Our Vision as Disciples of Christ

Our Vision as Disciples of Christ:
To be a faithful, growing church,
that demonstrates true community,
deep Christian spirituality,
and a passion for justice.

“Learning to see the kingdom in the church with God’s eyes.”

Vision is about what we see as we look into the distance, out onto the horizon of our faith and future. The weather report often includes “visibility = 7 miles” which is really about how far pilots can hope to see while still below the clouds. How clear is the view? Can you glimpse the shining city of God in the far distance, or only the middle and near geography? Vision is less about what we are, than what we aspire to be – a snapshot, a “future story.” Its like asking the questions, “What do we want to be when we grow up?” only the focus is on God’s will and desire for us – we want to be whatever God has created, called, and charismed us to be.

At the beginning of the restoration movement which birthed the Disciples of Christ was a vision for unity of the Body of Christ – a vision born from reading and praying through the scriptures and hearing the call of God in the words of John 17 and Ephesians 4. Seeking this unity, Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone joined with other reformers of the church in quoting: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” The question remained, of course, “What are the essentials?” They practically concluded that the most practical answer was the narrowest, focusing on the simple profession of Jesus as the Christ to be the cornerstone of shared Christian faith. Agreeing that there certainly must be more to say, however, these early reformers proceeded to emphasize a focus on a scholarly study of the scriptures, believing that if faithful people would study the New Testament, they could come to agreement on its meaning. This proved to be naïve.

The early divisions in the movement were over church practice and structure, specifically whether to organize for mission and whether to use musical instruments in worship – as neither of these are specifically prescribed in the New Testament. One group sought to do only that which is commanded or expressly permitted, while the other believed faithful practice included avoiding those things expressly prohibited, and using reason to discern those things neither commanded nor prohibited. These groups began with the same vision, and took the same approach toward it, but ended up with very different conclusions on how to live out their faith. Only since the 1990s are these two streams of tradition coming back together for dialogue and growing in mutual appreciation.

While we as Disciples of Christ continue to aspire to the vision of Christian Unity, we also have an increasingly focused vision through which to pursue that calling:

true community,
deep Christian spirituality, and
a passion for justice.

True Community: The biblical witness to God’s work in the world focuses on the formation of a people set apart. Beginning with the call of Abraham and Sarah (GN 12) this peculiar people (1 PTR 2:9) understood their role as receiving blessings so as to be a blessing to the world. They grew to understand that this was not a gift and calling given to each individual, but a shared ministry and mission given to the community. Only as we grow to be “true community” are we able to fulfill our mission – “to be and to share the good news of Jesus Christ, witnessing, loving and serving, from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.” Jesus said that the way we love each other will be a direct witness to the world of Jesus’ active presence in our lives (JN 13). Paul talks at length about serving one another (1 PTR 4:10), honoring one another (RM 12), bearing with one another (COL 3), submitting to one another (EPH 5-6) out of love for Christ and each other. I think these virtues are particularly difficult to practice in cultures that are so individualistic and highly valuing of privacy and autonomy. We do not want other people in our affairs, and frankly would just assume stay out of theirs in the particular, even if we like to prescribe rules for others generally. The precondition for the specific submission of any one person to another is the shared commitment to practice mutual submission (EPH 5:21). Jesus models this submission for us in the incarnation itself, submitting his divinity to our humanity (PHL 2) and by the Master coming as a servant (LK 22). This service is foundational for our shared life as the Body of Christ (1 COR 12) as exemplified in the Last Supper when he washed the disciples’ feet (JN 13).

Deep Christian Spirituality: Many of teachings found in Exodus through Deuteronomy focus on how people are to treat their neighbors (LEV 19). Still others focused on how the people were to relate to God – i.e. to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength” (DEUT 6). Israel was given religious rituals, worship forms, acts of sacrifice, and prayers to shape their practice. Most of the Christian community has assumed that the specifics of those laws are left behind under the new covenant, though their spirit remains. The New Testament only has a very few specific mentions – such as the end of keeping a kosher diet (MK 7; ACTS 10), and the removal of the need for sin sacrifice with the death of Jesus (HEB 10). Many other spiritual practices are left for us to discern – prayer, fasting, study, singing, offerings of first fruits, tithe, devotion and vow. Jesus teaches on some of these, for instance in MTW 6 and LK 11. A deep Christian spirituality follows the example and teaching of Jesus, and is consistent with the spirit of the practices of Israel and the early church, even if it is not identical. Jesus regularly went to worship with others (LK 4) and regularly took time by himself to be with The Father in prayer (MK 1, 6). There is room for much variety of opinion regarding how we are to practice these spiritual disciplines. What is without doubt is that we are to take this aspect of our lives seriously and that our practice is to be both individual and communal.

