Mission Statement Part II
Last week I introduced the new mission statement of Trinity UMC. It is…Serving Christ, Making Disciples. Last week I talked about the importance of having a mission statement that can guide and direct us in our ministry. The Long Range Planning Committee came up with this new one which was accepted at Administrative Council. This mission statement gives us purpose and reason. It gives us what we need to focus on and how we need to be church for this community. Last week I talked about what it means to serve Christ. It means to follow the example of Christ and to be willing to get dirty. So dirty that you are washing feet. We have to be willing to follow Christ where Christ goes and love the way Christ loves. To serve is to follow.
This week I am talking about the second part of this mission statement, Making Disciples. This is found in the great commission that Jesus gives the disciples before he leaves them in Matthew’s gospel. Hear again that commission statement from the Gospel of Matthew 28:16-20. [read scripture]
We, as disciples of Christ, are to make more disciples. But what is a disciple? A disciple is a follower of a teacher. In Jesus’ day people would be called to follow a rabbi and learn from that rabbi. The rabbi would only choose the best of the best to follow him. These disciples would follow the rabbi so closely that as the scriptures says, ‘they were covered in the dust from their sandals.’ They would learn his interpretation of the scriptures, his worldview, and his ways in order for that disciple to teach others the ways of the rabbi. We are called to make disciples who can teach others the way of our rabbi, who is our savior. We are called to help created people who follow Jesus so closely that they are covered in the dirt from his sandals.
But how do you do it? How do you make disciples? That is when we get to this dirty word for us mainliners, evangelism. I was at Wal-Mart the other day shopping for some band-aids with Dean. I had Dean in the cart who is a little too excited about picking out band-aids to cover his skinned knees. When we get to the isle there is an older man who is standing in front of the selections. We pull into the isle and Dean and I attempt to look around him to decide whether to go with Diego or Handy Mandy, all while thanking God they didn’t have Lighting McQueen and Mater band-aids because then Dean would want to wear all of them at once. It was during this prayer of joy that I notice the man is not moving and as I look up I can tell that he wants to talk with me. As he starts to talk he reaches his hand into his pocket and pulls out a track.
Now I have received plenty of tracks in my life, those little comic books that end up telling you to accept Jesus as your personal savior. I have found them on gas station pumps, urinals, and concession stands. And I think I have already mentioned that I received one in the middle of the woods from a man carrying a shotgun. I don’t know what it is about me but people think I need to be saved and I need to know Jesus. So as this gentleman in the band-aid isle in Wal-Mart starts to go into his rehearsed speech, I stop him midsentence. I told him that I appreciated the gesture but that I am a minister here in town. I wanted to say, “Look this is really a bad way to bring people to Jesus. When I am at Wal-Mart I like to get in an out and you are interrupting that process. Plus I have a 2 year old who is annoyed he cannot pick out band-aids. This may not be the best way to do evangelism.” I left the isle with Handy Mandy Band-aids and a track telling me to say a prayer and be saved from hell.
When you think about evangelism you may conger up an image like that, I do. I mean that is why we have so many Baptists that worship with us, they trying to save us, right Henry? There is a book called Reclaiming the Great Commission that puts evangelism in a different light, one that I prefer. It says that to make disciples there are three keys to someone’s proclamation. This is the way to make an invitation for someone to join in our faith journey. “This invitation communicates three distinct but powerful nonverbal messages to the unchurched person: 1. I have a faith by which I live. 2. I am part of a community of faith. 3. I am proud of my community of faith and believe that you could benefit from being part of it.” That doesn’t sound too hard does it.
Evangelism is an invitation to join in on a faith journey. It doesn’t need to be walking up to strangers at Wal-Mart and asking if they know Jesus as their personal savior. It is talking to the people you know and inviting them to participate in the church you love and that you think they could grow by coming here as well.
I know what you are thinking but you’re wrong. “Jim, everyone I know is a member of a church. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t go to church.” Yes, I said it, you are wrong. The Stewardship Team has been getting our roll books on an excel spreadsheet. We have 191 people on our roll. We average 90 people a Sunday. That leaves 100 that call this church home that we don’t see on a regular basis. You are related to them. You call them friends. They are people who need to be re-invited to join in on the journey of faith.
