Modern. Progressive. Evangelical. Balanced: Part 6

This post is the conclusion of a six-part series. Scroll down to see the previous posts.

By Matt Sapp

By Matt Sapp

Over the last 5 weeks I've tried to outline in detail the four words that define my vision for the kind of church I'd like to see thrive in the 21st century.

The process has helped me clarify my own thinking and rekindled my imagination for how exciting the future of the church--and OUR church--could be. If you've been following along, I hope it's sparked your imagination, too. Now that I've got all the words down on paper, I thought it might be nice to take a few minutes to summarize and review where we've been--for my own sake as well as yours.

So, with a brevity that has eluded me thus far, here's what I mean by Modern. Progressive. Evangelical. Balanced.

The church of the 21st century needs to be both traditionally grounded and future oriented. Up until now, many CBF churches like Heritage have been defined more by the events of the past 30 years than by a vision for the next 30 years. 

Thankfully, that's changing and changing fast. Luckily for us, our tradition is built into our name; we will NOT forget our Heritage! It will always be important to remember where we've come from and who we've been. But, like many churches, we also need to engage our work and our community with a renewed focus on the future--on where we're going and who we want to be. 

That means we'll need to be a MODERN church. New people and new generations should be comfortable when they come to Heritage. We should work--and it does take work--to make our language, our buildings and our worship feel familiar and up to date to people who are unfamiliar with Christ. 

Even more, we should work to stay connected to our people and to the world by continuing to embrace new forms of technology that aid in communication and worship as they become increasingly available, even to smaller churches like ours.

Also, in the coming years we should not be ashamed to be openly PROGRESSIVE in our theology. For the last several decades, progressive Christians have faced strong cultural headwinds. In the next several decades, though, I believe the culture will be more open than ever to a progressive interpretation of Christian theology. We should be excited and ready to reach a newly receptive culture.

That means we'll need to be humble, open and collaborative in our dialogue as we examine the truths of the faith. And it means we should be willing to accept honest diversity in theological interpretation. 

A progressive exploration of God's truth in Christ requires that we be honest about both what we believe and where we doubt--and it requires that we be creative, inclusive, and self-aware in the language and processes we use as we seek to form together. Our fellowship should always be characterized by love, not exclusion; by forgiveness rather than judgment; and by hope rather than fear.

It's not always clear to the world what it means to be EVANGELICAL, but here's what it means to me. Our faith should be informed by our experience and infused with the mystery that accompanies any personal relationship with a living God. We should be bold in proclaiming the presence of an active and powerful God who works to transform our world though the individual experience of saving grace in Jesus Christ. And we should be energized, inspired, and engaged in our efforts to partner in God's redemptive mission.

Finally, we should seek to be BALANCED--programatically, emotionally, theologically, and culturally. Balance in ministry leads to both short-term effectiveness and long-term sustainability. Balance leads to healthy members, healthy leaders, and healthy churches. Balance allows us to be faithful servants today and over the long haul.

So there's my individual vision for the 21st century church. Now let's end where we began.

God has a vision for Heritage, too--a  collective vision that will lead us to thrive in the years to come. But it won't be crafted by one person. It will take all of us to get to the bottom of what God plans to do with our fellowship.  

So what’s OUR vision? As our strategic planning group re-imagines our 2012 Strategic Plan we're re-visiting that exact question. 

I don’t know exactly where we’ll end up, but I do know where to start. The first step in any visioning process is prayer. I’m praying for our church and for our planning team. You should, too. 

See you Sunday.