A Passion for Justice: The bible recognizes a difference between helping those in need and doing justice. Both are called for. LEV 19 focuses on both by legislating that the fields must not be picked clean so that the poor have some access to gather food, and that business practices must be fair and impartial, not oppressing one group or favoring another. Economic practices that oppress the poor and favor the rich were apparently so common that these themes are repeated in DEUT 25, PROV 20, MIC 6, The two main sins of the Israelites, were idolatry, and oppressing the poor (2 Kings 21 & ZECH 7). In ISA 58 we hear the people complain that God does not honor their prayer, fasting and worship. The prophet names their sins of idolatry and oppression as hindering them from receiving God’s blessings – “9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.”

Though the church seems to have been unable or unwilling to maintain the practices with the same intensity, the descriptions offered by Luke at the end of Acts 2 and 4 are often held up as models of how the church should look, of a vision of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Luke said this:

ACTS 2: 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

ACTS 4: 32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

We might ask ourselves why the church has not maintained this way. Whether we are meant to live our shared faith in quite that way, we certainly are called to be a peculiar people set apart through our faith in Jesus Christ to offer the world a new way to live in covenant love with self, God and one another. As we seek to grow to maturity in Christ, we will

become true community,
practice deep Christian spirituality,
and live our a passion for justice.

FGCC – Making Disciples: What do we teach and how?



    1. What do we need to teach?
    2. How?
    3. Who needs to be doing the teaching? – Right now we don’t have a formal process for vetting teachers (scripture talks about the need to examine the leaders, including elders, deacons, and teachers)

    * All this in the spirit of what is best for the church


  1. WHAT? – Concerns
    1. People seem to lack ‘drive’ for wanting to know God
    2. What are the parameters of teaching?
    3. Intentionality
    4. Sunday School Superintendent – old model from 1st half of 20th century
    5. “Doctrine of Christ” –What is it?
    6. Teach directly out of the Bible – Bible as a primary source
    7. Who will provide oversight to all this, and how?
    8. Content that supports adults’ ability to teach and converse with children and youth
    9. Teach content that brings about transformation
    10. Teach content that results in lives whose ‘works and words tell the same story’
    11. Need to look at balancing book studies and topical studies
    12. Current Issues:
      1. Should be (1) taught and (2) preached from the pulpit
      2. Do people know ‘right from wrong’?
      3. How do we motivate and help people to ‘go deeper’?
      4. How do people become moral beings?
      5. Which forces impact our thoughts and actions?
      6. There are times when the church needs to hear about a certain topic that is pressing and relevant to the congregation or community. How are these times and topics discerned?
      7. Doesn’t the Holy Spirit convict us of sin?
    13. Develop a statement of what we believe in addition to our ‘Disciples profession of faith’
    14. Study each piece of the ‘Core Theology’ – this will function as a creed in addition to ‘No Creed but Christ’

* What (if anything) do we want to add to the core belief profession of faith –

“I believe that Jesus is the Christ, Son of God, Savior and Lord.”

  1. HOW? –
    1. What do we teach when? Do some things belong only in particular settings? (KGC Insertion: Fred Craddock has a great sermon titled, “How loud should you preach?” He makes the point that Jesus did not say everything to the crowd, but some things were reserved for the core Apostles, and others for the THREE – Peter, James and John. Paul also talks about how some groups are ready to hear deeper theology than other groups.
    2. Are there times when we want to teach on a topic or theme throughout the church, in each of our teaching settings?
      1. Preaching same sermon twice on Sunday
      2. 2 Sunday morning Adult classes on different topics
      3. Tuesday morning Men’s study on Sermon Text
      4. Wednesday night study on Deuteronomy
      5. Bi-Weekly study on James

      * Seems like the same people attend several of these – should we look to spread ourselves out more and be offering other things? Rather than just getting together with ourselves several times each week?

