“… go and make disciples….” (Matthew 28:19)
I love Community Christian Church of Marana! I appreciate our history, am in awe of our commitment to outreach (made evident by the purchase last fall of the Puma Rd. property on which our Outreach Center sits, and current planning to develop the property), and admire the incredible faith I see in so many of our people. I also believe that diversity of age, life experience, and ethnic backgrounds make our congregation richer than if we were all the same. I am a better person because my family and I get to “be church” with you.
So I was dismayed when I recently saw for the past two years, our worship attendance has dropped by 16%. That’s a trend in the wrong direction, one which our church hasn’t seen since 2006. Numbers aren’t everything, but neither should they be ignored. They may be an indication that not all is well.
I want to ask a question, and it’s for all of us, including myself. It is this: have we forgotten our mission? Our mission statement is that we are a:
Caring community of Christians,
Challenging each other to grow,
Called to service in Jesus’ name, with a
Message of God’s grace for all people everywhere.
Our mission statement travels a path from internal care (community) to outward care (all people everywhere). Both parts are important. But we must give extra attention to the second part, because it’s too easy to let the first part consume all of our time. When Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission, he didn’t say “Stay put, don’t do a thing, be satisfied with the community you have.” He said “… go and make disciples….” (Matthew 28:19) Are we doing all we can to look beyond our walls? The people of our community need a sense of belonging, a place to grow in their faith, and most importantly, a Savior. Our mission is to them.
Another way of putting it is the way I did at the beginning of my ministry with our church twelve years ago, but I haven’t asked it in this way in too long of a time. It’s this: Why does our congregation exist? There are three possible answers: (1) we exist for us – taking care of those who are already here; (2) we exist for others – those who are not (yet) here; or (3) we exist for both. Most of us likely would choose answer #3. But we then need to ask, “Who gets priority?” If we can’t decide, and we simply settle for answer #3, we may as well give #1 as our answer. That’s because it is human nature to gradually turn more and more inward, because we typically think most about those who are right in front of us (“insiders”) than those who are not around (“outsiders”).* Most of us are like that, including me. But if we really want to follow the Great Commission of Jesus, we need to be intentional about considering others. Because that’s what Jesus calls us to do.
Perhaps you are one who is thinking, “YES!… But now what? What can we do?” There’s no overarching plan at the moment, but I have seen some good things happening. Some of you have invited your friends and family to worship, and it’s been great to have them with us. We had a Fall Fest in 2018, and there are plans for another one in 2019, to invite our community and let them know we have a great church home for them. As our Outreach Center continues to provide food and other resources, there are opportunities to share the gospel and invite guests. I’d love to hear other ideas from you. But for now, I would like to invite you to ask yourself this question: “What can I personally do?” Jesus said of himself: “… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28; NIV) Now that’s outward focus! And since we are His followers, desiring to do more of what He did, here are some ideas:
- Take some of our new post-card size church information pieces, and pass them around at school, or where you work, or in your neighborhood. These can be found at our welcome center in the back of the sanctuary.
- Come to worship, not with the question, “Who is going to welcome me?” but rather, “Who can I welcome today?” Not with the attitude of “I hope I get something out of this today,” but rather, “I hope I can help someone else get something out of this today.”
- If you run a ministry or help in one, consider the importance of your “agenda.” If your agenda is more important than the people you are serving, and/or the people you might incorporate into your ministry area (with their new ideas and different ways of doing things), pray for a more people-oriented approach.
- Sign up to help lead our “2019 Fall Fest.” This is an opportunity to welcome our community to our church. There are a multitude of ways to help, and if you have questions, see Anita Armendarez or Debra Seel.
These are simply a few ideas to help you (and again, I’m talking to myself about this too!) turn from inward preoccupation to outward engagement. Not desiring to be served, but to serve. I’m hoping that you will think of more ideas, not so we will have more people in church, but so that we will be the kind of church of which people – us who are here, yes, but also others who are not yet here – want to be part.
God bless you, Pastor Dave
* This question and the three answers are not originally mine. They are found in a helpful book called “Winning on Purpose” by John Edmund Kaiser.