What Kind of Church? Part 1

Posted on Sun 26 June 2016 in misc

1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21; Psalm 16; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62

If your friend asked you, What kind of Church do you go to? What would be your first response?

Me: Lutheran; ELCA Lutheran?

Some of you are much more sensible than I am when it comes to talking to other people about church. (Warm, Friendly)

In some ways, it’s true for me, that I can only be a Lutheran on the inside — it’s just who I am. But it’s still probably not the best way to describe my faith.

What does being a Lutheran really mean?

Politicians Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann are Lutheran. Travel writer Rick Steves is Lutheran.

The young man (whose name I can’t bring myself to say) who killed nine members of Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston last year is a Lutheran.

Johann Sebastian Bach was a Lutheran.

Garrison Keillor, who has talked about Minnesota Lutherans for so many years on Prairie Home Companion is not a Lutheran. Go figure.

Just being Lutheran, does give the full picture, does it?

… not a sermon about being not Lutheran … but when it comes to communicating the most important things about our faith, labels often break down. We need to move beyond just labels to describe our church.

… Core Values …

Worship that inspires an experience of grace and invites participation in song, prayer, God’s word, and God’s table.

Serving others in our community by recognizing what God has given us and turning our gifts “inside out.”

Faith formation that leads to spiritual growth as followers of Christ.

Outreach and hospitality that adds to and cares for the Body of Christ through sincere invitation and loving relationships.

Focusing on children, youth, and families by affirming their gifts and nurturing their growth in discipleship.

Children are not the future of the church; they are the present

  • young folks are not ‘incomplete adults’
  • making kids be more like adults or letting adults be more like kids…
  • young folks have been nurtured here

Faith is for the household

  • percentage of time at church vs. home
  • equipping for discipleship; whatever we do in church, it should be relevant to what you do in your household
  • safe to say this congregation’s heart is in children, youth, and families…next step is not just to try and get a bunch more families in here, but to pour into and invest in the households that are already here, and the ones that aren’t here yet

Leveraging our resources (people, staff, building) to equip households for discipleship; following Jesus; having a vibrant, bold faith

Process of hiring CYF Director

So, why today, of all Sundays, would I read what sounds like one of the most anti-family parts of the whole Bible?

Besides some other difficult sayings of Jesus, we get this rebuke for the man who was ready to follow Jesus, but he had to bury his father: “let the dead bury their own dead,” says Jesus. And this rebuke for the person who is ready to follow Jesus, but he just has to go say goodbye to the people in his household: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Ouch. Reminds me of the time Jesus was teaching and his family tried to come speak with him.

“And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” (Mark 3.33–34 NRSV)

We know from plenty other stories in the Gospels, including his relationship with his own mother, that Jesus is not, in fact, hostile to families. So what point is he trying to make?

  • temptation to make family most important thing; makes family into God
  • unfair burden on people and families
  • not to judge people out there as heathens and idolaters, but to acknowledge the tremendous stress on households and to offer this different vision of family, in whatever configuration that looks like, as a gift from God — a sign of God’s love, a location for God’s love, but not God itself. So that when things inevitably go wrong (no household is perfect), there can be healing and forgiveness

This is where the Lutheran part of me comes back out: we do not focus on faithful children, youth, and families because it’s a way for us to get to heaven. Having a perfect, or even a good, family is not a condition for God’s love. God loves every household, no matter what condition it’s in. Focusing on enriching children, youth, and families is a response to God’s unlimited grace. So that no matter what has happened in the past, there is always hope in the future.

So what kind of church are you in? You are in a church that values children, youth, and families. You are in a church that believes in equipping households — all households of any age, actually — for following Christ, to have that bold, vibrant faith that makes a difference.

This can be a church that recognizes the gifts God has placed in all our households, and uses them to share grace with the world around us.