses our life together and the reason we exist 24 hours/day, 168 hours/week, and 365 days/year?
By faith and grace we are called to be Jesus’ real presence within the world we live – in homes, habits, holy spaces and broken places in the world where God’s rule is already present.
Why does this all matter? Consider the following observations:
“It appears that a good church upbringing will do many marvelous things for you, but one of the unfortunate things it also does is convince you that Jesus is to be worshiped but not followed.” page 17, Frost, Michael, and Alan Hirsch. ReJesus: A Wild Jesus for a Missional Church
“Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church. Our struggle today is for costly grace….Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ…Is the price that we are paying today with the collapse of the organized churches anything else but an inevitable consequence of grace acquired too cheaply? We gave away preaching and sacraments cheaply; we performed baptisms and confirmations; we absolved an entire people, unquestioned and unconditionally; out of human love we handed over what was holy to the scornful and unbelievers. We poured out rivers of grace without end, but the call to rigorously follow Christ was seldom heard…Blessed are they for whom following Jesus Christ means nothing other than living from grace and for whom grace means following Christ.”
from Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoffer, 1906-1945
“It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression ‘follower.’ He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for. His whole life on earth, from beginning to end, was destined solely to have followers and to make admirers impossible. What then, is the difference between an admirer and a follower? A follower strives to be what he admires. An admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and thus he fails to be or strive to be what he admires.”
Soren Kierkegaard, 1813-1855
“What Christ has done for us calls forth something from us—daily and hourly discipleship.
Isaac Watts gets it. Contemplating Jesus’ death on our behalf, he cried out:
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
His work for us then becomes His work in us. The goal is that we will be just like Him. As His disciple, Jesus teaches you to live your life as He would live your life. That leads to inner transformation, the transformation of character resulting in godly service in the kingdom of God. Transformation moves from the inside out. You take on His thoughts, His beliefs, and His judgments. They become yours. You feel as He did. Your body acts as He did. Your social relationships bear the imprint of His character, and the depths of your soul are renewed in a likeness to His.
This transformation into His likeness is a lifelong process.” more…
Dallas Willard, a commencement address at Greenville College in May 2004