We find ourselves worrying and taking stock as a nation, in ways we’ve not before. Who are we? What do we want? Which way forward? And what of our values? Is it only by our possessions that we wish to be known? Does what we have matter more to us than what we do?
No, I don’t think so. I think what most of us want – as most people everywhere want more than anything – is to be useful. This and to feel we belong to something larger than ourselves. What is needed now, now especially in this momentous change of scenes in world history, is a common understanding of what that larger something can be. What we Americans need above all is leadership to define the national ambition.
You may be surprised to hear that these words are not about recent times. They were spoken in 1994. They are the words of one of our great historians, David McCullough. (The picture is David in his very modest writing shed. Note the old typewriter!) His words are a reflection on the ending of the Cold War, and yet the spiraling of internal problems in our own country as well as new (and horrible) global crises.
Problems were nothing new to 1994. The problems of 2017 are simply the latest set of problems. But they are our problems.
And problems always require leadership. Problems require leadership at global levels and leadership at local levels.
While most of us feel unequipped, as well as not positioned to do much about global and national level problems, we are positioned to lead, love, serve, and be agents of redemptive change at our local levels.
I believe the local church has a vital role to play in the local community. Above all, our mission is the spiritual welfare of our local community.
As lead pastor, I envision that spiritual mandate and mission manifested in a few ways.
FIRST: I believe the church is almost uniquely positioned to equip people with values and virtues that are needed for good homes, good marriages, good families, good workplaces, and good civic organizations. How do we become good people? Forgiving people? Loving people? Generous people? Courageous people? How do we become reNEWed people? The Gospel of Jesus is about the renovation of your heart, so that from that wellspring all else will be made new (Proverbs 4:23).
That is why you will increasingly hear messages about the virtues and values that Christ through his Holy Spirit creates in us. The title of one of my favorite books describes how I view the Christian life: The Glorious Pursuit: Embracing the Virtues of Christ by Gary Thomas.
Living Word is here to help you on that long, slow, deep, and difficult journey of Christ-likeness.
SECOND: I believe the church is almost uniquely positioned for creating communities of love, affection, friendship, trust, and mutual interdependence. That is why you will hear us talk about community. We want you to be in a small group of wonderful friends. We want you to join in with the many learning communities we have (where small groups are always central to those communities). None of us can, by ourselves, become and do what God intends. We need each other.
Living Word is here to help you do Life Together with other spiritual friends.
THIRD: I believe the church has a unique mandate for the renewing of your mind/heart and the reforming of your worldview. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). The eyes of our heart are to be enlightened (Ephesians 1:18). Above all else, we are to get wisdom (Proverbs 4:7). It is our chief end in life to truly know and see God for who he is. Moses taught us that in his prayer to live in the presence of God, to know the ways of God, and to see the glory of God (Exodus 33:12-18).
As your mind (and heart) are renewed, you gain a new identity, a new meaning, a new purpose, a new passion, a new personal mission, and a new ambition. With that, you begin to live, love, serve, and lead in beautiful ways in our community. You begin to make a difference. You begin to add value to those around you. As we do this, our community begins to experience the transformation of God’s people doing good works for the sake of others.
Living Word is here to help you do random acts of daily kindness, regular acts of strategic goodness, and transforming acts of great generosity. That is a life worth living. And that will create a community worth calling HOME.
I don’t know if this will become a national ambition as McCullough hopes for. I pray it will become our local and spiritual ambition – to serve our community as the people of Christ. In this, we will be useful, we will find purpose, and we will flourish.
As these matters become realities in and through you, the Best is (Indeed) Yet to Come.
With vital optimism about what Christ is doing in and through you,