Below is a Statement of Faith I wrote for the Ecclesiastical Council of the Vicinage that considered my ministry as the Senior Pastor of Ozaukee Congregational Church.
Jeffrey K. Larson,
Senior Minister, Ozaukee Congregational Church
Statement of Faith
Prepared for the Ecclesiastical Council of the Vicinage assembled at Ozaukee Congregational Church on March 23, 2019
I was born and raised in western Canada in a wonderful Christian family who taught me about, and modeled to me, the love of God from a young age. I have always said that I never doubted God’s love for me because I never doubted my parents love for me, and the relationship I continue to enjoy with my parents and my siblings speaks to the incomparably positive childhood I experienced.
As a kid life consisted of family, friends, church, and school, and summers spent at camp in northern Saskatchewan (north of the border between Montana and North Dakota) and my grandparents’ summer home in Ontario. At the beginning of my 7th grade year my family moved to a northern community in Manitoba (the province to the east of Saskatchewan) and then 9 months later to Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, where I attended both high school and college. I began the 8th grade at Campbell Collegiate in Regina and, after graduation, attended the University of Regina, from which I received a Bachelor of Administration degree in 1998. My high school and university were both within walking distance of my house and I lived at home all four years of university.
During my high school and college years my family was part of the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA) denomination and attended a C&MA church close to our house where several of my friends from school also attended. I was heavily involved in our church’s youth group, both during and after high school, and was blessed with good friends that I saw at both church and school.
As I reflect back on all of this, I could not be more grateful for my family, my friends, and the circumstances into which I was born and in which I was raised. From the patient love of my parents, to the relationships I enjoy with my siblings, to the lifelong friends I made in elementary school, to the supportive friends I had at church and high school, to my involvement with our church during university, I am overwhelmed at the goodness of God and life to me and wonder why me? I look at the suffering of so many people around the world and wonder why I have been the recipient of the limitless blessing and favor of God. As I have reflected on this, I have often quipped two things about my life:
- I ought to be godly like Bill Gates’ kids ought to be rich. (Not that I am godly, but I ought to be.)
- I find my life to be an attempt to answer the question, “What am I to do with all with which I’ve been blessed?”
I hope the decisions I have made and the places I have gone have been positive answers to the question of the second quip, even as I continue to ask it of myself.
During the summers of my years in university, following my older brother’s lead, I ended up working at Camp Ozark, a summer camp in Arkansas, which has been and continues to be very influential in my life. I worked as a counselor for 5 summers and then spent 4 years and 5 summers working full-time for Camp Ozark as the Spiritual Emphasis Director. A good portion of the off-season is spent recruiting the counselors and other staff for the following summer, so I traveled to various colleges in the south promoting Camp Ozark and enlisting college students for all or a portion of the following summer.
At Camp Ozark in the summer of 1999 I met the girl who would become my wife. Chandra grew up in Iowa, attended Iowa State University, and worked in the Camp Ozark store that summer. We started dating that year, and after 2 years of a long-distance relationship and one year living in the same city, we got married on December 21, 2002. We began our married life in Muncie, Indiana, the home of Ball State University, where Chandra received her Master’s in Health Science. In the summer of 2003, we were back at Camp Ozark and then we moved to Dallas with the intention of joining G.A.P. ministries in Aldama, Chihuahua, Mexico. After a year in Dallas and another summer at Camp Ozark, we joined G.A.P. and moved to Aldama in August 2004. Our 15 months in Aldama were spent working with in the local church and community, and leading U.S. church groups who would come to Mexico to do medical work, construction and evangelism. We are grateful for the time we spent in Aldama and we continue to maintain relationships with the people and church we worked with there.
Growing up my best friends figured I was destined to be in vocational ministry, with one telling me, “If you’re not in the ministry, you’re in the wrong spot.” Most of the people closest to me encouraged me in that direction and affirmed in me what they saw as a gifting for ministry. I suppose I saw those same gifts in myself, or at least felt like vocational ministry was where I saw myself. Certainly, it was people’s perception of my gifting that landed me in the role of Spiritual Emphasis Director at Camp Ozark, and it was, I believe, the leading of God in my life that motivated our move to Mexico.
