Staying on Mission
A sermon preached at Queen Street Baptist Church.
If there is one piece of technology that I love, it is my GPS. That little box saves me so much on stress. I remember the days of unfolding a map while I was driving, trying to figure out where I was with one eye and watching the road with the other. I can take long and relaxing roads now and actually enjoy them. It doesn’t matter if I miss a turn, the GPS will find another way and get me to my destination.
That last point is the key. The GPS by itself is useless. The only way it is valuable is if I enter a destination. Once it has the destination it can give me all the information I need to get there. It will calculate the route and the time of travel. The second thing that is needed is for me to be moving. Even with a destination, if I’m not moving, nothing will happen. The GPS won’t beg me to get going, it waits for me to take the initiative.
I see in this a picture of what it takes to be an effective church. It is not enough to just show up. Something else needs to take place. We need the same two things that the GPS needs. We need a destination and we need movement. Our destination is simply where we want to go and what we want to become. We call that our mission statement. We also need to move. Where do we need to move? Any movement is better than none. The GPS will not help you if you are stationary, but even if you make a wrong turn, at least the GPS can correct you. It is okay for a church to make mistakes, it is not okay to not try.
We are going to take a look at our mission statement, that is entering our destination and then encourage each other to move toward that destination.
The first part of our church mission is that we are to be a welcoming church. Now very few churches would deny that they are a welcoming church. And if they did, hopefully they wouldn’t take pride in it. At the same time, I would say that many churches are not welcoming enough.
The confusion comes up when we mistake being friendly and being welcoming. You can be a friendly church, where every person knows every other person in the church. They are warm and loving toward each other, but it’s difficult for new people to break in. They are like something put in the microwave not long enough, warm in the middle but still cold on the outside.
I believe that we are a welcoming church. I have seen how people are when a new person comes to church. It is not a program that people are obeying, but a genuine and natural desire to welcome. This is so important. New people will forgive a bad sermon, but they will not forgive an unwelcoming church.
How do we determine if we are just friendly and not really welcoming? We need to ask who we are prepared to welcome? We can friendly to people who are just like us, people that we would normally want to be friends with. But what about people who are different from us? What about people who are different culturally, financially, socially, physically, mentally or anything else? A good question to ask is, does this make me feel uncomfortable? Is this something that pushes me? To be truly welcoming, we must welcome all. There is no category of people who are unwelcome in our church.
We welcome people to come into our building and to join in community with us. But our goal is not just to fill up the pews. Part of our mission is to grow spiritually. Who does this apply to? Everyone. If you are still wrestling with who Jesus is and what he means to you, we want to help bring you a little closer. If you have been a Christian for decades, have taught Sunday school and led Bible studies, we want to see you move closer to God as well.
What does growth look like? It includes growing in your knowledge and understanding of the Bible. It also includes growing in how we pray and interact with other spiritual disciplines. But it also includes growing in how Christ-like we are. We should be growing in love, integrity, holiness, patience, forgiveness and everything else that reflects Jesus.
How do we do this? We begin with learning. We participate in Bible studies, we read books, we spend time with other people who are where we want to be. But it also includes practice. We need to act on what we learn. The earliest history of the church is called Acts for a reason. Those early Christians learned how to be followers of Jesus by doing things as well as by studying.
Growing is a necessary part of life. If something is not growing, we need to investigate the health of that thing. Are we growing? Have we moved at all from where we were last year at this time? If not, we need to become more proactive in our spiritual growth.
When it comes to me, I’m much more comfortable with growing than with worshiping. I am a chronic student and I love to learn. I can’t say that I really enjoy singing. I have attended churches where my friends endured sermons so they could participate in worship. At the same time, I was enduring worship so that I could hear the sermon.
Part of this is based on a misunderstanding of worship. Worship is much more than just singing songs, although it includes that. Everything we do on a Sunday morning should be worship. everything from the songs to the prayers to the offering to the Bible reading. I would argue that our fellowship time after the service, including drinking coffee and eating cookies. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, there is a close connection between our relationship to God and our relationship with people. Even the Ten Commandments are split between commandments about God and commandments about people. Jesus summarized our priorities as being about loving our God and loving our neighbour.
So how do we grow in worship? What if you don’t like singing or don’t appreciate a particular style? I used to beat myself up that I didn’t have the emotional feelings that others did during worship. But then I realized that choosing to do something that is not easy is worship. Worship in the Bible is often connected to sacrifice. Worship is not about entertaining the worshipper, it is about offering something of value to God. At the same time, as we choose to worship, we will find ways to connect. While I’m not musically inclined, when I sing Charles Wesley’s hymns, I’m blessed by the rich theological lyrics.
What we need to know is that it is important to embrace a life of worship. Not just on Sunday mornings. Not just in a church building. Not just with music, We need to broaden our understanding of worship and find new ways to praise our God who is worthy of all worship.
I have only been at this church a year and so I want to tread this very carefully. My impression from my time hear is that QSBC does really well at welcoming, growing and worshiping. There is always room for improvement, but I can see that we are on the right track in these areas. Our spiritual GPS is getting us to the right destination.
Having said that, I took some time to put our various ministries in each of the four quadrants of welcoming, growing, worshiping and sharing and our weakest area was in the area of sharing. Our two main sharing ministries are Out of the Cold and the Newcomers ministry. That is not to say that sharing does not take place in any other ministry, but these are the two that focus on sharing.
There are two ways to look at sharing. We can talk about the sharing that we do as individuals and that which we do as a church. We also need to recognize that sharing includes both physical and spiritual needs.
I’m very hesitant to heap up new ministries on the church’s plate. I would rather do a few things well than many things poorly. We may not need an added weekly or even monthly ministry. But we do need to consider our sharing activity and what it could look like. There may be some one time events that we could do. There may be ways to increase our sharing capacity in the ministries that we are already working on. I know I will be praying with our deacons on how we can grow in this area. We are a blessed people and we have much that we can share with our community. What that will look like is yet to be determined. I encourage you to pray with us about this and together let’s discern where God is leading.
When it comes to us as a church, we are not sitting still in a parking lot with the GPS turned off. We have entered our destination. We are to be a welcoming community, growing spiritually, worshiping God in Jesus Christ and sharing God’s saving love. We have shifted out of park and into drive. We are on the move toward our destination. On our journey, we might encounter some unexpected obstacles. There may be some construction or changes in the streets. That is okay because the GPS can recalculate and still aim us in the right direction.
Our church and our city have changed already, even since this mission statement was first developed. The destination is still valid and it is worth the effort to get there. Let us keep our mind on the mission, refuse to get distracted and focus on being the church that God has called us to be.