I have been a minister for more than 20 years, and for most of that time, I basically bought into the idea that my primary role as the minister was to keep the church going. Over the years I have actually had congregational leaders tell me that my job was to keep things calm and comfortable, so that the current membership would remain loyal, and so that the money would keep flowing, so we could cover all the costs, including my salary. In other words, keep the church going so that we can keep the church going. Don’t rock the boat, don’t challenge people, stick with the party line on all the issues. Teach and preach what people have come to expect. (I am not sure how well I did at times, in sticking to this mandate.)
The way I think about church is changing. I am coming around to the idea that keeping the church going is only a worthwhile project if the church is living out its mission. So what is the mission of the church, if it is not just keeping the church going?
I wrote something for a letter of invitation to a newcomers event, that I also used in our church annual report. It is a statement of my own vision, and it is a work in progress:
“My personal vision for Trinity is that it continues to grow as a faith community that encourages and nurtures people in their spiritual lives. This is very different from the kind of church that tells people how to think, what to believe, or how to live. I believe that each of us has a built-in appetite for God: a yearning for peace, and purpose and joy. Being part of a church helps us deepen our awareness of God, who is already at work in us, and all around us. Together we can engage in activities that make a difference in the lives of people in our community, and not incidentally, help us grow spiritually.”
I am still tinkering with these words, and wonder if “grow spiritually” really covers what I want to say. It may be something more like “Be transformed from the inside out”.