This Sunday will be the 14th Anniversary of Hope’s very first service. The catalyst for our launch back in 2002 at the Chocksett Middle School was the decision by a very small church in town to close. Over their 30- year history they had been faithful to the truth of the Gospel, but had not been effective in reaching the community around them. This was a tremendous lesson for Hope. Immediately we knew that reaching our community was going to require more than just Gospel faithfulness. It was also going to take the right methods. We needed to offer the right things in the right ways.
Over these last 14 years we’ve learned a lot of lessons in how to do things the right way…sometimes from success and sometimes from failure. But there are several lessons that stand out. One, church works when people realize that the church is not about them. When folks forget about what they “like” and commit to what will reach others, then the church works. When the church is asking “What kind of church would my unbelieving neighbors come to?” or “What kind of church would my young adult kids or their friends find engaging?” then we are on the right track. The church is a place to give.
Second, you have to do everything you can not to make the Gospel feel past tense. The Gospel is eternal and relevant in every era. Wrapping it in language, style and a building feel that is 50+ years old is not the way to go. Although we can’t compete with the trendiness of modern entertainment, we need to do all we can to present the truth in contemporary ways. This extends to the feel of the music we sing, the messages that are proclaimed, and even to the way we dress. Another way to put it, our style of worship, preaching and being needs to be missional…what gives us the greatest opportunity to impact people with the life-changing power of the Gospel. That isn’t a static experience, so even now in just our 14th year we are already looking for ways to better communicate with the millennials all around us.
Third, and I’ll make it the last, the Truth that truly has power is the truth we live. Today’s seekers are first drawn by the experience our life in Christ creates, then they are interested in what we believe. They are drawn by the way we do life together…how we treat each other, the way we talk to one another, the friendships we build, and the way we connect with them when they enter our orbit. In many ways they don’t really care what I and the staff do as they take far more note of what you all do. In other words, they are drawn by the authenticity of Hope’s ministry partners. It is as you let them get to know you that they begin to ask about what life in Christ means. This is why we always stress the need for all of you to routinely make friends with new folks at Hope.
Obviously there is more, it is enough to give you a sense of why being transformed is critical if we are to be effective in the light in today’s world. Being the church in the 21st Century demands it. I look forward to the next 14 years with you!