Forty years ago Tacey and I were both students at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA. It was a blessed time for us as we worked our way through school. I was the grounds keeper and Tacey was the house keeper on a large estate (we lived in the servant’s quarters which was our little version of Downton Abbey – but much more dramatic).
My preaching professor was a wonderfully kind, older gentleman from Wales. He cared deeply about the careful exposition of God’s Word and that the Lord’s people needed to remember and apply that Word to their lives. His method, however, was a wee-bit narrow. Every sermon we wrote was to have three points (no more and no less) and all three points were to begin with the same letter (alliteration). I found this approach to be dogmatic, demanding, and demeaning. Nevertheless, I was determined, dutiful, and deliberate in my attempts to comply.
The rationale for the classic three-point sermon was based on the notion that the typical adult parishioner was not able to remember more than three points.
Congregations likewise need a kind of memory device to remember who (and whose) they are and why they exist. Central Presbyterian Church has a wonderful existing mission statement that has appeared in many of our publications. It is theologically rich and strategically comprehensive, but it is difficult to memorize. Our youth ministry, led by Jeremy Blythe, took our existing mission statement and recreated a shorter and more concise statement that you are beginning to see and hear:
We want to know Christ and His Word, which is why we place great emphasis on Bible preaching, Sunday school and Equip Central classes, and the study of God’s Word in homes, small groups, and a host of other venues.
We want to be known in the context of Christian community. We recognize that relationships matter deeply to God and that flying solo in the Christian life is fraught with danger. God created His church to be a place where His children delight in knowing and serving Him and in knowing and serving each other.
We want to make known the glorious gospel of Christ to those all around us, both locally and globally. We do this by loving and serving our neighbor in deeds of mercy and justice and evangelistic ministry.
There you have it – our collective reason for being. This is how we glorify the God of the Bible: know, be known, make known.
When congregations have a clear God-honoring direction and purpose, it brings greater clarity, unity, and focus to them. Ministries begin to align with these purposes, resources are stewarded to achieve these purposes, and people are energized to pursue these purposes.
You will be hearing a great deal more about this at Central. For now, would you be willing not simply to memorize our purpose but also to prioritize it in your prayers?
My departed seminary professor would be pleased with this approach. After all, it is clear, concise, and compelling.
Blessings to you all,