Sermon For Sunday, July 21, 2013

Matthew 28:16-20 and Romans 8:31-39

“The State/The Fate Of The Church: New & Emerging Voices 1”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio ~

Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher

Twitter: @FranklinCircle ~ Pastor’s Blog:


Richard Hinkelman

From Richard Hinkelman:

Pastor Allen asked me to share my perspective on “What is the future of the Church?”

Since I am not an authority on church matters, and in an effort to not give my own personal opinion,

I thought I would share what the Bible has to say:

–      the source of instruction for the Church

– guidance for those who seek to live a life shaped by the examples and teachings of Jesus Christ.

Here we find the future of the church clearly spelled out.  The question remains:

will we decide to say yes – and to walk into the future that Christ has planned for us?

In Mark 12:29-31 Jesus tell us that the greatest commandment is this:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  The second most important commandment is this:  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  There is no commandment more important than these two.”

What is the future of the Church?

Our future is to Love God and to love our neighbor.

In Matthew 28:19 – Jesus tells us:

Go to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples:  baptize them in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.

What is the future of the Church?

Our future is to go and share with others the good news of life in Christ.

What is our message of good news?

It is a simple and life-changing message.  Let us as a Church, not complicate it:

 John 3:16 & 17  – For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior.

Romans 8:35-39 – Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ?

Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death?

No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us!

For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love:

neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers,

neither the present or the future, neither the world above nor the world below –

there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God

which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Church…This is our future!

May we say YES, and walk into this future that Christ has planned for us.

Allen Harris

Allen Harris

>Pastor Allen’s response to Richard Hinkelman

Some reflections on Richard’s thoughts about the future of the church:

1.    I agree that the simple message of Christ is what we are all about and should be the fundamental characteristic of the faith we carry into the future of the church.  In some real sense, for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at least, this is a bit of a “Back To The Future” kind of proposal, since we were founded on the utter simplicity of the message of Christ.  Several of our restoration movement mottos reinforced this: “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no law but Love,” and “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

In listening to the scriptures you chose, Richard, I was struck by the awareness that none of the texts you picked – to the best of my knowledge – serve as the basis for a creed, confession, or doctrine of the church.  Love God with all that you are… Go into all the world and preach… Nothing can separate us from the love of God… are not the sort of scriptures a doctrinal student can sink her teeth into nor a administrator of church law can argue to his heart’s content!  They are to the point and simple.

Now, some may accuse such a simple summation of the gospel as simplistic and apt to leave vast swaths of Christian theology and practice up for interpretation and prone to ambiguity.  Well, they are probably right.  But I found the words of the Rev. Dick Hamm at the GLAD Alliance banquet this past Tuesday to be extremely helpful here: we are often accused of living in an ambiguity born of chaos.  This is not at all correct, Rev. Hamm said.  Rather, we live in an ambiguity born of humility.  We acknowledge that we cannot fully know, interpret, and live out all that the scripture teaches us, so we hold to the basic message and dialogue and pray about the rest.

2.    Like my first point, I think that a natural extension of your urging us to stick close to the message is its logical counterpoint: don’t stick so close to the means of transmitting the message.  If our message is the love of Jesus and the healing power of that love, then how we tell the “old, old story, of Jesus and his love” shouldn’t matter.

What has dogged us, and Christianity in general, is that we confuse our particular way of transmitting the gospel with the gospel itself.  The advent of the printing press transformed the face of the church as much as it did society in general.  At the same time the Disciples of Christ were expanding across the frontier, the Methodists were letting go of old models of preaching and embracing the new and somewhat controversial technique of having circuit-rider preachers go from congregation to congregation to preach and officiate at communion.

My communion meditation at the Disciples House at Chautauqua Institute a couple of weeks ago made this point.  In an age of expanding social media options, with Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and FourSquare being just the tip of the iceberg, we can’t get caught up in how the message is transmitted, just that it is transmitted!  If I am hearing you correctly, Richard, you are pushing us to focus on the message, and then be open to – perhaps even creative about – how, when, and where that message is shared… hopefully as often and fully as possible!

3.    Finally, one of the things I am hearing from your words, by extension perhaps, is that there needs to be a portability, a lightness, a transferability of the message.  If, in fact, we are to focus on the message, then not only the means needs to be flexible, but the location does also.  Particularly in a world that is getting more and globally connected, and where people are more mobile than ever before, we need to be willing to get the gospel outside of the church walls as much as we share it within these walls.

On one hand this means we need to do a lot better job of empowering our folks to study, live, and share the good news wherever they are, particularly at work.  I like the movement that I preached about a couple of years ago which celebrates all our vocations and employment situations as calls from God to live and share our faith.  Obviously, we have many, many examples of this being done poorly, and people being turned off by someone’s faith perspective forced upon them.  But neither should we let the pendulum swing the other way, and hide our faith from others at work, school, in the neighborhood, or even at home!

And on the other hand we need to do a better job of getting the ministries of the church outside of our walls!  One of the reasons we have two outdoor services of worship is to symbolize to ourselves, at least, that we really can be the church beyond these beautiful black walnut pews and gorgeous stained glass windows!  But not simply in worship, we need to expand our ministries out into the community.  I still have hope that our call to “adopt” Novak Park around the Carnegie West Library might still take root as people come to discover ways to be people of faith out in the community.  I know of at least one person who is considering reading books in the park on occasion and telling stories to the kids who pass by and gather there!

Thank you, Richard, for sharing your vision of the future of the church!  I look forward to hearing more from you, and from others!