As the years of my youth moved me toward the ministry, I also grew up hearing my Dad tell me, “If you can do anything else but the ministry and be happy, do anything else.” He said the ministry is dealing with people, it involves conflict, it will take from you as much as you will give it, and you will end up disappointing some people. That’s just the way it is. Most of my Dad’s professional career was as an air traffic controller, but he had spent some years in vocational ministry, which included many positive experiences. However, he had also seen some of the stresses of ministry life and wanted to help me approach my life’s direction with my eyes open, and for that I am grateful.
A second saying of my Dad was this: “Pray about everything and do as you please.” That is, in everything seek God’s direction and be motivated by a desire to follow Him, and then make the best decision you can and go with it. The idea of a “calling” from God had always been nebulous to me, but as I examined my life, my gifts, and the opportunities around me, as I listened to the advice of those closest to me, as I considered my own desires and passions, as I prayed and studied the Scriptures, I finally decided that I wanted to be in ministry. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else, or I couldn’t see myself happy doing anything else. So, in December 2005, Chandra and I returned from Mexico and in January I started at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). Given my background and bent, I pursued a degree in missions, which I finished in the spring of 2009, graduating with a Master of Arts in Cross-cultural ministries. I really enjoyed my time at DTS, and although my journey in recent years has led in me in some new directions theologically, I continue to be grateful for the education I received there and thankful for its ministry.
In the summer of 2006, while continuing studies at DTS, I went through the Dallas Independent School District’s certification process and ended up as a 3rd grade bilingual teacher at Charles Gill Elementary School in east Dallas during the 2006-07 school year. I left teaching after one year to pursue the ministry, but that year at Charles Gill was another cross-cultural experience I will not forget.
My first step into vocational ministry in a church setting came in the area of music. My mom is a pianist and piano teacher and the rule was that the kids had to take piano until we started another instrument. So, I took piano for a few years before picking up the trumpet in the 5th grade and then later went back to the piano and also picked up the guitar. This led me to several roles as “worship leader” both at our church in Canada and also at Camp Ozark. However, I had always said I never wanted to be a music minister, which may be part of the reason that in March 2007 the position of Associate Minister of Music came open at First Baptist Church of Frisco (FBC), the church my sister and brother-in-law were attending at the time. My sister encouraged me to apply and in June 2007, while continuing my studies at DTS, I began in that position. In August 2007 the full-time Minister of Music left for another church and I assumed the functions of the Minister of Music, leading a weekly rehearsal with a 10-member band and vocal team, leading worship on Sunday morning, directing four choirs, putting on a Christmas program, and managing the people involved.
In August 2008 I took on the title of Minister of Missions and assumed a full-time role at FBC, although still primarily in music. Then, in the spring of 2009, FBC hired two guys to head up the music program and I left the music side of things to focus on missions. In my role as Minister of Missions I oversaw FBC’s local and international outreach, its missions’ budget and lay missions’ team, and its recovery ministry and first impressions team. I taught a 30-person Life Group (Sunday School class) on Sunday morning and served as the pseudo back-up preacher when FBC’s Senior Pastor was away or on other occasions when it made sense for me to preach. I am grateful for the years I spent at FBC and I continue to pray for and think fondly of its people and ministry.
FBC Frisco is part of the Southern Baptist Convention and adopts the Baptist Faith and Message doctrinal statement (BFM), which could be described as a protestant, reformed, evangelical, conservative approach to the Scriptures. It affirms a belief in the historical Jesus of Nazareth, His divinity as a member of the Trinity, His virgin birth, sinless life, death, resurrection, ascension and current place at the right hand of God where He intercedes for us. Jesus is the one and only way for humanity to be made right with God and the one and only way to receive eternal life, which anyone can receive by placing their faith in Jesus. Those who do not respond to Jesus by faith will not receive eternal life; rather, when they die, they will be consigned instead to everlasting torment in hell, a place metaphorically similar to a lake of fire.
