“The Way Forward” is a series of 5 videos that President Steve Veazey is releasing every Monday between September 12 and October 10th, 2022.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Introduction, A Great Door of Opportunity!
The Holy Spirit is stirring fresh expressions of gospel community amid massive cultural changes and human need. Community of Christ is discerning what God is doing and our response. Doctrine and Covenants 162:2c states that we “live in a world with new challenges and that world will require new forms of ministry.”
This series of messages grew from talks with the World Church Leadership Council, and others, about opportunities and challenges before the church. In these messages, I’ll highlight major opportunities and challenges. The Council of Twelve and others will lead discussions in the apostolic fields about what is most important in each.
Of course, the unpredictability of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other global maladies will be considered.
With that said, let’s begin with a major opportunity!
A Great Door of Opportunity!
There are many opportunities to spiritually connect people to God and the gospel in Christ-centered community! God relates uniquely to each of us while inviting us into spiritual community fashioned in the love of Christ. This is God’s way of redeeming and transforming the world. Inviting and being with others in this way is central to God’s nature as expressed through the church. The Holy Spirit is always fitting people together in Christ to become a dwelling place for God on Earth.
Once, after baptizing three older adults, one said to me, “Why do you think it took us so long to find this church?”
Later, as I pondered that question, the Holy Spirit reframed it in my mind as, “Why did it take the church so long to find these people?”
How would your congregation or group answer that question? There is remarkable response to the gospel as shared by Community of Christ in some nations. Baptisms, confirmations, and ordinations occur frequently. The gospel is embodied in Christ-centered communities of invitation, generosity, and peace. Response to the cause of Zion is evident! Let’s celebrate what the Holy Spirit is doing in these nations! It is like the Spirit-led growth of the early church depicted in the Book of Acts. Apostle Paul described it as “…a wide door for effective work has opened…” .
To respond fully we need more culturally relevant disciple and leader formation (which means education, training) materials and experiences in local languages. The gospel is shared most authentically through the languages, stories, symbols, music, and art of human cultures. It does not truly take root in people’s lives until that happens. At the same time, the gospel transforms cultures as it becomes rooted in them. This is called “inculturation.”
It is how the gospel is embodied in human lives and societies. The process is ongoing. In response to our “great door of opportunity,” we must find ways to increase support for disciple and leader formation provided in local languages and cultural themes. The Holy Spirit is urging us to act before opportunities are lost. What will our response be?
Part 2: Poverty Traps
Many members and friends are trapped in poverty. This is caused by unjust economic and political systems, plus human greed—that means people caught in poverty don’t have the same opportunities as others. It is wrong to blame them for these circumstances!!
Once, while ministering in a poor area, a pastor apologized to me because there were not more people gathered for a morning class. He explained, “Most of them are still out looking for something to eat today.” My heart broke for them. Are you willing to have your heart broken, too?
Poverty is not inevitable. Humans choose to keep economic opportunities away from the impoverished. While there was progress in recent decades, poverty is increasing again because of climate change, pandemics, inhumane immigration policies, high inflation, overconsumption by some, and wars. David Beasley, head of the UN World Food Program, said its latest analysis shows that “a record 345 million acutely hungry people are marching to the brink of starvation”—a 25 percent increase from 276 million at the start of 2022 before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th. The number stood at 135 million before the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, according to a news article on July 7 this year.
The Enduring Principles of the church offer an alternative, more hopeful vision for the world. Making Responsible Choices with that vision in mind has never been more important for the welfare of all of us. Jesus highlighted “good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18) as an essential in his mission. We are being faithful to Christ through local and global initiatives to abolish poverty and end unnecessary suffering.
Good news is more than words or good intentions. Truly good news arises from cooperative efforts with those trapped in poverty to change the conditions that perpetuate poverty. Walking closely with those living in poverty transforms us as we grow closer to them and Christ who is always serving among the “least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46).
As Henri Nouwen wrote:
“When Jesus says, ‘What you did to the least of my brothers, you did to me’ (Matthew 25:40) he is addressing to us a direct invitation not only to help but to discover the beauty of God in those who are to be helped. … [This is through] the smiles of the children, the hospitality of the people, the expressions they use, the stories they tell, the wisdom they show, the goods they share; there is so much richness and beauty, so much affection and human warmth… “
World Hunger projects funded through Worldwide Mission Tithes are one way we do this. This money secures wells for sanitary water, develops fish farming as a food source, offers skills training matched to employment opportunities, and provides microloans for income-producing initiatives. Apostle Mambwe reports that a solar-powered irrigation project in two African villages is transforming lives and giving real hope! Support also is provided for ministers working to reduce poverty in the United States.
