Our Mission Statement: The Compass of Our Church
May 15, 2005
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
The Day of Pentecost
Brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! I’m here to tell you today that you have something very special in common with the earliest followers of Jesus Christ. You have something very special in common with those two apostles – they didn’t know they were apostles yet, but they were going to be – standing at the seaside, to whom Jesus said, “Follow me, and I’m going to make you fishers of people.” You have something very special in common with the people who were gathered together in that upper room on Pentecost. They were so scared, but yet they were touched by the Holy Spirit, and something amazing happened for them. You have something in common with them. And you’re telling me that, because you’re here today, or for some of you, you’re reading this or you’re listening to this message. You’re telling me that you have something in common, because you know of the priceless gift. You know either in a great, big way, like a firework, or even in a very small candlelight kind of way, that you have in your heart the priceless gift of Jesus Christ, the precious, priceless gift. And you know that because you have this gift you have salvation – that means health, inner spiritual health. You have wholeness. You have something to look forward to, in this world and the next, because you have the priceless gift, the gift of God in Jesus Christ. You have something in common with those who walked the way to Emmaus and those who went out into the street and proclaimed the love of God on that first Pentecost. It is the priceless gift of Jesus Christ.
It’s a gift that’s got to be shared! I have contact with people, dear friends, who reach out to me in various ways, sometimes for comfort and counsel, sometimes for help of various kinds. Sometimes they’re amazed because they don’t yet have God in their lives, and they ask, “What propels you? How is it that you have hope and we don’t?”
Oh, you know the answer! It’s the priceless, precious gift of Jesus Christ, and He is yours and you are His.
Now, you have something else, my friends of Montgomery United Methodist Church. You have something else in common with the people of that first Pentecost, with the people who were cloistered in that room. All of a sudden they burst out of that room with great energy. The scripture reading tells us about that.
I have been observing that this is a congregation that dreams dreams and sees visions. And it’s growing! I’m watching and listening to you, and I hear people come forward with dreams for this church that are wonderful and amazing and very exciting. And I’m not going to stand in your way!
I hear people saying that they want to make these grounds beautiful. I see people put muscles and dollars behind that, because they have dreams and visions that this should be a special and beautiful and welcoming and endearing place. You have dreams and visions.
I hear people say, “People, this is the only un-air-conditioned building in Montgomery. Let’s air-condition it.” I will not fight that!
I have heard people say we need more parking. I understand. I get it. That’s a good dream. I have heard people say, “Pastor, people are turned off by our folding metal chairs. Can’t we have comfortable, respectable seating?” I will not stand in the way of that.
I have heard the United Methodist Women say, “Pastor, help us in a healing ministry.” They brought in a marvelous guest speaker. I’m going to be talking to you about that, so that we can start a ministry of healing prayers here in this church. It’s a vision. It’s a dream. It’s great.
The Outreach Team is reaching out to members of this community with a vision that they can have something here at this church that they don’t have yet, and it’s a beautiful dream, a beautiful vision. You know what the Scripture says – “The young men shall dream dreams, and the old men shall have visions.” We’re somewhere between all of that – we’ve got dreams; we’ve got visions.
And I say to you, dear congregation, nurture it! Encourage it! And no wet blankets! If somebody has a dream, if somebody has a vision, respect it. Nurture it. It may or may not be the one you have. That’s all right. We’ll sort it all out in the end. Encourage the dreams. Encourage the visions. Let them grow. Let them happen. And I will work with you in every way I possibly can to amplify the visions of God that you have and that we can bring forward together.
Now, having said that, I think it is important that within all of that we have focus and we have clear direction and we have a clear purpose for all the good things that are coming to you that the Holy Spirit is bringing to your mind and that you want to do. And so, to that end, I am suggesting that we take firmly in hand a mission statement that can be our compass for all these wonderful things that people are thinking about and all these wonderful things that we can do.
So, at this time, I’m going to ask you to participate with me. [The ushers pass out index cards and pencil, and a paper labeled “Our Mission Statement.”] This is a sermon, dear friends, that has been perking inside of me for a long time. I’ve talked it over with the administrative council, and they said, “Go for it, Pastor.” So now I’m ready to share it with you.
What is a mission statement? It’s a broad definition that differentiates our organization from all others. It is the justification for our organization’s existence. It is the touchstone by which all offerings are judged. Key elements can be who is served, how, and why. A mission statement is at its best when it is easily recalled, provides direction, and motivation. In other words, what we hope to accomplish with this mission statement is to say what unique service our church can provide for our community and our world that is unlike other providers of good things.
Now, this mission statement is based first and foremost on the statement of Jesus: “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything I have commanded to you.” That is called the Great Commission. Those are really our marching orders from Jesus.
I am happy to tell you that, as large as the United Methodist Church is, and as many members as it has, it has a mission statement that is short. Isn’t that a good thing? You’d think it would be a long document, but it isn’t. It’s a direct reflection of the Great Commission:
“The mission of the United Methodist Church shall be to make disciples of Jesus Christ.”
