Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Our Purpose

I am in Kansas City this week, participating in a class at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. The Church of the Resurrection was started 17 years ago in a funeral home chapel. It now has over 12,000 members and has long been one of the fastest growing United Methodist Churches in the country. I have heard the pastor of the church, Adam Hamilton, speak often. I even had the opportunity to enjoy an Eastern North Carolina bar-b-que lunch with him one day when he was speaking at Duke. However, this week was my first time worshipping with the church.

I have never been in a sanctuary designed for 3600 people before. I have never been greeted by people wearing the same headsets as the individuals who work at the Gap wear. And, I have never watched a video screen more than I watched the pastor in worship before. There were parts of the service and the experience that I loved and there were other parts that would take a long time for me to fully appreciate. What I have learned this week, however, is how much we can learn from this extraordinary pastor and congregation.

The church is very clear about its purpose. The purpose of the Church of the Resurrection is "Building a Christian Community where non-religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians." Pastor Adam and his staff will tell you time and again about the ways in which they are attracting new people into the life of the church - people who have been turned off by the church, people who are non-practicing Catholics, people who were once Buddhists, people who want nothing to do with Jesus. They have built a church with people who first encountered Christ in a 3600 seat sanctuary. Everything centers around this vision - the vision of reaching non-religious and nominally religious people for Christ. There is even a sign above one of the doors that reads, "Let us never forget our purpose."

I have thought a lot this week about how many churches have no idea what their purpose is. Countless congregations have no vision or real understanding of why they exist. If I were to ask several members of the church I serve what the purpose of the church is, I bet there would be a dozen different responses.

By the grace of God, I have been reminded this week of the importance of casting a vision and recasting it time and again. I have been told again of the power of purpose - of the power of reminding individuals as to why we gather and for what purpose we are sent out on Sunday mornings.

The people at Mount Vernon Place are going to be reminded again this Sunday of our mission to "Share the Love of God in the Heart of the Nation's Capital with the Nation's Capital at heart." We are going to spend more time talking about what it looks like to share God's love and what's happening in the heart of the nation's capital. We are going to pray for God to show us how to be more faithful in sharing this love. We are going to be more intentional about living out this vision - our purpose. We have so much work to do.

Let us never forget our purpose.

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