There are proven methods that reduce poverty! We know that empowering women makes a big difference! We know our impact increases when we partner with others. We know that utilizing local resources to meet needs identified by the people helps avoid dependency and creates sustainable efforts. There’s much we can do to reduce poverty.
Remarkably, there are amazing expressions of grace and generosity among those living in poverty. Obviously, those trapped in poverty have limited financial means. However, they give what they can of money
and goods to support church ministries. They want their contributions to support local and worldwide ministries because they desire others to experience the hope they have through Community of Christ! They do this because they see the transformative effect of Community of Christ where they live. A new member in a lower-income nation once told me that “Whenever Community of Christ comes to a village that village becomes better for all.” What a wonderful expression of the cause of Zion!
Members in lower-income areas do not want to be dependent on others. They strive for personal and church self-sufficiency. They just need help freeing themselves from the cruel clutches of poverty.
Others can help by giving to worldwide ministries that support the church in those areas. Regardless of economic circumstances, members in lower-income nations have a wealth of gospel passion, spiritual
energy, and loving community. These are priceless gifts they want to share with others. Their enthusiasm for witness, invitation, and ministry can bless the church in other nations where participation is lagging.
How can different areas of the church give from their kind of abundance and receive what is needed for mutual enrichment? We can form partnerships between fields, mission centers, and congregations around the world that facilitate reciprocal sharing of gifts, blessings, and resources. All will be blessed! Such global relationships are central to what it means to be Community of Christ engaged in the cause of Zion.
How could your group, congregation, or mission center be part of a mutually enriching partnership with the church in another part of the world?
Part 3: God’s Kind of Justice
There are injustices contrary to jesus’s peace causing devastation around the world. These include racial, economic, gender, sexual orientation, immigration, and climate justice issues. While these injustices have been around a long time, there is a backlash in some nations as reaction to recent efforts to realize a world of justice and peace for all.
Various times i’ve asked Black American church members about their life experiences. While I was not surprised, I was deeply affected by their accounts of unrelenting discrimination, oppression, and violence directed toward them. Their backs have been against the wall for a long time they are pleading with us to stand up for and with them. Sometimes they told me they feel that the church is only interested in certain kinds of diversity that doesn’t seem to fully include them.
What can we do to seek God’s kind of justice with Christ? One thing for sure is we must move beyond idealistic words about the worth of persons, unity and diversity, sacredness of creation, and act in ways that work. Many of our young adults and youth tell us this is particularly important to them.
Unfortunately, human and environmental justice issues often are relegated to the hyper-polarized partisan politics realm and dismissed as too controversial for church involvement. The vision of holistic salvation, or shalom, and restoration for people societies and the earth calls us to engage justice issues as gospel imperatives, just like Jesus.
This takes vision, courage, and persistence. It also takes a spiritual life grounded in God’s love that opens us to divine love for all. This empowers us to act positively from a stance of what we are for, and not just what we are against.
The church-wide discussion of non-violence initiated by World Conference Resolution 1319 is related to pursuing God’s vision of holistic salvation and peace for people, groups, societies, and the planet. This is not a new topic; in 1982 the world conference approved WCR 1177, entitled “Peace”. It provides a broad overview of our position related to peace and violence including a statement about and I quote:
“Addressing the root causes of war and violence and working toward the elimination of these”. It also declares that “We, as a church, oppose all forms of destructive violence such as national and international conflict, war, withholding of food, terrorism, and mental and physical abuse”
So a foundation already has been laid for understanding the relationship of non-violence to peace. However, there are many questions to explore:
- What about Jesus’s teachings about foregoing revenge violence in a violent world?
- How do we understand violence and non-violence in various cultural and vocational settings, including professions entrusted to protect others from violence?
- How do we unmask subtle but real forms of violence that many do not see as such?
- How is abusing natural resources and the atmosphere to the point life cannot be sustained violence against us, others, creation, and God?
- What is the difference between “peace keeping”, which may allow injustices to persist, and “peace making”, which seeks just peace, not just the absence of conflict?
There are no simple answers, but the conversation is very important, and it takes a lot of time and effort to have a church-wide discussion on these questions in multiple languages, especially during a global pandemic. Materials and opportunities, including online gatherings, are available to guide discussion and feedback.
