“It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.” Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life
“Why am I here?” It’s a question so many people wrestle with each and every day. People of all ages, cultures, life experiences, success levels, and even religions, wonder what purpose they were created to fulfill during the years they have been given. They dream dreams, create plans, and establish goals toward which they wish for their lives to move. Some long to be highly skilled in a particular profession, discipline, or field of information. Others may desire to accumulate as many financial resources as possible so as to develop a sense of security for their future. Still others pursue goals and ambitions that are beyond themselves and personal edification, longing to invest in relationships and leaving the kind of mark that will outlive their own time. I believe it to be an important question as it enables people the space to reflect upon what is truly valuable in life, what they are chasing after, and how they will be remembered when this life is complete.
However, I do not wish to limit the realm of such a question to the “everyday world” and merely suggest that everyone should have a dream and do his or her best to satisfy the inner longings of the human heart. The aforementioned quote from Rick Warren’s well-known work The Purpose Driven Life echoes these feelings by reminding all of us that our true identity and the ability to fulfill our calling in life is a gift, the origin of which is God. It is true for us as individuals, as well as the community of faith, the Church. Over the past couple of months, our Wednesday evening study group has been on a journey through Francis Chan’s work entitled Letters to the Church. It is a thought-provoking text in that it challenges the Body of Christ to reconsider just why we exist and what purpose God is desiring us to live into within our world. The premise of Chan’s work is that over the past 2,000 years of Christian history the Church has expressed various tendencies to deviate from being a people of God and settling for a church-like substitution that in many cases does not look even remotely close to Jesus Christ. That is to suggest we have created our own form of church that looks more like humanity, along with our ambitions, rather than being the presence of the Risen Christ to a watching world. Having shared all of that, I believe it is a sound reminder to the local church of the importance of considering the purpose and place of our existence especially when we look at our ever-changing world.
I bring this question to the forefront as we begin a new calendar year because it is a time in which many people reflect on the past and put into place plans and practices that will offer improvement for the year ahead. Rather than posing the question “Why am I here?,” I wish for us to consider the question “Why are we here?” as relates to Little Rock Original Free Will Baptist Church and our future ministry to our community, county, points beyond, as well as the denomination, for the cause of God’s Kingdom. Posing such a question is important throughout our world as it offers a standard by which to measure who we are, what we stand for, and how well we stay on target to meeting said expectations. As in many facets of society, so also do many congregations establish what is known as a mission statement, a concise outline reminding members as to why that particular body is in existence. Some years ago, Little Rock developed such a statement to better address the question “Why are we here?” From time to time you may see it on a church publication, perhaps as a sign around the church facilities, or alluded to in some other context. If it has been some time since you have read our mission statement, it is as follows: “Our mission: To reach as many people as possible for Christ; to provide a place of Christian nurture, instruction, fellowship, and service for all believers; to grow a local congregation of the Original Free Will Baptist faith tradition.”
There, in just a brief statement, we find the commitments that we as Little Rock have made in being of service to God as a local congregation. Commitments born from a study of God’s Word and our understanding of Christian teachings. It is nothing overbearing, but at the same time it is challenging in that it serves to keep before us what we do not only when we are on church grounds, but also helps us recall what we are a part of at other times as well. If someone would ask you today “Why are you here?,” or even “Why is your church here?,” how might you respond. By this, I don’t simply mean being able to rattle off the correct information, but rather offering others, especially the unchurched, a perspective on what it means to be the Church, how we are to function, and why this is of utmost importance. As we begin this new year, I wish for us to consider what it looks like for us to be God’s Church. Why do we assemble? What happens during our time spent with one another? How does this impact our lives? How is this different from other areas of life? In what ways does this touch our world? In the coming months, I wish to offer not only reflection upon our mission within the monthly newsletter, but also look at ways to keep our mission before us so that we develop, implement, and assess ministry opportunities that are more than good looking or sounding, but transformative to our living, our worship, our witness, and our service. As we remain on target to our mission, vision, and values, we will find our church being the Church in a way that not only shapes our existence, but also functions as “salt and light” to those whom we seek to reach.
Together in the Mission,
The Rev. Kelley Smart