Today I continue to affirm much of what the BFM espouses, but through several moments in my life over a number of years, my theology moved away from a belief in the idea that people would spend eternity in hell. Impacted by these moments, in the fall of 2013 I began a 2-year period during which I thought about, read about, wrote about, and studied this issue in a significant way, although doing so without the knowledge of anyone at FBC, knowing that it would not be fair for me to discuss this openly within the FBC circle without first discussing it with FBC’s leadership. Finally, in the spring of 2016 I decided it was time to discuss it with our Senior Pastor, which I did on February 9, 2016. That conversation quickly led to my resignation and my tenure at FBC ended on March 20, 2016.
While nothing happens perfectly, I have said and continue to believe that everyone involved in our departure from FBC did their best to respond in the way they believed God would have had them respond within the system of belief of which they are a part. FBC generously gave us severance until the end of June 2016, and Chandra and I began on the journey that has now led us to Ozaukee Congregational Church.
The two years from 2016 to 2018 were trying, but both Chandra and I point to moments in those years where we were reminded of God’s love for us, where we felt His presence with us, where we were encouraged to carry on. We are grateful for that time, difficult though it was, and today we are so thankful to be where we are, both vocationally and theologically . . . as well as geographically!! We love Wisconsin and are grateful for the wonderful people at OCC who have embraced us so warmly.
To my mind, any attempt at theology (the study of God) is really an attempt to understand what it means to be human. In theological study we are trying to make sense of life, trying to find meaning and purpose in it, trying to explain our own existence.
Amid the myriad of possibilities out there, I believe the God revealed in Jesus offers the best explanation for the existence and sustainability of the universe, for the problem of evil, for the human condition, for life beyond death, and for that which defies explanation. Moreover, a belief in Jesus and a commitment to follow the principles of the Bible has made all the difference in my life. My life has been unalterably affected by the God revealed in Jesus as He was exemplified to me through my parents and those around me, and in Him I find hope for life and hope for the life to come.
That being said, I think it’s important to acknowledge the limits of our understanding, or the limits even of our ability to understand. In that regard, my faith is in God “as I understand Him,” or in “my version of Jesus,” both phrases with which I am increasingly comfortable. All of us approach life and the Scriptures from a certain perspective, with a certain bias, affected by our circumstances and experiences. None of us have the “right” interpretation of the Bible or the perfect understanding of who Jesus was and is. All of us are putting our faith in Jesus as we understand Him, even as we are guided by what has been the tradition of the church over the centuries. Tradition is a helpful guide in belief and should be given the benefit of the doubt. However, we need look no further than the Reformation to see areas where the church’s perspective has needed to change, no further than thousands of Christian denominations, each with a unique take on some aspect of the Scriptures, to see that anyone who claims the “right” version of Christianity has thousands of competitors. Even trying to categorize the “early church,” the church from the first few centuries A.D., and then holding it up as the original and true version of Christianity, doesn’t arrive us at certainty of belief. There seems to be no wide-spread agreement on the early church’s perspective on certain issues. The best we can do, through the limited resources and study available to us, is to put our faith in Jesus as we understand Him and to interpret the Scriptures through the inevitable lenses of life, trusting the Spirit of God to guide us, acknowledging our limitations to get it all right, and appreciating the perspective of others.
So, what follows here is my attempt to explain my belief in the God revealed in Jesus as I understand Him today.
What I Believe
I believe in a perfectly infinite, eternal, holy, just, omnipotent, omniscient, omni-benevolent, self-existent, personal, triune God who created the universe and created humanity in His image to be His representative in the world. God created us to be in perfect relationship with Him, but we disobeyed God and so broke the relationship God desired, separating ourselves from God, and receiving the natural consequence of our disobedience, of our sin, which is death.
