Posted below is the document that was given to us at church on Sunday the 14th of June. Here we can add our comments, questions or concerns about the direction and doctrine of our church that is presented in this document. As was mentioned before, we are trying to define what we seek to become not what we are already.

For those of you who have input, this blog is for you to express yourself freely.

God Bless

Commitments

Listening

The commitment to listening is the willingness to submit to the Lordship of Jesus and to practice a careful mutual submission to one to another.

For us this means standing under scripture as it testifies to the Way of Jesus.  It means letting it call us into question, letting it name our wrongdoings, and letting God change our direction and lead us to full flourishing through it.

It means the willingness to hear one another out, to value one another as parts of the same body, to see all as ones through whom Christ himself may be speaking.

Thus, it means listening to the values that have been established as core to our church and attempting to embody them in creative ways.

But the affirmation that Christ may speak through anyone he pleases means that we have a responsibility to listen not just to members and friends of the church, but also to those the Bible refers to as “stranger.”  So even though we don’t expect it to be the normative experience of our life together, for us the commitment to listening is also a commitment to being open to “outsider-opinions,” criticism, and guidance.

Service

The commitment to service is the willingness to let the mission of God order our lives. It means re-orienting ourselves around what God is up to in the world and how God is accomplishing it.

In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, tearing down walls of hostility, and bringing the Kingdom near.  We are convinced that the Body of Christ has been summoned to bear witness to these realities and to do so in creative imitation of Christ himself.

The commitment to service is, therefore, a commitment to allow the details of our lives to get caught up in the work of love, mercy, justice, peaceableness, and renewal.  It means that we no longer separate professional or family life from the vision of the kingdom of God that has been given to us, so that in all the things we do– building houses, eating meals, tutoring at community centers,  inviting strangers into our homes, or mopping restaurant floors– we will seek to embody the Christ-life in our behavior.

Formation

The commitment to formation is the willingness to become.

The word “disciple” refers to one who is a learner, one who is in the process of an apprenticeship, and one who is under the care of another.  It refers to one who has chosen to follow.

As members of ______________, our shared desire is to apprentice ourselves to Jesus.  It is our firm conviction that since the Church is His body, the form and content of our personal and shared life should be congruent with the form and content of Jesus himself.  We want to grow into a body that matches our head, who is Christ.

This desire to grow, then, is an acknowledgment that we are not yet who we ought to be, that we are a weak people with deep flaws. This conviction, however, is coupled with the assertion that we have been transferred from the dominion of darkness to the dominion of light, that we have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, that we have been forgiven all our sins, and that “we have been given all that we need for life and godliness.”  Most importantly, our commitment to formation is an affirmation that the Holy Spirit of God is with us, desiring our cooperation in making us a people capable of bearing witness to the peaceable reign of Christ.

We recognize, however, that the Church’s calling to be formed into the likeness of Christ is one that cannot be heeded alone.  For us, this is to say not only that we need one another’s help in imitating Christ, but also that the people of God are called into a particular way of being-together and being for the world.

Our commitment to formation, then, is a commitment to pilgrimage. It is marked by a willingness to change, move and grow as a people. It is a commitment to making a journey, and making it together, into the kind of shared community life that is admonished and testified to in Holy Scripture– a life marked by forgiveness, self-giving, vulnerability, joy, and lament for sin and suffering–in order that we might be a sign to the world of God’s present and coming Kingdom.

Dwelling

The commitment to dwelling is the willingness to be present. It is a fundamental conviction of ours that love is not abstract, nor primarily an interior sensation.  The love to which the Church is called is an embodied love: love that pours cement, plants tomatoes, reads out loud before bed, and knocks down walls.  It is tangible, visible, creative and practical.  It has been said that love consists in attentiveness, which of course necessitates time. If this is the case, presence through time is of real importance, both for the church’s life one-to-another and to the world that it seeks to love in service of Christ.

In other words, the development of a healthy community over time, the building of a church that can love as Christ wants her to love, requires that a significant part of that body is committed to remaining in the city over a long period of time.

Clearly this commitment threatens the transience, the independent mobility that is characteristic of our culture.  The readiness to “up and leave” whenever the next best opportunity arises or whenever “all comes crashing down around us” is a posture that undermines the love to which we are called, a love we ourselves have been embraced by.  This is the binding, enduring, and steadfast love of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who did not abandon his people but stayed with them… the creative, forgiving and plentiful love of the Triune God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, who came to where we were and promised never to leave us, but to be with us always.

Since we learn what love is precisely by how God has loved us, we desire to repent of vague, mood-driven, non-committal, and self-centered understandings of relationship, and to take up instead Yahweh’s way of presence through time.

The mission of the church requires dwelling. Surely God can love the city through us even if we are poised to leave at any moment, but to translate willingness to follow the Spirit’s leading into a refusal to root ourselves within a specific community is foolish and unloving.  Too many in America have been hurt and even confused by having a gospel preached to them of a faithful and ever-present God by a transient and strangely absent Church.  So our commitment to dwelling is a commitment to actually being around, opening ourselves to the gifts God may give over time.

In the same breath, we recognize that the people of Israel were a wilderness people, that the Son of Man had no place to rest his head.  Our commitment to dwelling does not mean we are not open to the Spirit leading someone elsewhere.  Allegiance to Christ requires that of us.  Nor does it mean that we do not value mission, leisure, or travel, or that we don’t have a place for life-changes that take people away permanently– quite the contrary.  We are a people of pilgrimage, and intend to help each other live as those who must be willing to leave if called.

The core of this commitment, then, is the belief that choices of staying or leaving must be made in the context of the community which God has surrounded us with, a context that by its nature challenges our tendency to move as we please.  Being the Body of Christ, we must acknowledge that we need each other.  We not only need help and prayer making life decisions, but our presence or absence actually matters in community life.

Dwelling means, then, that we also stay with those whom the Spirit leads out from among us, that we provide a home for those whose callings lead them outside the borders of our community from time to time. Those who are sent should feel confident that they will be remembered and not forgotten, that the relationships they have developed in our community will not dissolve in their physical absence, and that they will receive prayers and support from us while they are gone and welcoming arms upon their return.

Dwelling means that though we claim the wandering Spirit of those looking for a better city, we are no longer drifters, freely moving from place to place as we please.  We commit to the city we have been planted in.  We commit to stop using movement as a means of escape and allow it only as it fits within the greater movement of the community.  We commit to being willing to stay and to question ourselves before we move.  We give up our freedom of movement to answer the call to love.

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