    4. The variety of times is good – do we have enough?
    5. Some teachers struggle with not having curriculum that they can pass along for a substitute to use when they are going to be out.
    6. Some classes like to have a book in their hands – raises questions about cost




  • Volunteers were: Dena Leggett, Kim Rodenbaugh, Joan Tober, Rick Tober, Shirley Johannsen, Laura Crawford, Pastor Ken Crawford
  • Based upon the above outlined discussion, the group will convene shortly to address the following high points and then develop recommendations for further conversation & action:
  1. What
    1. Core Theology
    2. Gospel Priorities
    3. Topical Priorities
  2. How
    1. Curriculum
    2. Bible
    3. Time / Place / Format
  3. Who
    1. Orthodoxy
    2. Skill
    3. Moral Example

The purpose of the church is TO MAKE DISCIPLES


In order to do this, the church needs to be strategic regarding at least three questions:

  • What should we be teaching?
  • How should we be teaching it?
  • Who should be teaching it?


As a group, we want to help advance this conversation for the congregation and ensure that Forest Grove Christian Church is fulfilling the call that Christ gives us. We share a similar responsibility in our ministry with youth and children – however if we fail do make disciples of adults, we can never hope to be effective in raising our children and youth to be mature followers of Jesus Christ.



WHAT should we be teaching?

  • The content of the Bible
  • Understanding of orthodox Christian theology/doctrine
  • Application of scripture and theology to our lives and world – how to live in right relationship with God, ourselves, others and the world. HOW to live the great commandments – Love God with all your whole self, and your neighbor as yourself.


YES, but with what focus or set of priorities. For instance, many of us were ‘taught’ much information in our school years without being able now to remember, reflect upon, or use any of it. We need to do better in our teaching of the Christian Faith.


One way to think about this is using the Educational Idea of a ‘Scope and Sequence’ – what material are you going to cover, and in what order. For example, at the beginning of every year in math you spend some time reviewing the material from last year, refreshing (and sometimes reteaching) so that you can then build upon that knowledge. How is teaching Christian Faith like that? Over the course of each year, and over a 3 or six year cycle, what will we be sure to cover annually, biannually, etc.



HOW should we be teaching it?

    This includes teaching method, setting, learning styles, and various other elements.



We have 52 weeks per year, so we can say upto 52 distinct things each calendar year in a Sunday Sermon. What should be part of that every year? What themes/topics of the core faith should we present at least annually? Any that should be presented from the pulpit more often – perhaps bi-annually or quarterly?


Bible Study:

We currently have 4 weekly bible study opportunities for adults. How strategic should we be with some or all of those in our scope and sequence? Can we use some of these settings to teach additional topics or go deeper with those covered on Sunday morning (like we do at the Men’s Bible Study on Tuesdays) Randy is teaching @ 11am, and Joan and Rick are teaching @ 9:30am. Greg Leggett is teaching through Deuteronomy on Wednesdays at 6:30pm


Dena Leggett is teaching through James in a bi-monthly small group which includes a meal.


Training for Ministry:

We have 2 adults (Tish Franz & Terri McDonald) actively participating in our NTA Licensed Ministry Training, going deeper in Spiritual Formation, Theological Reflection and Ministry Development. Gary Rodenbaugh is reading along in the texts.


We have 1 person (Tyler Lopez) completing an undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies and Ministry.


We have 1 person (Shirley Johannsen) studying in her seminary for an Master of Divinity degree


Community Opportunities:

Other opportunities outside FGCC currently exist for education and training: Community Bible Studies, Stephen Ministry Training, Stalcup School of Theology for the Laity, NTA Leader Event, etc.


These settings primarily use a combination of lecture, reading, and discussion. What other learning modes could we include to help people grow further? One author has this to say: …teaching and learning are not the same thing. There can be much teaching, good teaching, and yet absolutely no learning at all….Learning happens by mentoring, modeling, hands-on experience and reflection on the experience. (Shawchuck, Heuser. 178)

Our responsibility is to ensure that both teaching and learning are happening at Forest Grove, otherwise we are not making disciples, but merely spreading around some information.


WHO should be teaching, and how will they be equipped & supported?

What qualifications do we want our teachers to have? How will we determine that teachers have an adequate level of biblical knowledge and teaching skill before they begin teaching? How will we intentionally move people toward being equipped to teach. What training do we need to provide, or help people to access?


We have three seminary graduates – Wally Moseley, Dena Leggett, and myself.

We have one seminary student – Shirley Johannsen.


We may have people who have completed other courses of training – who are they and what was the training?


About Jesus the Gospel writers say repeatedly, “…He began to teach…”


Paul has several things to say about teachers. Among them are:

1 Corinthians 12: 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Ephesians 4:11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

1 Timothy 1: 5 But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. 6 Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions.

1 Timothy 2:12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

1 Timothy 4: 1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron. 3 They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer.

