For the past four years we as a district have worked with our current vision / mission statement. We have measured all ministry by these few words,
"Proclaiming the love of Jesus Christ ...
through our Unity, our Celebration, our Sharing...
and thereby making disciples of Jesus Christ
for the Transformation of the World."
This past Monday, the members of the Executive Ministry Team (EMT) joined together for a day of visioning and planning. I am so grateful for all those who gave up a Monday on behalf of the district (especially our laity who gave up time at their employment). We spent time looking at our vision / mission statement, asking ourselves if it made sense, if it still worked, if the Churches and clergy were behind it, or if we needed a change?
We lived with these words throughout our time together, coming back to them over and over as we planned for 2015/2016. We wrote new thoughts and shared insight as it came to us. In the end, after some study, discussion, and prayer, we felt the Spirit moving us to continue on with this statement. The hope of the EMT was for our people, both lay and clergy, to have a full and rich understanding of these words and to join in with us in continuing to make this happen for Jesus Christ.
Over the next few weeks I will seek to highlight parts of this vision / mission statement to share my thoughts and hopes for us as a people of Christ called The Atlanta Emory District.
Proclaiming the love of Jesus Christ may sound silly and trite, because we all know that as Christians we should be doing that, especially the Church. Maybe so, but I think we as United Methodist disciples could do a whole lot better.
How can people know the love of Jesus if our churches aren't welcoming? Are we proclaiming Christ's love when we ask people to move from "our" pew? Are we proclaiming the love of Jesus when we say that some are welcomed here only IF they abide by our rules and procedures? Are we proclaiming the love of Jesus Christ if our own people are bored in our worship experiences and not inviting others to join us on Sunday? Are we proclaiming love when our meetings are tense and we fear a struggle simply to get a vote passed? I think we can do better.
The love of Jesus moves out of the way and invites a guest to have the best seat in the house. The love of Jesus opens hearts to all people of all walks of life and reminds us the umbrella is big under which we worship. God's love is known in the singing of the music and the power of the preaching as having made a real difference. Love is proclaimed when we agree to disagree, respect one another, and forgo threats and intimidation at our meetings.
I believe when we proclaim the love of Jesus, with words and with our actions, people will hear and see a different Jesus from the one portrayed by Hollywood or of days gone. I believe it is paramount for us to proclaim His love to everyone we meet. That might be a smile to a worn-out cashier or gift card for Chick-fil-A to the hungry person on the exit ramp of I-85. It may be as simple as a hug to a lonely older adult or a listening ear to a complaint.
Finally, our preaching needs to lift up the love of Christ every week. This is the good news we are empowered to share and teach. No matter how great and stirring our sermon is, we must ask, "Does this proclaim the love of Jesus?"
We keep on working, my friends. We will keep on striving to show a world where love is a stranger that, in truth, love is knocking on the door of their hearts and lives. This is our privilege as clergy in The Atlanta Emory District.
Jesus does love ... and so do I, very much!!