Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pastor's Corner September 08

Using the statements of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Ch. 15:21-28) where he is approached by the Canaanite woman begging for help, I have found my grounding for moving us through the coming year. Jesus responds that he came first for the lost sheep of Israel. He follows that with a statement that it isn’t fair to give to those who don’t belong the food for the ones who are already members. She calls Jesus to account telling him that even the ones who don’t belong deserve pieces of nourishment.

This is the basic outline I am using for bringing us to common vision this year. I am starting with those who are already members. I have set aside times to meet with the members of the congregation and I invite you to call the church office and set up a time with Kathy for our visit. As we get closer to September I am calling people to see about catching everyone before we get too far into the year.

We will the celebrate our 50th Anniversary as Ojai Methodist Church (we began before we became the United Methodist Church) in October. We have a great and varied history and we need to remember where we came from and those who have helped to establish who we are. In the telling of our personal and communal stories we claim something inherently important. In order to establish a vision for the future we need to know who we are.

Once we have a grasp of who we are we can begin to claim the things we value and find important. We do this by discovering our assets. I intend to have us do spiritual gift inventories, asset naming (things like our physical assets of buildings and money, but also and especially our intangible assets that involve our reputation, our qualities and characteristics, and ultimately our people), concluded with Community Assessment. We need to pull all of these factors together to know how our greatest strengths meet the greatest needs of the community where we serve God. As we find this junction we will define our common vision for ministry.

You may have noted that this is all about what you as a congregation and individuals bring to the table of ministry with God, and not about my telling you what direction the church ought to go. While I will say that I do have some ideas and some hopes for what we might decide to do with our vision (which is what a mission statement is – the statement of action about how to achieve the vision), it is ultimately up to the church and the congregation to take action for their own hopes and statements. My job is then to guide and provide resources to help train you to do this kind of ministry.

After all of the assessment and development of who we are and what the community is, and how we can best interact with the community to bring the Gospel message of God’s love in Jesus Christ we will define how best to evangelize (that is to tell the good story of God’s work in our lives to others such that they will want to participate in the Life Everlasting – which may or may not be anything like what you imagine evangelism to be). This is the Vision of our church. It is the goal I have of achieving this year. I hope we will name our common Vision, and begin to establish the steps to achieve the Vision.

We want to use the crumbs that fall from the table set for the Lost Sheep of Ojai United Methodist Church (and the ones who are already quite found!) to make a trail, not unlike that of Hansel and Gretel, to provide avenues of entry into the church for those who have not heard the Gospel before, those who have been turned aside by the church and its people, those who need a spiritual home, and those for whom God has appeared bringing them into our community of faith.



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