RiverWalk’s New Mission Statement

RiverWalk’s New Mission Statement

Well, the New Year has arrived. 2017 has said its final goodbyes and 2018 is now upon us. As we consider the new year together, and all the thoughts of new beginnings that inevitably go with it, I want to draw your mind to a new phase in the ministry of the RiverWalk Church of Christ. For several weeks I have been telling you that on January 7th we would unveil our new mission statement for our congregation. For those of you who follow our website or participate in our Facebook page, I wanted to give you a little sneak peak at what is to come.

Last January we selected new elders to serve as leaders in our congregation. Along with my own joining of the ministry team six months before that, these events set in motion a new phase of ministry for the RiverWalk congregation. For the last year, the elders and myself have been meeting together in order to set a vision for the future of our church. We asked hard questions about where we want to go and what we primarily want to be about. Ministry in the modern world is not easy. I don’t know that it ever has been easy. But there are unique challenges that face us. How are we going to respond and address those challenges?

One option would be to join the popular movement of “consumer Christianity.” This is the type of religion that competes with other churches for the participation of their members, all in an attempt to draw as big a crowd as we possibly can. This is not our vision of the future. While we want to make each worship experience as meaningful as it can be, it is our conviction you cannot manufacture the work of the Holy Spirit. We are not competing as a religious business. We are sent on mission. There is big difference between those things.

A second option would be to leave everything the same as it has been, and simply try to replicate the past. This is also not a good option. Just as one cannot fully anticipate the future, neither can one forever live in the past. The forms and methods that worked in 50’s, 60’s and 70’s will not necessarily be useful in the present moment. Our message does not change–it is eternal–but the methods of how it is presented are open to many different options, as has been shown over the history of the church. So replicating an older time is not the answer for our future.
What then is the way forward for this church that has a hundred-plus year legacy? That is the question we have been wrestling with over the last year. We have developed a mission statement that we hope will be a source of guidance for moving us forward into the future. It is our own take on the ultimate mission statement that Jesus gave the universal Church when he told his disciples to go into all the world, preaching the gospel, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything he had commanded them.

With that in mind, here is the new mission statement for the RiverWalk Church of Christ:

“Loving God…Transforming Lives…Sharing Jesus”

As simple as the statement appears on the surface, there is an inner logic that ties these three phrases together. Beginning this Sunday, I will start to unpack that logic. But as a way of preview let me briefly explain the rationale behind this new mission statement.

First, it is our conviction that true discipleship begins with loving God. It is largely true that we are at the mercy of our ideas, and nowhere is that more important than our idea of God. If we do not think rightly about God, we will not be able to love him. Indeed, much of the unbelief in the world today has to do with the fact that they have been presented a notion of God that is very unlovable. For example, very few can love a God who is always angry and bent on punishing us. While it is true that God is a just and holy God, it is also true that his primary nature is love. This is expressed in his enduring compassion and mercy. On the flip side, it is hard to respect a God who does not take sin seriously, or is merely seen as a “heavenly sweetie” who only shrugs his shoulders at injustice and sin. The appropriate knowledge of God is key to our love and respect for him. At RiverWalk, it is going to be our priority to help people come to understand who God really is, as he is revealed to us in scripture.

Second, it is also our conviction that transformation is central to the life of discipleship. This is an often overlooked element of the Christian life today. God’s love for us and our love for him in return are not meant to leave us as we are…caught in a slavery to sin. Instead we are to be slowly transformed into the full image of God that we were created to fulfill. We recognize, of course, that it is not the church that does the transforming. So when we speak of “transforming lives” we do not intend to say that we will transform anyone. But the church, through its teaching and its practices of spiritual disciplines, can set the stage for transformation to take place. Our task as Christians is to use the means that God has made available to us to put us “in the way of grace.” By doing this, we open ourselves to the transforming presence of God who takes away our old heart of sin and gives us a new heart of love and obedience. We believe this is to be a central focus of our ministry here at RiverWalk. We not only desire to see new converts, but we also want to see to it that those new converts, along with our own members, are participating in the process that leads to transformation. It is our conviction that there are practices both in the community of the church and on an individual basis that we must give ourselves to if we are going to experience God’s transformative presence.

The final aspect of our new mission statement is sharing Jesus. This is where the role of ministry really comes into play. It is our conviction that it is out of the love of God we experience, and the transformation that then takes place in our character, that we are then equipped to serve in the name of Jesus. In our vision, this service takes on two forms. First, there is the service of actually sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers. This sharing comes out of our own experience of how abundant life is found in Christ. We have something worth sharing, and as opportunity makes appropriate, we are happy to share the good news that we have received and experienced in our own life. But having said that, “sharing Jesus” is not simply about evangelism, it is also about sharing Jesus through serving others. Jesus came to be a servant of all, and we believe that God has called us to be servants as well. After all, no student is greater than his teacher. Our transformed life is not solely for our own benefit. It is meant to then be poured out into the lives of others, just as Jesus and his apostles did.

With all of this laid out before us now, is also important to know there is a process that lies behind this new mission statement–a process that the elders of this congregation are asking each member to be involved in, according to their ability. It is also a process we hope to initiate new members into in the future. Each aspect of the mission statement has a corresponding action within the church. When it comes to “loving God,” we are asking members to be at our one weekly worship service on Sunday morning. As a part of participating in “transforming lives” we are asking members to be involved in at least one weekly Bible class or small group, to help us grow both in our knowledge of the things of God, and to share in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Finally, as an element in sharing Jesus, we are asking that each of our members be involved in at least one active ministry of the church. We have lots of opportunities to serve at RiverWalk, and we think it is important that all of our members are sharing Christ in the service to one another and the lost. In the weeks to come, as we explain further each aspect of this mission statement, we will talk further about how this might look in each of our lives.

So this is our new vision for the future of RiverWalk Church of Christ–Loving God, Transforming Lives, and Sharing Jesus. It is our desire over the next few months to work this statement deep into the fabric of this congregation. You will see signs hanging all over our church; you will see it posted in our bulletin; and you will hear it referred to often by the leadership of this congregation. In the future, if anyone asks you what the RiverWalk Church of Christ is about, we want this mission statement to roll off your tongue as natural as your own name.

Do we live up to the reality of this mission already? Of course not…it will take us time to live into what we are putting forward. That is why it is a “vision” and a “mission.” It is what we intend to become in the future. We hope that 2018 will be the first of many good years under this new mission. We also hope that you will be excited to be a part of it. RiverWalk has a great legacy. We are asking God for a great future as well. Will you join us in this new mission?

Curtis Baker

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