(NOTE: this is a part of where our last DDP conversation on 05152012 went)
We will be “A church passionate to strengthen the work of the Church of Jesus in all its manifestations, within and particularly beyond our congregation.”
We understand that we cannot be all things to all people, if that means meeting every need of every person. That was not actually what Paul meant by the phrase either.
16 If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. 19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9)
Paul’s point is that he meets each person, each group, where they are, and does not force his particular position on them, not trying to remake them in his image. In their conversation accepts their terms and distinctives as a starting place. He is able to do this because he understands, as he says in Galatians 3 that “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (see also Colossians 3:11) Because he knows that this is our destination, he is able to release his need to cling to the distinctives.
We respond to the prayer of Christ in John 17 that we, his followers, “may be one as the Father and the Son are one.” We are already a diverse congregation, and we affirm “one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.”(Ephesians 4:5) We affirm the unity of all believers at the Table, despite significant theological diversity. We affirm that we must approach our study of scripture and our conversations about God with humility, recognizing that God is ultimately unknowable, and our understanding is limited and partial. This could suggest several things:
We acknowledge and embrace that people at FGCC also participate in other ministries in other congregations and community/parachurch organizations. For example, several of our youth participate in other youth ministry programs, and have done so for the last ten years at least. In addition, women and men in the church participate in bible studies sponsored by other organizations or congregations. Even the pastor attends midweek mass and goes to a catholic retreat center for prayer and spiritual direction. Since this is true, and consistent with our embracing diversity, why not live into this as a strength and discover how to make the most of it – i.e. we could gather information on other local ministries and make it available to those who attend or visit our congregation, or even publicize it on our website.
Our families have theological diversity within them – people grew up in different theological traditions and often hold on to many of those doctrinal and practical distinctions when the get married and when they come into a church. Why not embrace this idea and find ways to celebrate this diversity and teach one another how to listen and share what matters to each one?
Our mission work is ecumenical. What if we learned more about our mission partners and found ways to intentionally pray for and otherwise encourage and support them in their ministries.
Many of us have said, “We’re less concerned that someone be in our church, than that they are in church somewhere.” If we really believe that, then what might we do to live that out? How might we learn more about and share the ministry of other congregations with those we meet? If it is possible true that “Forest Grove isn’t for everyone,” then how can we prepare ourselves to offer people other good alternatives that might meet their needs and hopes for themselves and their families?