“I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything’” (Psalm 138:2).
For the past several weeks, I have written about who we are as a congregation. As defined by our mission statement, St. John’s is a congregation that exists to be and make disciples of Christ, in response to God’s grace. Being and making disciples of Christ is simply who we are.
Flowing forth from our mission statement, our vision statement describes what we do in response to who we are. Our congregation’s vision statement reads as follows:
St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church is called to GROW in meaningful relationships with Christ, with each other, and with the community as we are gathered for WORSHIP, equipped for DISCIPLESHIP, and sent to CARE.
At its core, our vision statement is all about relationships—relationships into which we are called and invited by our Triune God, the very God of relationship. We live out these relationships in three distinct ways as we WORSHIP, as we live lives of DISCIPLESHIP to Christ, and as we CARE both for one another and for those beyond our walls.
First, WORSHIP. Weekly worship is central to both who we are and what we do. In each of our four weekly worship experiences, God gathers us into one community. God speaks to us God’s life-giving Word through Scripture and preaching. God feeds and nourishes us with the gift of forgiveness through the bread and wine of Holy Communion. And, God sends us into the world to bear witness to Christ in our daily lives as we serve our neighbors both near and far. For Christians, weekly worship is not an optional activity. It is absolutely essential for our spiritual vitality. When we gather each week for worship, God feeds, strengthens, nourishes, and grows our faith in Christ. When we make ourselves absent from worship, our faith in Christ weakens, shrivels, and, eventually, dies.
The question for us moving forward thus becomes, “If we exist for the purpose of being and making disciples of Christ and if one of the primary ways we do that is through worship, then how can we here at St. John’s do everything possible to make sure that people are being invited, welcomed, and fed through weekly worship?” As we ask this question, the focus of our participation in worship shifts away from ourselves and, instead, toward those who are not yet here. Questions that flow from this shift in focus include:
Am I attentive to the guests and strangers that I see in worship?
Do I go out of my way to welcome them and make sure they are able to participate?
Do I know people at work, at school, in my friend groups, who do not yet have a church home? What is preventing me from inviting them to worship with me?
Even when I don’t feel like going to church on the weekends, what does my absence communicate to the rest of the community of faith? And, if I don’t go, who will welcome and support the newcomers who do?
How is our campus welcoming to guests and visitors who come to worship here for the very first time? How is our campus unwelcoming to guests and visitors who come to worship here for the very first time? What might we do to improve the welcoming environment of our campus so that all people who come here to worship know the full welcome of Christ in this place?
Here at St. John’s, we are a congregation that exists to be and make disciples of Christ, in response to God’s grace. Because of who we are, one of the primary things that we do is worship. How can we more closely connect what we do in worship with our mission to be and make disciples of Christ . . . for the sake of the gospel?
Called by God’s GRACE+