Churches can be very different. In fact, churches that believe pretty much the same things can in fact feel very different from one another. Hope’s 15th Anniversary has been a great time for me to remember that many of the things that make Hope “feel” distinct have been done intentionally; to recall the values and commitments working beneath the surface that shaped who we are and what we are still becoming. Let me try to put my finger on a few that still have a strong pulse in the life of Hope Chapel.
One of the most powerful has been a missional spirit. What I mean by this is that the primary thing that determines what we do, how we do it, and why we do it, is whether it will make us more effective in reaching people who are far from God and helping them grow into active followers of Christ. Obviously, there are limits since we accept the Bible as the authority to govern what we believe and practice. But within that framework, the operative question drives what we do is not what we like or prefer, nor what is easiest, not what will preserve some tradition of the past, but what will help us reach the most people who don’t know who God is or how much they matter to Him. Flowing from this is a sustained passion for people, particularly new people, because we know they matter to Him since He died for them. In this we seek to be a genuinely friendly place, but more, a place where people make real friends.
I will only mention one other. Throughout our 15 years, we have had a tremendous aversion to doing anything even remotely close to making the Bible boring or in any way letting it seem past tense. God is eternal. He truth is therefore eternally contemporary, and demands our every effort to be faithful to its meaning as well as to communicate powerfully in our 21st Century setting. And the success gauge for this effort is whether lives are being changed as faith meets everyday living. And that is when Hope truly happens.
As I reflected on these this week, I felt a deep sense of gratitude to be serving with you. Your commitment to these passions is clear. How do I see that? Consistently over the years you have refused to let us get distracted from our main mission, resisting any pull to major on the minors. Far too often churches get distracted from their mission of reaching people because they get fixated on the minor issues of “how” they are doing it and lose focus on what they are supposed to be doing. In the end, they “do” church but accomplish very little mission. You have faithfully resisted pushes from within and temptations from without to do that. You have kept the major things the major things. I am proud of you and humbled to get to serve with.
We definitely have another bright 15 years ahead of us. I look forward to making them happen with you.