The presidency will update the 2023 World Conference about progress.
Common consent building activities will encourage the sharing of perspectives and ideas.
How are you in your congregation group or mission center participating in the worldwide church conversation on non-violence? Have you provided comments or questions to support the discussion?
We look forward to receiving your responses.
Part 4: What About Finances?
I know! Many people don’t like to talk about finances, but scripture emphasizes that discipleship, stewardship, and increasing our capacity to support Christ’s mission are inseparable. Doctrine & Covenants 153:9 states that the truths of the gospel will be “proclaimed as widely and as far as the dedication of the Saints, especially through the exercise of their temporal stewardship, will allow.”
In wealthier nations, contributor losses from deaths, people leaving church activity, and global economic conditions are creating increasing financial pressures. Funding worldwide ministries is achieved primarily by devoted members over 60 years of age whose amazing generosity continues to bless the church. We are so grateful for you!
However, contributor number trends, rapidly rising expenses due to inflation, COVID-19 economic impacts, and disruptive geopolitical conflicts combine to put even more stress on church finances. Based on current projections, a major Worldwide Ministries Budget reduction will be necessary after the 2023 World Conference unless something significant happens.
With that said, we are making progress in important elements of church finances!
In June, the Presiding Bishopric announced an agreement to sell a sizable portion of church investment property in the Little Blue Valley in Eastern Jackson County, Missouri at an amount above book value! This is a blessing! The sale of parcels of land will occur over the next ten years. These properties are held as a major portion of World Church endowment investments. The sale converts these assets to market investments that will benefit endowments by producing earnings to help support the Worldwide Ministries Budget beginning in 2024.
Bridge of Hope
Progress also is being made on the Bridge of Hope retirement responsibility. As of June 30, 2022, we have raised more than $103 million toward the $120 million goal. That leaves $16.1 million to raise by the January 2024 deadline. Our Bridge of Hope progress shows what we can do when we pull together!
We are grateful for the individuals, congregations, and mission centers that have contributed and those working to meet field targets. Each field committed to an amount to help reach our goal. The agreement is that each field will either raise the funds to meet their target or ask the Presiding Bishopric to borrow the remaining balance needed from investment accounts of church jurisdictions in that field. Minimum balance requirements ensure sufficient funds are held in those accounts. Based on progress, the Bishopric lowered minimum balance requirements again in June 2022. When a field meets its target, minimum balance requirements on investment accounts in that field are ended.
Meeting the Bridge of Hope retirement responsibility goal will be a cause for celebration! Then we will focus on the next Bridge of Hope priority: increasing endowments.
Growing endowments will generate more sustainable income for worldwide ministries. How we pay for worldwide ministries is part of our metamorphosis. Central to this is linking individual and group passions to ministry partnerships around the world that people feel called to support.
Have you heard the story of Nobiah’s Well? It is in a children’s book by Donna W. Guthrie with wonderful illustrations by Rob Roth. While I will summarize it, I encourage you to read the entire story and share it with others. Nobiah’s mother, who daily walked a long way to get water, becomes ill. As a result, Nobiah, a child, must get water from the distant well.
After waiting in line, he filled his water pot, placed it on his head, and began walking home. Along the way he met animals who were very thirsty: a hedgehog, a hyena with young cubs, and a small ant bear. Each asked for and received water from Nobiah. When the ant bear finished, it said, “Thank you, my friend. Your heart is as big and deep as the well that gives this water.”
When Nobiah arrived home, he gave water to his thirsty mother and sisters. Then he went to water their parched, wilting garden. Just a drop came out of his pot. His mother questioned him. Nobiah told how he had shared water with the animals. His mother angrily dashed the empty pot to pieces. During the night, as he listened to his mother sobbing, Nobiah was visited by the hedgehog and the hyenas, who wanted more water. He told them no water was left. They suggested he dig a well. Nobiah said that he, a small child, could not do that.
Later he heard scratching outside. The ant bear was clawing the ground, digging a well. Nobiah told him that a little ant bear could not dig a well. The ant bear invited Nobiah to help. Then the other animals helped too. As they dug, Nobiah asked how deep they should dig. The ant bear said, “As deep as your heart and as wide as your thirst.”
Nobiah fell asleep. But the animals worked through the night. By morning, a new, deep well began filling with water and a new water pot sat next to it. After that, Nobiah’s mother and the people from his village, had water nearby, and the dry land began to turn green.
