This Thanksgiving Hymn was written by Rev. Dr. Richard Gibbons from First Presby...
I was at a session meeting a few weeks ago with a church that had re-worked their values and mission within the last three years. In the meeting I asked, “What are your mission and values?” I didn’t mean for it to be a trick question, however, only one person in the room could get close to naming the elements. I don’t blame them! This lack of clarity happens more often than not. Congregations go through a process to develop good or even great statements. However, as time goes by, those statements are not even known by the people, let alone lived out in the life of the church.
We recently went through this process to refocus and refine these things within ECO as a whole. As Will Mancini was working with us, we talked a lot about how denominations in particular can lose focus, so the sharper the language the better. It wasn’t that the old language was bad, but it was incomplete, and the vision hadn’t been clarified. We have done that now, through interviews, surveys, and work with the Synod Executive Council and staff. We shared this news of where God led us in this process at the National Gathering and we some easy to read documents that walk through the vision frame and the summary for ECO’s 10-year vision.
What we don’t want to happen to is have such sharp clarity get lost over time. Keeping focus is especially challenging in a denominational context where people are spread out and we don’t have weekend worship to help instill and communicate these elements on a regular face-to-face basis. Therefore, you will be hearing about our mission and values A LOT in the coming months! Yes, we will talk about them and dig deeper into them, but we also want to tell stories around them to celebrate the ways that they are being lived out in our congregations and leaders. We want to help presbyteries be able to communicate and build off of these measures in their meetings. It is of course our goal and intention not to promote these elements in order to promote the denomination, but rather as we live out these elements as a denomination in connection with one another, we will see the flourishing of local churches who make disciples of Jesus Christ.
This month we want to examine one of our measures. A measure answers the “when” question. When are we successful? When are we winning? When are we accomplishing what God has called us to do? In ECO’s case, we are articulating the qualities of a flourishing church. These are the qualities we are trying to build in our churches. However, lest we think that we are being prescriptive, our first measure says that a flourishing church knows its “unique identity and calling.” Just as we want covenant partners in our churches to know and use the gifts God has given them, so we want our churches to know the unique purpose to which God has called them.
There is tremendous power in clarity. This month we will be lifting up the power that comes from having clarity surrounding our mission and purpose in our churches as well as our personal lives. One of the biggest challenges is that is was common for churches to think that coming into ECO was the mission, instead of seeing how being in our movement could accelerate the purpose to which God has called a local church. The converse is also true – that when congregations are deeply aware of, and passionately pursue their unique calling, they flourish!