When I was imagining this title, I was thinking of my brother clergy who make decisions for the work of their year about this time. I was also thinking about my current parochial responsibilities. After nearly three weeks of prayer I have my own answer to my question. I am going to work as hard and as faithfully as I can for one full year to see this parish become a “Great Commission Parish.” What do I mean?
It has seemed to me for many years that there really is only one mission that the Lord Jesus gave to the universal church. “Go and make disciples.” I truly believe that to be so. Every other thing he commanded us is incorporated in that wonderful last, or as I prefer, Final Command. The Lord seems to me to say: “make all the people in the world, however organized or however distinguished, the focus of your prayer and all your actions. Pray that they would become my followers along with you. That they would become your brothers and sisters in the household of God. Preach the gospel to them. Love them, speak to them, comfort them, feed them, heal them, forgive them, laugh with them, and dance with them into my kingdom.”
What could be a more worthy year than that? What could make that focus anything other than to be desired? Who could give themselves to that year and not hear “Well done?”
Of course all who read this and who have been engaged as volunteer, or vocational, ministers in the church will know the answers. For a year of this to be at the center of a parish’s life almost every other thing the church is now doing would have to stop. Indeed almost every thing most of us are doing would have to be revisited. We would have to ask ourselves: “Is this work really making new disciples, or just fattening old ones? Is this ministry, that is taking so many hours and so much energy, and so many people, really producing any fruit that will truly last?”
We recently went through the data base of the parish, built up over the last five years, and there were dozens of names that no one on the current staff could even recognize. When the active parishioners list was compared to the previous one from years ago, there was hardly any change. In effect, we had scores of people pass through our parish worship and other activities, but the holes in our nets were so wide that they almost all were lost. What can we do, besides repent?
It is an old truth that if you do not know what you are aiming at, you will probably not hit it. What is the outcome we are seeking? Do we have a clear vision of the purpose of all out activity? Is it simply that more people will come to our services? Is it only to be sure we make this years budget? Or, God forbid, that we just keep our job for another year? Could we instead begin again, this year, where our Lord began? With the same goal? He called men to follow him into the kingdom.
Next Week: Our Lord’s First Year