But God, because of His great love for us, had a plan all along to undo what we had done, to do away with sin, defeat death, and give us all the hope of eternal life. God sent Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, to be born as we are born, to live as we live, and then to die in our place to receive on Himself the consequence of our sin, to rise from the dead to defeat the power of death and give us life forever. In Jesus, sin has been dealt with, death has been defeated, God’s love for us has been demonstrated, and we have been given life. By God’s grace and through our faith in Jesus we are given life forever.
Let me say it another way.
As humanity, we are trying to make sense of the existence of the universe. Of the possible explanations offered, I believe the origin and sustainability of the universe is best explained by the existence of a self-existent God who created and sustains the universe. I believe our cognitive ability is best explained as the stamp of divinity upon us, or as a part of what it means for us to be made in God’s image.
As humanity, we are trying to make sense of the human condition, of the struggle between good and evil within all of us. All of us make good choices; all of us make poor choices. This is what is means to be human in the world in which we live. Of the possible explanations for the human condition, I believe it is best explained by humanity’s disobedience of God’s perfection. We battle evil within us because we have disobeyed God. We are all “sinners.”
As humanity, we are trying to make sense of death, to find a solution for it, and thereby give meaning to life. Of the possible explanations offered, I believe death is best explained as sin’s natural consequence, the result of our disobedience to God’s perfection. I believe death’s solution is best found in the person of Jesus Christ, crucified in our place to receive the consequence of our sin, resurrected from the dead to defeat death and give us all eternal life, and exalted to the right hand of God as our intercessor.
As humanity, we are trying to figure out what we need to do in order to appropriate the solution of death to us individually and collectively. If we believe in a God who created the world and who offers a solution to the problem of death, then what path do we need to follow to get to God? Of the possible explanations offered, I believe Jesus offers the best and most reasonable path, a path of grace that leads from God to us. Salvation – the solution to the problem of death and its appropriation to us – is God’s doing, something He initiated. We don’t get to God, but in Jesus, God got to us. Rather than trying to decide which path leads us to God, it makes sense to me to say that no path leads us to God, but in Jesus, one path leads from God to us.
As humanity, we are trying to figure out the problem of evil. Why does evil exist, what do we do about it, and how do we reconcile the existence of evil with the existence of an all-powerful, all-loving God? Of the possible explanations out there, I believe the God revealed in Jesus offers the best explanation and solution for evil. Evil entered the world as a result of humanity’s disobedience. However, the solution for evil, or the redemption of the incredible suffering of so many that results from evil, is not in the hands of humanity. Rather, the God who created all things by Jesus, reconciled all things to Himself through Jesus, and someday He will set things right. He will bring about justice, peace, redemption, restoration, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation, and will make all things new. There is no denying that evil is part of the world, but the God revealed in Jesus brings redemption for all.
To my mind, there are two main issues inside the question of salvation. “What is salvation?” is looking for an answer to the questions: What is the meaning of life; and, what do we do with death?
There is much we could say in response. Certainly, these questions require more than simple answers. However, amid the myriad of proposed possibilities, I think the God revealed in Jesus offers the best explanation. I am fond of saying: if you can show me a better option than Jesus; if you can offer me a better explanation for the existence of the universe, for God and His relationship to humanity, for humanity and our relationship to God, if you can give me a better solution for the problem of death, if you have a perspective that will give me greater peace and joy in this life and a greater hope for a life to come, I’m all ears. I haven’t found it. To me, it makes sense that a self-existent, omnipotent, all-loving, all-knowing God created the world, that His creation sinned against Him, and that He made the way for the resulting broken world to be redeemed, sacrificing Himself on our behalf in the process, defeating death and giving us life forever. Through, and because of, Jesus, this is what God has done for all of us. We live in a world in which many people live in chaos and everyone dies, but through Jesus God freely gives us hope in the midst of life and peace in the face of death. This is salvation.
