By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
Keith, Eileen and I over the last 3 months have been attending leadership seminars training us for the church of the 21st century. You and I are part of the first generation of North Americans to live in a society that no longer appreciates the presence of Christianity. Many are hostile toward the church. The early church shared the gospel of Jesus in a religiously plural, but hostile world. The 21st century has brought Christianity full circle.
Early Christians came together to celebrate their life together with God through prayer, table fellowship, and teaching about the Way. They also went out from the Temple and into the streets to be witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Their message asked persons to embrace the Way of life and the rule of God in their hearts but it was not about joining a particular church. They established small groups that met in homes for nurture and fellowship. It was through these small groups that a larger sense of community developed. Finally, they experienced persecution and arrest from religious authorities and non-religious people because the Way they chose affected the economic practices of society and challenged established religious traditions.
Based on these essential concerns of the early church and what is becoming obvious to us by now of the emerging world, we can conclude a few ideas about the church in the 21st century.
- Our primary mission will be to establish Christian communities in the midst of a hostile and violent world.
- The mission of these communities will be to proclaim the rule of God to all people.
- Existing and emerging Christian communities will need to nurture this new life in the Way and to bring new life to others.
- Our mission’s dominant theme will be the Way of life prefigured in the life and ministry of Jesus.
- The life of prayer will be necessary to keep our Christian communities focused on our mission as witnesses to the Way.
- And finally, all church and community leadership will be based on faithful service to the Way of Christ.
The excellent leadership of Trinity Church believes that, based on the life of the early church, the only way to move forward together in our time is for our congregation to turn outward to the world. All our new and existing buildings, ministries, and missions need to shout to the entire world that Jesus is the Way without being judgmental or forming value judgments on the worth of others with regard to their religious beliefs or their nationality. Our mission involves not losing our passion for social justice and the demand Christ makes on us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive sins, and love the enemy.
To move forward together as followers of the Way of Christ, all our missions and ministries must be willing to exist for the sole purpose of bringing this new life to others who are not yet experiencing it. We must be willing to invest our time, our talents, our treasures, and our very lives in order to turn society upside down so that, from time to time, those who are usually last can be first at the table of the world’s bounty. You and I need to discover as we move forward together the courage needed for embracing and offering this new life in Jesus as the Way. We are fellow pilgrims along the Way that leads us more fully and deeply into the wonder of God’s love, presence in the world, and mission.