Have you ever been the recipient of a promise? When we were young and dating, and I spent a summer living in Europe, Sarah promised to write me a letter each and every day.
While that’s a hard promise to live up to, she kept it. I can’t imagine how I would have felt if, a month into my time away, the communication had dried up. It could have signaled big trouble with our relationship. Broken promises are brutal.
In life, we make all kinds of informal promises: “I’ll call you back at three.” To a teacher, “I’ll turn in my homework by Friday.” To the bank, “I’ll make all my mortgage payments on time.”
And at church, we make lots of promises. Promises to God, “I will follow.” We make promises to our kids in baptism, “We promise to receive this child in love, pray for them, instruct them in the faith, and encourage them in the fellowship of all believers.” While Elmhurst CRC has a long, faithful track record of keeping this promise towards our kids, we are also part of a broader North American Christian landscape in which:
Community is the most promised, most under-delivered thing about the Christian life.
That’s a hard reality and one that our leaders are wrestling with.
On Sunday, August 27, our elected leaders (Elders, Deacons, and Senior Leadership Team) got together to prayerfully discern some audacious goals for the church for the coming year, three in total, one for each of the three dimensions in which we envision the Holy Spirit helping us to grow:
UP in worship, IN with deeper community life, and OUT in service and outreach.
In particular, the IN goal for the year ahead is focused on fulfilling our baptism vows and is as follows: We continue to raise the banner for vibrant youth ministry, calling for a (re)investment of parents, families, and church community.
Community is a two-way street. One that is paved with trust. Sadly, this necessary trust is increasingly absent even in churches. As Sociologist Ryan Burge recently pointed out:
“Churches, synagogues, and mosques are full of educated, middle-class folks who did everything “right.” They got married, had kids, and lived a classic American life. There isn’t a whole lot of mixing anymore on a Sunday morning. Most white churches now are overwhelmingly Republican. No chance to get to know a liberal, when you are a conservative. Now, we are stuck in our enclaves of worship and peer out with suspicion on people who are different than us.
One of the beautiful things about disciples of Christ is that we come in all varieties: Young and old. Female or male. Wealthy entrepreneurs and working class. Single or married. People with PhDs and those without a GED. Folks who vote Democrat, Republican, and other.
We bless our kids as they see older Christians united in our worship of God. Young people are interested when they witness an eagerness to follow Jesus across the lines of division that separates us in other spheres of American life. This is a crucial dimension of being a community of Faith. We’ve promised our kids no less. Are you in?
– Pastor Gregg