What is the mission?

There’s been a change in my apartment complex. New folks moved in over the summer, and this fall there is an increased number of school buses that are trying to navigate the parking lot. I’ve taken to drinking my morning cup of coffee as I watch the buses drive by and try to imagine what’s going on in the heads of the children on their way to school.

Some of those faces are undeniably excited. It’s a new year – filled with the promise of new friends and activities. Other faces are a bit less enthused, and I find my heart filling with empathy for these young folks. I’ve been there. It’s not easy.

What I can absolutely guarantee is that NONE of them are contemplating the overall mission of a public-school education and the impact it will have on their lives. Why would they? It’s not their job. We have teachers, and administrators, and boards that help to shape the work of the school so that the mission of education might be accomplished. 

Who establishes the work and mission of the church?

In our tradition, that work is shaped by the various councils of the church (Session, Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly) as guided by our Constitution…. which ultimately finds its direction from scripture. Jesus is clear about what our mission is. 

I’ll confess, I’m not always certain we’re as clear on that subject.

Recently, members of this presbytery were invited to participate in a survey. This survey was also given to the other four presbyteries (Lake Erie, WNY, Genesee Valley, Geneva) that are in conversation about who we might collaborate in the future. 

One of the questions was “What does your congregation need to do effective ministry”. The image above is a word-cloud of our responses… note that the larger the word, the more often it was used. Some of the words are difficult ones: struggling, replaceable, and floundering. Others are hopeful: cooperating, renewed, engaged, and nurturing. 

For me the disconnect is found in the larger words. 

What we seem to be saying is we need more members in our pews to do effective ministry. We need pastors. We need people. I understand that in order to maintain the ministry that we’ve created over the last decades we need folks to serve on committees and to sing in the choir, and to preach from the pulpit. But… what if our mission isn’t to find new members so that we might have an effective ministry? What if our mission is to reach out to folks with the transformative love of Jesus Christ regardless of whether they join us in the work of this ministry?

New folks with kids moved into our apartment complex this summer. Are they needed for the mission of the church as the survey suggests… or is caring for them the mission of the church? Leaders – what do you say?

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