Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Shared Center

I heard a great sermon this morning on Philippians 1:1-11. Paul’s salutation to the saints in Philippi, express my sentiments toward the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Lake Michigan Presbytery.

“Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel” (Philippians 1:2-3).

Gil Rendle, in his book Journey in the Wilderness, identifies four paths of learning for mainline churches these past years. We’ve focused on church growth, church transformation, clergy development, and learned some things, but the fourth path, on which we now need focus is our identity and purpose. It is no surprise that one of the major changes in our Book of Order this past year, is the opening Foundations section. George Hunsberger will be helping us explore the Foundations at our February 11th presbytery meeting at the First Presbyterian Church in Holt. I encourage you to read the Foundations in preparation for small group discussion.

Rendle writes, “Differences and diversity that now live embedded in both mainline congregations and denominations make full agreement on identity and purpose impossible….A major learning of the wilderness, however, is that the opposite of multiple, and often competing, differences that have now divided us in our denominations is not a singular identity but a shared center….In many ways, large congregations are microcosms of a denomination. They are large systems with central leadership and structure but with multiple expressions of ministry held by widely diverse constituencies…Yet in the most vibrant of these large congregations, these differences live side by side with one another but are united in ministry…“The point is that everyone in the congregation does not need to live at the center, but the story of the congregation that does live at its center is known, and people, from whatever their particular perspective or interests, can see themselves in the story and stay in connection and in balance around the story. Multiple and different relationships are managed by allowing individuals their differences but inviting them to connect to the same core identity and purpose (p. 43-44).

How do the Foundations provide us a shared center? For your sharing in the gospel, I give thanks to God.

Grace and peace to you.