People live under incredible pressure to find meaning, hope, and peace in life, and all sorts of options promise all three. Although I acknowledge people find hope and peace in other belief systems or ideologies (and some purported followers of Jesus seem to find neither), it seems to me people find such peace by doing, by following some prescribed path, by putting forth required effort sufficiently. Buddhism’s 8-fold path, the pillars of Islam, the laws of Judaism, the altruism of humanism, or hedonism’s pursuit of pleasure all seem to require endless effort, which results in only limited or temporal satisfaction. Jesus offers peace and hope without conditions, having conquered death and sin for us already. He has given life, eternal life, to everyone, to all of us, without exception, whether or not we know it, whether or not we realize it. Jesus has saved us. Let’s just accept it . . . or don’t accept it. Except, if we don’t accept it, we will join the rest of the world in pursuing something, anything, that will provide meaning, hope, and peace in life, because we don’t realize that everything we are pursuing we already possess in Jesus: meaning, purpose, significance, identity, security, value, worth, community, destiny, hope, peace, joy, love. Letting go of trying to find those things in enough success, achievement, relationships, or fame; or in enough Bible study, prayer, church attendance or religious devotion, and simply believing we have them all in Jesus – this is salvation.
The good news is Jesus has found for us already that which people spend a lifetime seeking without success. The gospel offers what I believe is the greatest feeling in the world – not love, joy, peace, hope, or laughter, as good as those things are. The greatest feeling in the world is . . . relief. Freedom from the pressure of trying to earn God’s love and favor, of trying to find meaning and purpose somewhere, of the need to compare myself with those around me, of finding a solution to life and death. Whew. It is off my shoulders. It’s not up to me. Jesus has done it for me already.
The more I come to grasp this, the more relief and freedom I experience. The more I believe that God loves me, that I don’t have to do anything to make myself something, the more I accept what Jesus did for me and for everyone, then the more peace and hope I find, even in the difficulties of life, even in the darkness of my own failings. And the more I pursue hope and peace on my own in other places, the more I realize I can’t find it. Accepting that God loves me fully and freely in Jesus and letting go of trying to find my own peace, hope, and love – this is salvation.
The things I do in life, then, become the overflow of what Jesus has done for me. I work hard and care for others and try to better myself not so that God will save me but because He already has! I use my gifts and involve myself in the world and in my community not to make myself something, not to prove to myself that I’m significant and important, but because I am already an important representative of God in the world as I help to bring God’s kingdom “on earth, as it is in heaven.” Education, athletics, art, administration, business, ministry, or whatever other area in which I may involve myself becomes merely an avenue for my role as Christ’s ambassador and not the defining identity of my life. Through God’s love for me in Jesus, I am free to rejoice in who I am, where I am, and what I am doing as a member of the kingdom of God in the world. I no longer need to compare myself with others but am free to rejoice in who others are, where they are and what they are doing. The world we live in is not perfect and in it people live in vastly different circumstances, but because of God’s love for us in Jesus, we are all significant and important, loved by God and given hope for this life and for the life to come. Through Jesus God loves us all equally, and ultimately will bring about justice, victory, and peace for all.
Again, if there’s a better option out there, I’m open, but in Jesus I have found hope for life in the middle of an uncertain world and peace in the face of certain death, so I continue to put my faith in Him.
My faith in the God revealed in Jesus includes a belief that God will ultimately redeem everyone, that God will save everyone, that everyone “goes to heaven” eventually, that beyond this life there is eternal life for everyone because of Jesus. While this belief could go by many names, I refer to as “Ultimate Redemption.” Through my hermeneutic lens, it seems to me Ultimate Redemption lines up with a fair interpretation of Scripture, and with the highest and best ideals of tradition, reason, and experience. I don’t merely hope it to be true; I believe it to be true. It makes the most sense to me. The discussion around it could be lengthy, but in what follows I want to sketch out part of my thinking on the issue.
