+ Psalm 1:1-3 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the lost, or take the path that the broken tread, or sit in the seat of doubters; but their delight is in the vision of the Lord, and on God’s vision they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by the streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all they do, they prosper.
The Lindenwood vision team met last night. Eight faithful people will pray, and listen, and wait for a clear image to emerge as we look to our future. Who are we? Where are we called to speak up? How are we called to serve? Why do we continue to assemble as a church?
Lindenwood sits on the busy street corner of Union Avenue and East Parkway in midtown Memphis. Thousands of people drive by our sanctuary every morning and every night.
Across the street from our building, Memphis Theological Seminary Students explore theological ideas.
Around the corner from our facility- families ride their bikes, grill out on sunny afternoons, and walk their dogs through our grounds.
We minister in a city with increasing illiteracy and obesity. We engage a community with deep divisive history and rich stories of civil rights.
We belong to a denomination that seeks wholeness in a fractured world. We maintain a tradition of no creed but Christ, no gospel but love, and no purpose but to serve.
In our chairs and pews each Sunday, we preach to those who have never been to church, who grew up in church, who left church, who despised church, who felt hurt by church and who continue to stand at the doors of the church.
In our church family- we worship with those who are single, married, parents, divorced, recovering, broken, old, young, rich, poor, healthy and sick.
In this vast context- who are we?
Lark News posted a funny satire about a new church for Jerks this week. The piece says:
Walk into Mark Hanson’s church and nobody will greet you. The guys hanging around the foyer might even make fun of what you’re wearing, or your haircut. A sign over the entrance reads, “Grab a seat in the back and shut up. Nobody cares what you think.” Welcome to Jerk Church. “You know these guys,” says Hanson, the pastor and founder. “They sit with their arms folded the whole time, leave during the altar call, criticize the pastor, snort when other people state their opinions and never create lasting bonds of friendship. Their wives are always really stressed. Bingo — that’s my mission field.”
This is not Lindenwood Christian Church.
I remember my final interview with the Lindenwood search team three years ago this month. After 2 hours of questions and inquiries, the search committee chair invited me to ask questions. I asked that each search team member tell me what they loved about Lindenwood. As they went around the circle, each of the 12 team members described the way that Lindenwood welcomed them. Some came from other traditions. Others came for refuge. Many came with doubts. A few came with curiosity. But every person in the room described a feeling of belonging at Lindenwood. This church was home.
Who are we at Lindenwood Christian Church?
In this time of discernment, we are clarifying our mission: What is God calling this church to do and be?
We are defining our vision: what does it look like to be involved in our mission?
We are naming our core values: what drives us toward our vision?
And we are jumpstarting our ministries: what actions will we take to fulfill our mission?
We believe that Mission + (Core Values -> Vision) = Ministries.
But how do we take on this process? How do we find our perfect ministry equation at Lindenwood Christian Church?
Psalm 1 hints at a process for discovering this vision:
Do not follow the lost: we cannot take our cues from recent trends or temporary investments.
Do not take the path that the broken tread: we cannot model our future based on our past- it hasn’t worked.
Do not sit in the seat of doubters: we cannot make decisions based on those who question, pick apart, or denigrate our new ideas.
Meditate on the vision of the Lord: we must pray our way into a new future.
If we take the wisdom of the Psalmist to heart- we will grow and even bloom like a sturdy tree next to an endless stream of blessings. May it be so.