How big is your heart and how deep is your well? How big and how deep could it be? Doctrine and Covenants 165:2f affirms that “Sharing for the common good is the spirit of Zion.” What worldwide ministries do you feel called to support for the “common good?”
Part 5: 2023 World Conference
Our staff and volunteers are busy preparing for 2023 World Conference, and the theme is “Courage!” No doubt, we’ll be energized to boldly venture with God into our future!
Health and Safety
Special attention is being given to health and safety. This will require precautions not experienced at conference before.
Based on what we know now, people will be strongly encouraged to wear masks when indoors at World Conference to protect the most vulnerable in our gathering.
We will provide larger spaces for delegation seating in the Auditorium using the main floor and the balcony and encourage people to spread out during all indoor events.
We are also strongly encouraging participants to take several self-initiated and self-monitored precautions to include testing for COVID before arriving, staying home if you test positive or have fever or symptoms, and getting up to date on vaccinations to protect yourself.
Thanks for your understanding!
Online Participation Events
A historic opportunity at World Conference will be delegate participation from sites around the world. Tests are underway to determine whether we have the online connectivity needed for delegates who cannot travel to the United States due to financial, travel, or government restrictions beyond their control.
We are still determining how many sites we can support based on communications, translations, and funding capacities.
Because groups will be connecting online, we will give equal emphasis to meaningful online and in-person participation. Remote participants will be considered from the beginning of planning. This will cause conference activities to have new and sometimes even surprising elements to ensure a meaningful experience for all.
This is an opportunity for us to grow in understanding of the world of digital ministry.
A World Conference challenge is that some resolutions submitted to World Conference are extremely complicated. This makes them difficult to translate and understand in various cultures. We will need to be very considerate of others as we endeavor to confer effectively and justly.
World Conference legislation covers an array
of topics. These include:
- the climate emergency,
- whether to recommend removing Section 116 from the Doctrine and Covenants,
- racial justice,
- universal scripture access,
- baptism and membership,
- opposition to Christian Zionism that causes conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere, and
- the nature of an eventual statement on nonviolence.
All legislation submitted to the 2023 World Conference is on the World Conference website and in the “Preparation” section and in the Herald.
Baptism and Membership Resolution
I want to talk about the resolutions on baptism and membership. If approved, they call for the president of the church to seek additional guidance regarding whether persons baptized before the age of eight could be eligible for the sacrament of confirmation without rebaptism.
In anticipation of considering these resolutions at conference, some background will be helpful.
The approval of WCR 1301 in 2013 requested the Presidency to continue to explore questions related to baptism and membership. The Presidency did this in consultation with the World Church Leadership Council and the Theology Formation Team. As requested by the resolution, the Presidency provided updates through the Herald, field discussions, and World Conference reports.
It is important to understand that our current policy was developed in 2010 by a joint council of the First Presidency and the Council of Twelve with input from the World Church Leadership Council following approval of Doctrine and Covenants 164. After much discussion, it was determined at that time that Christian baptism to be eligible for the sacrament of confirmation should have occurred when a person was at least eight years old, the church’s traditional “age of accountability.” This is called believer’s baptism. It means that individuals should choose to be baptized as a personal expression of faith, repentance, and commitment to Jesus Christ. As such, baptism is a “remembered” event in their lives.
The resolutions on baptism and membership raise the question of whether those baptized in the Christian faith before the age of eight could be confirmed without being rebaptized. That is, could people choose to affirm their previous Christian baptism, regardless of when it occurred, as their current resolve? If so, the sacrament of confirmation could be available to them to acknowledge the meaning of their baptism, the ministry and promise of the Holy Spirit, and their decision to express their discipleship through Community of Christ membership.
In all cases the Community of Christ understanding and practice of baptism by immersion when a person is at least eight years old followed by confirmation would not change.
There are different strongly held views on this question throughout the international church. The resolutions submitted about baptism and membership will provide an opportunity for World Conference delegates to explore questions, affirmations, and concerns about our policy on conditions of membership. We will listen carefully to one another, our sacred story in scripture and history, and the witness of the Holy Spirit as we seek guidance.
What perspectives would you like to share about the resolutions on baptism and membership? Provide feedback to church leaders by sending comments to [email protected]
Part 6: Decentralization and Flexibility
‘Decentralization’–it’s a big word! It means moving functions from a central point to more local levels. The goal of this process is improved services and better compliance with applicable laws.