Outside these walls there are even more people. The Western North Carolina Conference has joined up with a new company to provide some demographical information about our conference. This company allowed me to go in and ask for specific reports about the community around our church. I asked it to give me some stats on the people who live one mile away from 609 Liberty Dr. I got some interesting results and some that are scary. Did you know the population increased by 15.2% from 1990 to 2000 but only 2.2% from 2000 to 2008 and is only projected to grow 1.6% by 2013. This means that we are not in a growing area. The fastest growing ethnic group is Hispanics who are projected to grow by 13.1% by 2013. Our neighbors are changing. People ages 18-24 will grow while single and young families will decrease. The average household income is $40,827 and number of single parents will grow by 17.4% by 2013.
The scariest stat for me comes out of the “Adult Religious Practices” section. 18.4% said that “my faith is really important me” which is above the state average. Still, only 18.4% of the people said their faith is important, that means there are 81.6% of people who think it isn’t. Here is what really hurt. 14.9% of people said it was important to attend religious services. 15% of the people living within a mile of this church think it is important to attend the 5-7 churches in the same area. 85% of the people think going to church isn’t important. I really don’t know what to do with that.
What this means though is all those people you know who are members of churches may not be attending them. It is our job to let them know that church is worth attending. If you enjoy worship here at Trinity than what is holding you back from sharing that with the people you know? Why is it so hard for us to say, “I really love going to church, do you want to join me some day?” That starts the discipline making process.
The church continues that process. Remember a disciple is one who follows the teachings of their rabbi. In our case that means we need to learn what our scriptures and savior teach us. Trinity needs to be providing opportunities for people off all ages to engage in growing in their faith through Bible studies, small groups, Sunday School, retreats, mission projects and worship services. Once people come through the door they need to know ways they can grow in their faith. This leads to some hard questions though. This means that we have to start asking ourselves, “Is what we are currently doing Making Disciples?” We have to ask ourselves is the stuff that makes up the life of this church focused on Making Disciples? If not, do we need to let that ministry go or do we need to start something new to speak to that need?
There is another area, beyond your neighbors, that we can all help make disciples and that place is at home. You are not born a Christian. You can be born Jewish because being Jewish is a race and religion, Christianity is not. Even if you are born to and grow up with Christian parents at some point you have to make the decision for yourself that you would like to be a Christian too. It is a decision that each individual has to make for themselves. One way we can make disciples is making sure that our children understand the importance of having a relationship with God. To do that means making God a priority in our lives.
Growing up I knew that was not the case for my Dad. My mom was the one who dragged us to church week in and week out. If my mom and sisters were out on a Girl Scout trip and it was just my Dad and I at home, I knew we were sleeping in on Sunday. Yet, when I was in youth group something changed. My Dad started to take his faith seriously and started to attend worship regularly. Even when it was just my Dad and I we would wake up and go to church. He gave me an example to follow and whether I knew it or not I was learning that Church and God came before everything else.
Our society tests us on this fact. Our children have tons of opportunities on Sunday morning that competes with what we do here. I also know that we lose that battle much of the time. I don’t have any magic words or special talents that will make what we do here on Sundays at 11:00 more impressive, more special than what the world offers. I have rattled by brain to figure that out. This is what we, as a congregation promise to do: We will surround this child with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their trust in God, and be found faithful in their service to others. We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life. It is a promise we as a congregation make and we are failing our children when we don’t make church a priority. We are not making disciples.
Growing up, if I had the option, I would have chosen anything else but church. But what I learned in Sunday School, the little bits I picked up in sermons along the way, and the people that had a life changing effect on my life, all came from attending church on a regular basis. I am a disciple today only because of those experience. It laid the ground work, the foundation, for me to hear a calling in my life. We have to demonstrate that to our children if we have any hope that they will be followers of Jesus Christ one day too. If we chose sports, sleep, and society over church every week, we will lose that generation because they will not have a foundation for anything to be laid on.
Disciple Making is a huge task. It means reaching out to people and letting them know that we have a faith we live by, a faith community we are a part of, and that they might be able to grow by coming along with us on this journey. We need to be making changes in our church to make sure that people can say this about Trinity and that we are offering up what is needed to grow disciples. We also need to be willing to be the example for the disciples we love the most, our children, and place a priority on God.
Like I said, our mission statement gives us a wide range of opportunities and is what we need to drive our congregation into the future. We have to Serve Christ by reaching out and loving people. We need to Make Disciples by looking at the people around us, our neighbors and the people we live with and asking them to come along with us on this journey of faith. When we do that we are living into the great commission that Christ gave us. When we do that we are serving Christ and making disciples.
And all God’s people said…Amen.