That’s simple and straightforward, a direct quote from the Great Commission. So we’re basing what we do on the Lord’s Great Commission. We’re trying to focus everything we do, whether we’re planting flowers or having an Outreach Team meeting, on this Great Commission.
The Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, Missouri, is an 8000-member United Methodist Church that was established about 15 years ago. They have a very clear mission statement: “The mission of the Church of the Resurrection shall be to build a community that allows unchurched and nominally churched people to become deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ.” Their focus is entirely on the unchurched of the community. And that’s good; they’re growing.
Now, somebody said to me, “Would you like to make this an 8000-member church?” Heavens, not if I have anything to say about it. I want it to be as big as God wants it to be. And whatever growth we have will be because of God and because of us working together. It’s not my desire to become a mega-church. It’s my desire to be faithful to what God is calling our community and our congregation to do.
I also think that it’s important that we’re all going to be able, as members of the church, as new members, as members-to-be, to memorize our mission statement and say it easily and call it to mind at meetings. I think that a nearby Methodist church has tried to have a mission statement, but I’m not sure that it fits those criteria:
“The mission of [the nearby Methodist church] is that it is a Christ-centered community of believers united in the common desire to grow in the knowledge, love, and joy of the Lord. We believe we are called to nurture one another in Christian faith so that we may be equipped for lives of discipleship, to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to all, to read and to follow the teachings of the Holy Scriptures, to be open to the ever-present leading and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and to be in service to others after the example of Jesus Christ.”
Well, that’s a perfectly good mission statement, but I don’t know how easily I could memorize it. So I am proposing to you that, as we go forward into the future, we summarize all of these concepts into the following:
“The mission of our church is to help people become deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ.”
That statement substitutes “help people” for the general church’s “make.” It was suggested by a member of our congregation, and I think it’s really great. It’s to “help people” – that’s a feeling that’s always been part of our church. It has been, long before I ever came here. To help people is a good thing.
But we can’t stop at “to help people.” The Rotary helps people. The Elks help people. The United Way helps people. What difference do we make? Part of being a follower of Christ is helping people. But what specifically should be different about our congregation? May I suggest this? We can help people become deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ. We can channel everything we do through that lens.
When we’re involved in the confirmation class, the students and I are helping each other become more deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ. When Laura Bell is playing the piano with all her heart, she is proclaiming the Gospel to us in a way that transcends words; she is helping us become deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ. When folks are working out in the garden – sometimes from 8 in the morning until 6 at night – you are saying, “This is sacred ground. We want it to be inviting and attractive to draw people to be a little bit more deeply committed disciples of Jesus Christ.” When Dwayne and Lisa Drift, our new custodians, are mopping the floors in the middle of the night, they are helping prepare a place where people can come to be more deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Everything we do calls us to help people. When Rich Specht is updating the website in the middle of the night, work we never see except for its result, he is helping people. The choir, the Outreach Team, the greeters, the children assisting in church – all of it works together toward this end.
Let’s take a look at the word ‘people.’ What people? People who don’t know Christ, people who don’t have a church relationship, and people in this sanctuary, and the person standing where I am, all need to be more deeply committed disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s open-ended. It’s a constant striving. But I tell you this; here is a third thing you have in common with the people of the Gospel. You know that the degree of your satisfaction, the closeness of your walk with the Lord, depends on the degree of the depth of your commitment. You know that the best things are accomplished when the commitment is deepest. Only you know what that means for you.
Finally, what is a disciple? Disciple is a word I hope you hold dear to your heart. A disciple is a deeply committed follower of someone or something. Not a superficially committed person, or an occasionally-committed one, or a customarily-committed one, but a deeply committed follower. What better thing to do with our lives than to make the centerpiece Jesus Christ and to be a deeply committed follower of Him? Will you do it? Will you think about it? Will you think about what it means to you to be one, and to invite others to be ones? It might mean going out on a limb a little bit. It might take a little stretching. But what reward and joy is yours in knowing that in season and out, when it’s hard and when it’s easy, you are helping people to become deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ.
Now, dear friends, I’m going to ask you a favor. You have an index card. Please write your name at the top and the date. (We don’t do anonymous here.) And on that card, would you please write what it is about that mission statement that catches your eye or your attention? Is there something about it that makes you say, “Yes, that’s challenging. I think that will be helpful. I’d like to look at that some more.” And then, also, would you please say what advantage a mission statement like this could have for us in the work of the church? How could it make a positive difference for all of us, as we all strive to become more deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ?
Let us pray together.
Dear Lord, You have placed this message so strongly upon my heart. And you have put such love for these people within my heart. I pray that as we move boldly into the future we can move forward together hand in hand, graciously, gratefully proclaiming Your name, so that all who need You may deeply receive You. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
God loves you. I do, too, friends. God bless you. Amen.