For example, growing legal complexities related to transferring money internationally and evolving national employment laws, require that some church business functions be decentralized. To achieve this, flexibility is needed in church organization and funding in various parts of the world. More flexibility and decentralization are aspects of our metamorphosis. In some areas, this will require national or multi-national organizations for church administration in the nation(s) and mission centers they serve.
World Conference will consider church bylaw amendments for decentralization and flexibility where and as needed. The gospel is not dependent on a particular church structure. The gospel is God’s creative Word incarnated in Jesus Christ and in communities of disciples and friends throughout the world.
Our church structure has changed over time in response to circumstances, needs, and emerging opportunities. Ideally, church structure should make it easier to share the gospel effectively. Adaptability and flexibility are essential in today’s dynamic world.
Also, capable church leaders, especially self-sustaining (volunteer) leaders, at all levels, are essential. Leadership formation and training in multiple languages, plus fully engaging younger
leaders must be a high priority.
Let me be clear, decentralization is not about autonomous congregations, mission centers, or national units. It is about areas of the church taking major responsibility for church functions and expressing our mission in ways appropriate to their contexts and degrees of church development. Examples of this are peace colloquies in Europe and Latin America, the Africa Leaders Training, the North American Climate Action Team, the Greater Kansas City Justice and Peace Action Team, field young adult leadership development programs, and national conferences making decisions in culturally relevant ways.
Here’s the challenge, however: We must gain degrees of decentralization for the right reasons while strengthening what binds us together as a worldwide movement. We are called to be a multi-cultural faith community seeking the peaceful reign of God on Earth. We must not diminish our divinely instilled vision of being a worldwide family in Christ.
Our global faith community is a precious gift to equip us to respond to God’s call. Our Enduring Principles emerged from a multi-cultural gathering of church members. There is no Community of Christ without global connections, mutual purpose, and reciprocal support. Groups that limit themselves to local interests miss this vital aspect of the cause of Zion and Christ’s vision. Being a worldwide community in Christ is a distinctive element of our identity. We are specifically called to show the world what peaceful community in Christ across human boundaries and cultures is like.
To what degree is your congregation or group aware of and meaningfully connected to the worldwide church?
How can this connection be strengthened to help people better understand Community of Christ’s identity and calling?
Part 7: Disruptive Trends as Challenges and Opportunities
Challenging trends are affecting the church in more affluent nations where the church has its longest history. Movement away from traditional forms of church is obvious as post-modern, individualistic, consumption-driven culture spreads. This is a “seismic shift” in how people view church relevance and involvement. It’s been happening for decades. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend as people have left regular church participation in even greater numbers and are seeking other ways to express spirituality. We truly are living in a new world that requires new forms of ministry. Simply doing what is familiar and hoping for the best will not suffice in these nations.
But there is opportunity! Amid shifts from formal church involvement, people continue to search for authentic spiritual connections with God, others, and creation. They are searching for meaningful “relatedness” as opposed to rigid doctrine and structure.
Community of Christ has been gifted for such a time as this! We must not miss this opportunity. People are responding as we connect the timeless practices of Christian spirituality with our emphasis on togetherness that fosters Christlike community and ministry. Innovation on the scale of metamorphosis is creating fresh expressions of the church. More of this is needed.
I want to emphasize the gravity of our situation in more affluent nations. We are expending massive amounts of effort and money trying to preserve what was designed for another time. We need to pivot to a future that involves openness to innovation in how we bring ministry in rapidly changing contexts.
The first step is to accept this reality. Then, we must concentrate our efforts to discern pathways into the future. Remember, in the gospel cycle of birth, death, and resurrection, things can appear bleak before new life arises. This is the meaning of transformation or metamorphosis as propelled by the Holy Spirit.
There is no one best model. However, there are approaches that may be used to reenergize ministry and relate to more people. One approach focuses on The Mission Prayer:
God, where will your Spirit lead today?
Help me become fully awake and ready to respond.
Grant me courage to risk something new
And become a blessing of your love and peace.
The Mission Prayer highlights three spiritual movements for individuals and groups:
- Become fully awake through spiritual practices.
- Courageously risk something new through group discernment and action.
- Become a blessing of God’s love and peace through Christlike ministry.
This approach opens individuals and groups to be more aware of the activity of the Holy Spirit in and around them. The key is to live—not just recite—The Mission Prayer! Living this prayer creates constant opportunities for spiritual growth, ongoing discernment of God’s call, faithful response, and adaptation to what is learned through reflection and innovation along the way.
- How could the “movements” of the prayer be used to focus and energize ministry in your group?
