When the Board of Administration discussed this statement as the Free Methodist Church in Canada’s focus for this ministry season, we considered each word carefully…
“Accepting” was chosen over “taking” because we understand that God has entrusted us with authority and therefore responsibility for our communities. “Taking” might sound presumptuous. “Accepting” communicates that we, each local church, has been given a mission by God, should we chose to accept it (cue Mission Impossible music)…
“Responsibility” is the acknowledgement of believers that there is a ‘job’ to do, or mission to fulfill and that we have a moral obligation to complete (leaders, spend some time discussing this thought: “evangelism is actually a moral obligation”). God values us so greatly that our prayers, and activities for others have eternal implications!
In Canada, we have placed the aforementioned responsibility on pastors and the institution. “They” (pastors & churches) are responsible to have good programing for my family, comfy chairs for me to sit it, the right music style, good preaching, global missions, and I’ll attend one in every four Sundays (close to the national attendance average) when I am not at my cottage, a sports event, or had a stressful week. Ouch! Responsibility rests squarely on all believers, not just the institutional “they” or “them”. We are all responsible to our gifts and time fully, take God-risks, listen to Him, nurture the unity of the church… be the church because that is the mission that we have all been given, not just the pastor!
Local churches have to ask what the responsibility is that they have to their community. Is it to have the best Sunday morning worship service in town (there’s a school bus in a church parking lot not too far from my home, which has painted on the side the name of the church and “the Best Sunday School in Town” – sad)? Is the end-goal to have a growing Sunday morning attendance? Is every local church supposed to have a dynamic Friday night youth program? The answer is simply, that your responsibility is always to introduce people to Jesus, but how you do this really depends on what community you are called to focus on.
That leads to asking, “Do we use the word ‘neighbourhood’ or ‘community?’” We wondered out loud if “neighbourhood” would limit our area of responsibility to houses around the church building. We wondered if “community” released us from geographical constraints to understanding our responsibility to people groups, neighbourhoods, local, national and even our global communities. For instance gamers, athletes, musicians, and foodies all have communities that are not limited to a particular neighbourhood in your town. Local churches are now free to PRAYERFULLY consider what community or communities they are particularly called to reach.
Well shouldn’t every church have ministry to each of the following communities: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth?
This Acts passage was not meant to be a prescriptive mission statement for a local church and it is certainly not a formula. This passage is descriptive: it is the story of the developing early church, and the introduction to Luke’s account. I believe that this passage invites the universal Church today to continue to ask if we are effectively represented in all these communities, BUT does not command a local church to be represented in all these communities. I say all this to say that a particular local church, in order to be mission minded, does not have to have budget lines for each of these areas! Rather, each local church has to be free to prayerfully discern where and how to spend its “mission” budget most effectively (we are developing a strategy to help you with this). We are hoping that this translates into partnerships or associations that may look like this: 15 FMCiC churches joining together to minister in Sri Lanka; 30 with Indigenous people; 50 with our Quebec churches, etc. Maybe your church has the capacity to be involved in more than one, but if not, then you can still be equally missional as you prayerfully focus on one!
Together we are moving toward going to accepting responsibility for our communities. The first step is focused, fasting, intercessory, listening, revival-hungering PRAYER by your local church and together as FMCIC (does your church have a Prayer Point Person appointed and connecting with our National Prayer Team?). As you pray you will DISCERN God’s will (the NLT and your Regional Coach want to help you with that). Church, be CREATIVE and take God-size RISKS, otherwise you are taking your-size risks and these won’t go that far and won’t inspire your community. In fact I believe that your community longs for a supernatural church!
Finally, local church, you are not called to do this alone: depending on the community you accept responsibility for, please find other FMCiC families to participate, or call together the Church in your community. This is the stuff of CONNECTED and CATHOLIC SPIRIT.