To begin, it seems we want to hold on to a few things related to the issue of salvation:
- God is love.
- God is just.
- God is sovereign/omnipotent.
- Humanity has free will.
We believe that God is love, by His very nature. We believe God is just, that He is righteous, dependable to do the right thing 100% of the time. We believe God is completely sovereign over creation, all-powerful, eternal, infinite. And, we believe that part of what it means to be human is our God-given free will. God wants a loving relationship with us, one where we turn to Him freely. To my mind Ultimate Redemption offers the best option to hold onto all four of these ideas.
First, to believe that God will abandon most people, many people, some people, even one person to eternal torment goes against the idea that God is love. No parent would abandon their kid forever, no matter how bad or rebellious they may have been. If God’s love is limitless and everlasting, then it is never too late for even the most rebellious among us.
Second, we believe that God is just, righteous, dependable to do the right thing. Therefore, God must punish sin. However, in Jesus, He has. In Jesus, sin’s consequence has been dealt with and death has been defeated. Through Jesus God is perfectly just while also perfectly merciful. God receives His justice on Himself for us all and thereby has mercy on us all.
Third, we believe that a loving, just, infinite, and eternal God holds absolute sovereignty over creation, which seems to suggest God will redeem everyone. To believe He will not redeem everyone is either to believe He did not want to redeem everyone (and how then can He be loving?) or to believe He is unable to save everyone. To believe God is sovereign but unable to save everyone is to say that God, as He looked down the corridors of time, could do no better than to envision a world in which the vast majority of people are separated from Him for all eternity. Of the infinite number of universes God could have created, making humanity in His image, desiring to be in perfect relationship with them, even choosing to permit humanity’s rebellion, I have to believe God desired to create, and was able to create, a world in which all things were reconciled back to Him.
To me, it makes sense to say:
God wants to save everyone.
God can save everyone.
Therefore, God will save everyone.
Fourth, we believe humanity has free-will. And, some will argue that if God has given humanity free will, if humanity is genuinely free to choose good or evil, to choose to turn to God or away from Him, if God will not force anyone to follow Him, then it stands to reason that some people will end up separated from God for all eternity by their own choice.
To this line of thinking I want to say four things:
One, I also want to hold onto free will. Our ability to choose, to reason, is part of what makes us human. God desires a genuine relationship with us, one built on love. He doesn’t want robots, programmed to do what He wants. Nor does He want to coerce us; rather, He wants us to turn to Him of our own accord. However, if God is eternal and infinite, if His love is everlasting, then I must believe He will never give up on anyone and, in the end, will win over even the most ardent rebel.
Two, while God may not coerce us, surely His revelation of Himself to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus would have been hard for Paul to deny. God didn’t force Paul to follow Him, but He came pretty close. God is not beyond going to any means necessary to woo people to Himself.
Three, while we want to hold onto humanity’s free will, we also believe in a host of exceptions to that rule, whereby God saves some people either against their will, or without their free-will faith response to the person of Jesus. The vast majority of Christians believe God will save kids, who are too young to understand the meaning of faith. We believe God will save the mentally-ill, those who lack the cognitive ability to exercise free-will faith. We believe those who have never heard the gospel or who have been the victims of unthinkable atrocities in the world will receive mercy from God. In other words, to the question of salvation, respecting humanity’s free will, we believe God gives due consideration to the circumstances of life and that such consideration causes Him to save some people apart from their free-will exercise of faith, or maybe through some post-mortem opportunity when the blinders of life have been removed. However, if we’re willing to go that far, then it’s not much further to say that all of us are affected by life’s circumstances. None of us understand things perfectly. None of us have a perfect opportunity to respond in faith to Jesus because life is imperfect. But, because of Jesus, God understands what it’s like to be us. He has been where we are; He “remembers that we are dust.” So, I think He does more than take into consideration the circumstances of life; He walks alongside us, creating us all, sustaining us all, and I have to believe, redeeming us all.
