At St. Peter’s in Yateley we’re re-visiting a vision forming process that started in 2007. This is happening at the same time as I have been working on an assignment reviewing the mission and evangelist activity of my parish (and my two friends who were licensed with me have been doing the same thing.) It’s nice to have a piece of work actually contribute to my thoughts on something current in the parish!
During our last interregnum, the parish profile writing process produced a ‘mission statement’ or phrase to describe what it was we were trying to do: “Growing to serve, serving to grow”.
Since then we have also used the stap-line “building the body, blessing the world”, been offered a waymarking vision of extravagant growth (1000 worshippers by 2020), and increasingly used the phrase “a community of love with mission at its heart”. These slogans have all been used quite widely in print and in talks of various sorts, and in the words of our vicar have been designed to be ‘provocative and overlapping.’
“A community of love with mission at its heart” is the feature of an article about this vision building process on page 3 of our current church magazine: Crucial (click to follow link and download).
Reading it got me thinking about words, and why we chose to try and form pithy ‘straplines’ that say what we are about. Who are they for?
If we are going to use a strapline in print, repeatedly, on all our church publications both internally and externally on letters and publications, then two things are important:
- those in the church understand what they mean, and ‘own them’ in a way that inspires them to build a close relationship with God by practically engaging with doing what they say, and
- those outside church can be attracted by the words, and understand them enough to desire to engage with the people who are saying their God inspires them.
So do the words “A community of love with mission at its heart” fulfill those criteria?
I’m not sure that they do. Do Christians, let alone the secular world, really understand what ‘mission’ is for example? In my assignment I’ve defined it as “the activity of the church that influences its interaction with the secular world”. Is that right?
If we want to influence the world we live in, what words do we use to keep the idea, but make it more understandable?
Who are we a community of? People who share a faith! Do we need to say this, say what we believe, or explain why it is an important part of our lives? Perhaps for those in the world who don’t know what to believe because nothing seems to inspire faith (so much is wrong or goes wrong), faith is a word to which they might be attracted – and especially to a group of people who all say they have it! Can we say we are a community of faith?
Some of my essay reading reminded my that the key virtue of a church acting as God’s servant, is that it should be offering hope. Those outside the church may already understand themselves as having a ‘heart’, but they might look twice at a community that says it has, and offers them, hope. Therefore if we really wish to both experience and inspire hope in God, is hope a better word for the ‘heart’ we are currently talking about?
We are reminded that “If we speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, we are only a resounding gong…” 1 Corinthians 13:1. If we say that we are a community who really love each other, that love is only going to look authentic to our words, if we live up to them! And that’s the toughest call of all:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Our desire is presumably to share something of our relationship with God with others, by building relationships with them. Relationships are full of words, so we need to chose them carefully.
What do you think? If you are part of St. Peter’s, or think you have some insight into our search for the right words, please feel free to comment here! You’ll be helping us in what I hope is our “cheerful, relentless, constant, and focused” search for mission-shaped values.
FD Rees “Three Models of Being Church” (International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church 5 (1) pp41-57)
Bayes, P., 2004. Mission-Shaped Church – Building Missionary Values. Cambridge, Grove Books Ltd.