Pastor's Message - 2019 February Newsletter

By: Pastor Randy Gibbs

  

“A congregation is a community of baptized persons whose existence depends on the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments and whose purpose is to worship God, to nurture its members, and to reach out in witness and service to the world. To this end it assembles regularly for worship and nurture, organizes and carries out ministry to its people and neighborhood, and cooperates with and supports the wider church to strive for the fulfillment of God’s mission in the world.”     Constitution of the ELCA

 

All human groups have things in common. A local congregation is a complex group. Your congregation is such a group. A congregation, yours included, is a voluntary association. Voluntary associations usually have a single and usually specific focus. A card club, an antique collecting group, or a stamp collector gathering is an example of voluntary associations. For a congregation the focus of the association, the gathering, is to worship God, to nurture its members, and to reach out in witness and service to the world. Any voluntary association, including your congregation, must pay attention to involving the widest possible participation by its members in setting goals. This is necessary so that the central focus is not lost, and that ways to accomplish the purpose are developed. This is why we have annual meetings and encourage people to be a part of all we do.

 

Some groups are non-profit organizations. Your congregation is also a non-profit organization. Our goal is not to make money or to save money, but to do ministry. To this end we assemble regularly for worship and nurture, organize and carry out ministry to our people and our neighborhood, and cooperate with and support the wider church to strive for the fulfillment of God’s mission in the world. Of course, this costs money, but our ministry determines the cost, the cost does not determine our ministry. Ministry is what we are about and we leave the amassing wealth to “for profit” organizations. Not every voluntary association becomes a non-profit organization, and not every non-profit organization is a voluntary association. Your congregation is both.

 

Besides being a voluntary association and a non-profit organization, your congregation has another dimension as a community of faith dedicated to the worship of God, education about the basics of Christianity, witness to Jesus Christ, service to our community and world, and the lifelong spiritual growth of members. Your congregation is a community of spiritual formation. We are dedicated to living out our faith in prayer and service, and to passing on our faith to others by witness and education. It is our role as communities of spiritual formation that should determine the way in which we act as a voluntary association and as a non-profit organization. We must ask in all we do that worship of God, nurture of our members, and outreach in witness and service to the world is at the heart of it all.

 

This is not really a new situation for the church. In the book of Acts, we read about the first Christian congregation in Jerusalem. They struggled with matters of organization and procedure. Yet the overall story of Acts is the growth of the church through regular worship, nurture of its members, and witness to their community and around the world. The purpose of the church hasn’t changed for 2000 years.

 

In addition to all this, your congregation is part of group of congregations who have made a covenant to help each other do this ministry. Together we provide each other with pastoral staff; with fellowship; and with resources for ministry that we cannot get on our own. We are Prairie Faith Shared Ministry and your congregation has blessed this voluntary association and been blessed by it. We are strong in the Lord, and stronger in the Lord together.

 

Through it all, your congregation is a community of baptized persons whose existence depends on the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. Without the word being proclaimed and sacraments being administered among us we would not exist nor could we continue to exist.  We are still a community of the baptized whose purpose is to worship God, to nurture its members, and to reach out in witness and service to the world. Let this be the heart of what we do as a voluntary association and as a non-profit organization. Let this be the heart of what we do as the body of Christ in this place and time. Let this be our focus in 2019 as we begin our 16th year together.

© 2019 Prairie Faith Shared Ministry
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