More than 20 years ago, a group of Lockwood leaders attended a conference together in the Chicago area. One of the keynote speakers urged church leaders to write a vision statement – what their church will look like as it conforms to God’s will for them. We came home and set about working on a vision statement.
Vision statements were all the rage back then. I know a pastor who undertook the same exercise and, when he was done, had a vision of a new church building, with a beautiful fountain adorning the grounds.
We had no vision of what the church building or grounds would look like. We had no vision of staff positions or programming. I’m not saying that God doesn’t give such visions; to some congregations he might but he did not give them to us.
What we envisioned was a certain type of person and a certain type of church family. Success for us did not look like a new building or a larger attendance but like genuine faith, lively growth, and loving people. Here is what we envisioned: A people Committed: to Christ; to Christlikeness; to each other; and to the world. Today we will survey the first of the four commitments we hope to see our church family make: the commitment to Christ.
Before we start unpacking that, two clarifications are in order. First, the single word committed applies to each of the four distinctives expressed in the vision statement. Lockwood’s people are committed to Christ himself. They are committed to becoming like him. They have committed themselves to each other and to God’s mission in the world.
We are not indifferent. We are committed. We are not erratic. We are steadfast. We are not apathetic. We are all-in. At least, that is what we envision for ourselves, what God desires and what a successful spiritual life requires. A failure of commitment guarantees an unsatisfying spiritual life and a breakdown in the functioning of the church.
The second clarification is this: the order of the vision statement is not accidental. It is out of the first commitment (to Christ) that the next one (to Christlikeness) flows, and so on. Each commitment is supplied by the previous one and carries it to completion. Omitting one of the commitments is like leaving out a section of pipe in your house’s plumbing. The result is not only unsatisfactory; it is a mess.
People and even churches make the mistake of launching into one of the later commitments prior to establishing the earlier ones. For example, some churches are committed to the world – to bringing about justice, for example – but are not committed to Christ. This is like installing the faucet without connecting to the water line. Other people try to create community in the church – to be committed to each other – without being committed to Christlikeness. That kind of community quickly gets clogged with selfishness and resentments and ends in disillusionment.
What this means is that the first commitment, the one we are exploring today, the commitment to Christ, is the fountainhead of Lockwood’s vision. The commitment to Christ is first both in time and in priority. Without the commitment to Christ, the other commitments will run dry, or worse, become polluted with pride and self-centeredness.
(Excerpted from the sermon, Committed to Christ. The full sermon will be available later in the week.)
“There is always a … worry that the call to worship God is rather like the order that goes out from a dictator whose subjects may not like him but have learned to fear him. He wants a hundred thousand people to line the route for his birthday parade? Very well, he shall have them, and they will all be cheering and waving as if their lives depended on it; because, in fact, they do. Turn away in boredom, or don’t turn up at all, and it will be the worse for you.
If it has crossed your mind that worshipping the true God is like that, let me offer you a very different model. … I have heard world-class orchestras under world-famous conductors. … But only two or three times in my life have I been in an audience which, the moment the conductor’s baton came down for the last time, leapt to its feet in electrified excitement, unable to contain our enthusiastic delight and wonder at what we had just experienced. That is pretty close to genuine worship. … That is what, when we come to worship the living God, we are being invited to join in. What happens when you’re at a concert like that is that everyone present feels that they have grown in stature. … They are aware of things in a new way. The whole world looks different. … This brings us to the first golden rule at the heart of spirituality. You become like what you worship. When you gaze in awe, admiration and wonder … you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship: those who worship money become human calculating-machines. Those who worship power become more and more ruthless.
What happens when you worship the creator God, whose plan to rescue the world and put it to rights has been accomplished by the Lamb who was slain? The answer comes in the second golden rule: because you were made in God’s image, worship makes you more truly human. When you gaze in love and gratitude at the God in whose image you were made, you do indeed grow. You discover more of what it means to be fully alive.”
Tom Wright, Simply Christian (p126-127)
Thanks, Terry. I love this passage from Dr. Wright.