The memories were more like looking through somebody else's shoebox of pictures. But we still learned quite a bit about our church. The timeline exposed the highs and lows the church experienced. Some would prefer that the timeline was not as honest as it was, but we are where we are because of where we've been. And that course allows us to project a trajectory into the future.
Doing what you've always done will get you what you've always got, right? Let me nuance that statement. Because the church's purpose is to reach people who are lost so they may choose to follow Jesus, our target is moving. The people in our community and throughout the world are different than they were in 1971. Even five years makes a difference. So doing what we've always done - even if we do it better - will probably result in getting less than we've always got.
So it's time (past time) to cast vision for Cross Road Baptist Church. I've recently stopped pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Had I continued, this would likely be the backbone of the project: leading the church to celebrate the past, assess the present, and prepare for the future.
I spent my time with our church last night preparing for the future. It was just an introduction. I don't want to dump on them what I've studied and digested for 6 years. That wouldn't be fair to them and I would get discouraged. My desire is to place the vision in front of the people frequently. I've heard it said that the people don't know what the vision is until they can finish your sentences when you talk about it. Repetition is the key!
So after considering the current state of our church (and most churches, I believe) I feel the Lord has placed this on my heart and in my mind as the direction Cross Road Baptist Church should go.
The basic underpinnings are these:
- The church must accept her role in God's mission. "The church doesn't have a mission; God's mission has a church." We must be about the Lord's mission. In John's gospel, Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" (Jn 20:21).
- The church must be outwardly focused. Too often Christians and the churches they comprise are looking for ways to tend to themselves. Yes, taking care of the body is necessary but it cannot be the only thing the church does. We must look out into the community and the world and minister to them. I believe this is what Jesus meant in Matthew 26 when he talked about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc. "Love your neighbor as yourself" must surely point to this kind of outward focus.
- The church must be an active participant in reaching people. I tell the church, "You are the missionary and where you are is the mission field." I get the idea behind the signs on the way out of church parking lots that say something like, "Now you are entering the mission field." My pastoral ministries professor Dr. Steve Lyon said, "We have to keep our eye on the ball. And the ball is winning people to Jesus and building them up in the Lord." Not too many lost people wander onto a church campus these days but there are lots of saved people there who need to be built up. I don't see how we can draw lines to separate what is or is not the mission field.
I will take space later to flesh out this vision but let me take time now to give you the six elements I presented to Cross Road last night.
- Every member in discipleship
- Every member in ministry
- The church in on-going community ministry
- The church in on-going church planting
- The church in 3-yr "Send North America" partnerships (perpetual)
- The church in 3-yr international partnerships (perpetual)
If you are a member of Cross Road I want you to come to church often to hear more about our path into the future. You can check this blog weekly to learn more about each element. With the Lord's help and our courage to stay on course we'll change the trajectory of our church to make a greater impact on eternity.
Cross Road Baptist Church is a great group of people who love each other and love Jesus. I'm glad to be part of the church. And I can't wait to see you again this weekend!