Four, while we want to hold on to free-will, it bears repeating that no parent would abandon their child forever, and at times all parents override their child’s free-will in favor of what is best for them. We want to our kids to learn, to grow, to be able to make their own decisions, and yet we don’t hesitate to rescue them from their own bad choices and patiently help them to see a different way, even if it takes several years of reminders. Again, because of the God revealed in Jesus, I cannot believe God will abandon anyone forever. Many people go through hell, and maybe some people will go to it, but whatever hell is, its purpose is not merely punitive, retributive punishment but is ultimately redemptive.
Finally, it seems to me if there was one kid scared into accepting Jesus out of fear of hell, or fear of not going to heaven, it was one kid too many. Yet, in many traditions it is a common tale, one I am glad to help change with gentle, patient endurance. To me, Ultimate Redemption is a necessary part of the Christian message, a part that deserves greater representation in Christian circles.
I just did a sermon series attempting to answer the question, “What is the Bible?” The following 8-point list was the result.
- The Bible, in a way we don’t really understand, is God’s word to us. In it we find instruction, encouragement, warning, hope, admonition, help, and a reminder of God’s love for us. It is the story of God and humanity, told from the perspective of a group of people trying to make sense of the life and the world.
- The Bible is true, not because it’s perfectly historically accurate, but because God has used it in our lives and in the world. Bible study alone is insufficient; rather, we trust the Spirit of God to guide us as we study it.
- All of us have a hermeneutic, a lens through which we look to interpret the Bible. None of us approach the Bible objectively. Our understanding of it is affected by the experiences and circumstances of our life and it’s important we acknowledge this.
- We do our best to interpret the Bible in a way that leads to love of God, love of neighbor, and to treat others the way that we want to be treated. This was Jesus’ hermeneutic lens.
- As we read, discuss and reflect on the Bible, we work to do so in a way that avoids quarreling about words, that avoids godless chatter, treating with grace and patience those who see it differently than we do.
- Increased scholarship and changing hermeneutic lenses have resulted in an evolution of people’s understanding of, or emphasis on, the Bible’s teaching on particular issues.
- In approaching the Bible, we acknowledge our limitation to get it all right, and we be open to the possibility of a change in our own perspective.
- As we do our best to understand and apply the Bible’s principles, we embrace the mystery that is life and faith and God.
Philosophy of Ministry
Much could be said under the heading, “Philosophy of Ministry,” but in my mind the phrase relates to the question of motivation. A few year ago, someone asked me what was my motivation in ministry, and I suppose my response then would still be my response today. I am motivated by a desire to hurt with the hurting, and to suffer with the suffering, and in so doing point them to a God who did the same for us. In whatever place or stage of life, there are people who are discouraged, struggling with the difficulties of life and weighed down under the pressure of trying to find their own worth, value and identity, not realizing they already possess it in Jesus. People need a place that will bear their burdens, encourage them and walk alongside them down the road, celebrating with them in the joys and helping them in the struggles. More than a change in their circumstances, people need to know God is in life with them, that He cares, that He loves them, even in the midst of our broken world. And the primary way that people will experience God’s love and care is through God’s people, the church.
Even as we need to do our best to think and plan and organize in order to develop a healthy and vibrant church, the church begins with its people caring for one another and having compassion for those around them. I want to encourage myself and the members of OCC to joyfully represent and communicate the love of God, celebrating His goodness and sharing it out of compassion for people.
With that as our motivation, ministry happens as we 1) pray, 2) build relationships with and care for one another, 3) get the word out about our church, 4) be a beneficial presence in our community, and 5) be prepared with a plan to embrace those the Lord sends our way.
I suppose theological and philosophical musings could go on forever, but I will stop there. Thank you for the opportunity to share with you some of my story and a bit of my understanding of God. I hope it has been as helpful for you to read as it was for me to write. I look forward to the Vicinage Council and the opportunity it will provide for me to reflect on some of these things further.