6 If you put these instructions before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness, 8 for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 11 These are the things you must insist on and teach. 12 Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 15 Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

AND James says: 3: 1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Paul and others also has several things to say about learners:

1 Corinthians 3: 1 And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?

2 Timothy 4: 3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.

Colossians 3: 12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

1 Corinthians 11: 1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

2Th 3:7 – For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you,

2Th 3:9 – This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate.

Heb 13:7 – Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

3Jo 1:11 – Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

AND Hebrews says: 5: 11 About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; 13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.


Ephesians 4:
14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Neighbors, Enemies, Love, Hate, Politics & Faith

As a follower of Christ, I hear Jesus invite, plead, command me to love my enemies, not just my family, friends, neighbors or those who are part of “my group” – i.e. my race, religion, nationality, gender, (insert subgroup name here). The genius of this divine exchange is that we can not both love and hate. There is not room in the human heart and imagination for both at once. When people say they have a “love – hate relationship” with something or someone, they usually mean that they vacillate back and forth between loving and hating – it is a schizophrenic sort of experience. We may go back and forth, but the more we move toward one, the further we are from the other.

I also think that we typically use the idea of enemy to refer to groups, not just individuals. Simplification relieves stress, so we simplify the arguments and the adversaries into manageable categories.

We also would rather accuse others than accept responsibility. In a conflict, it is easier to see how the other has wronged us, failed to understand and appreciate our position. Yet we have trouble recognizing how we may have unintentionally offended, incited the other, aggravated the situation. And when someone tries to give us that feedback, how difficult is it for us to hear? How often do they need to use just the right approach for us to receive what they offer, which is for our benefit anyway?

Most people have a reason for their beliefs, words and actions. These may make no sense to us, and may even be unknown to us. But they are there just the same. A great resource for learning to hear and communicate is the book Crucial Conversations. One useful phrase they offer in trying to hear, understand and appreciate the other (particularly our adversary/enemy) is “Why would a reasonable, rational, decent person say/do such a thing?” You may argue, “But they aren’t reasonable, rational, or decent!” That may be true, but the refusal to ask the question prevents us from learning, from honoring the other as a fellow human with the same basic needs.

Whether we are struggling with a family member or coworker, engaged in a religious or political debate, assessing the statements and actions of our leaders, or analyzing the global news, we do well to remember the humble and gracious Servant of All who invites us to learn from him how to love the unlovable. This must surely be an act of Spirit and an essential expression of our transformation and maturing.

Gilkes’ need to find a place for the four loves

In perusing FB today I came across a post by an acquaintance who has one Anglo parent and one Indian parent. She speaks and writes about the experience of being bi-racial. Her post comments on a blog post by A Breeze Harper  On Buddhist Sanghas, Divesting in Post-racial Whiteness, and Nina Simone. Harper describes…  “what Katherine McKittrick refers to as a black female socio-spatial epistemology. See her book Demonic Grounds and she will break down how we develop our knowledge-base (epistemology) through our embodied experiences in racialized-sexualized spaces in the USA.” Later she asks: After spending the whole day there, I realized how ridiculous it is that I have spent so much time in largely white dominated spaces in which I physically and emotionally exhaust myself trying to explain what “racism is”, how “whiteness operates”, and that, “No, I’m not making this sh*t up in the head.” I have been depriving myself from these types of healing space my nearly entire life. At the end of the day of that retreat, I really asked myself, “What would happen if I stopped participating in certain spaces in which I can never just be ‘me’? What would happened if I shifted and just focused on spaces like the ones today?”

I was struck by how this connected with my experience reading Cheryl Townsend Gilkes’ “The ‘Loves’ and ‘Troubles’ of African-American Women’s Bodies (p81). Gilkes makes liberal use of Alice Walkers advocacy of the “four loves” as “ethical positions associated with a good womanist.” (89) These loves have to do with affirmations of self, embodied experience, and overcoming racial/sexual violence and the external valuing according to white essentialist norms. What Jha and Harper describe is the exhaustion they feel when trying to explain white privilege and the experience of being “colored” (to borrow the term Mary Church Terrell advocates) and the freedom found in a place where one does not need to explain or advocate for self. Yet Gilkes suggests that African-American women in particular often have to justify their existence and work even in their own community partly because of this very diversity in skin color, hair and body type. Given these tensions, how do we work together to create safe space, and what if any role does a middle class straight white male play in that formation? How can I use, sublimate, or relinquish my privileges for the sake of this formation? Can we all embrace the four loves or are they the explicit gift of the Womanists?