- What are you willing to let go of to respond better?
- How would you like church life that didn’t leave you feeling overburdened with tasks?
There are approaches that stress simplicity and focus instead of just working harder. They emphasize basic spiritual practices; deepening loving relationships in Christ in less formal settings; discerning God’s call together; offering ministry aligned with that call; and sharing sacraments.
This simplified approach is especially suited to smaller gatherings or those leaving a building. It emphasizes the most basic form of discipleship in community. Ironically, this approach might be a more authentic expression of the gospel than others that have evolved over time in complexity, internal focus, and cost.
I recently had a conversation with some young adult church members. They are not regular participants in church life. They talked about wanting a connection with the church but not being comfortable with most forms of congregational life. These young adults really like camps, retreats, and reunions. They talked about friends who had tried churches based on charismatic pastors and performance worship styles who did not find a sense of belonging there.
Having online as well as in-person options are important to them. They are open to reengaging with Community of Christ if relevant experiences are available.
I asked them what they were spiritually seeking. They are drawn to our Enduring Principles and Mission Initiatives, but they want to see them lived rather than just talked about. They want inclusive community that mirrors Christ-like love for all. They don’t want the same worship elements each week, lengthy sermons, or hymns with words and images they don’t understand. They want to do something for good in the
larger community and world. They want their children fully involved with them. They want to be able to doubt, question, and explore as part of their spiritual journeys.
This is a fantastic opportunity for a fresh expression of the church that exists in more places than one!
- How do you see the Holy Spirit working through this conversation with young adults?
- How would you respond?
- How might your congregation support others who feel called to respond?
Part 8: Continue to Bring Life to the Temple
I see photos and depictions of the Independence Temple on buildings, in homes, and on banners and clothing throughout the church. The Independence Temple is a powerful, unifying symbol of the church. It highlights Christ’s ministries of peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit. It inspires us to become living temples or sanctuaries of Christ’s peace wherever we live.
The Holy Spirit is urging us to continue to bring the Temple to life. Words of Counsel to the Church in 2019 state:
“Beloved in Christ, for many years you longed for a temple to the fulfill the hopes of generations. Now there is a Temple seeking fulfillment through a worldwide community the embodies divine light, generosity, and peace. Being a people of the Temple is a constant calling that finds creative expression through each generation.”
Many inspiring experiences have occurred in and through the Independence Temple. Examples are:
- The Daily Prayer for Peace that now is practiced in many congregations and at other church events.
- An international youth gathering spontaneously singing “Humble Yourselves Before the Lord” as an expression of unity in Christ.
- Singing “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning” with more gusto than I have ever heard before at the launch of Community of Christ Sings at the Temple.
- Numerous peace colloquies and granting of International Peace Awards.
- The vibrancy of the African-led ordination service at the 2019 World Conference.
- Special worship, spiritual formation, and community building ministries coordinated by the Center for Living Water.
- Personal, congregational, and mission center Temple pilgrimages.
The Temple heightens spiritual awareness. Awhile back a church member told me that he had heard “the ancestors singing from the Temple balcony” during a small group worship service in the Temple. Such experiences are mystical, deeply personal, and beyond explanation.
The Temple expresses the soul of Community of Christ and shapes our prophetic vision. A challenge has been how to meaningfully connect groups around the world with Temple ministries. Geographic and communications barriers have limited the Temple’s full impact. However, online technology can help overcome these barriers. Temple ministries that could be available through online connections include virtual multi-cultural worships with participants around the world, spiritual formation retreats, disciple, priesthood, and leader formation events, field-based peace colloquies, and networking to support forming local communities of peace, justice, and invitation.
What will it take in terms of personnel, volunteers, and other support for the entire church to contribute to and experience Temple ministries through online technology? The Temple is beckoning the church into the future as it enriches understanding of
“the essential meaning of the Restoration as healing and redeeming agent…inspired by the life and witness of the Redeemer of the world” (Doctrine & Covenants 156:5e).
Continuing to bring the Temple to life is a major aspect of our metamorphosis as we seek to follow Jesus Christ, the peaceful One! The divine call to continue to bring the Temple to life to transform the whole church is essential and applies to all of us! We each have an important role to play no matter where we live. To become a people of the Temple requires all of us to be on the spiritual journey to which the Temple calls us and seeks to equip us.
How are you feeling called to support continuing to bring the Temple to life?
What opportunities for Temple Ministries participation through online technology would you like to experience?
Send comments to [email protected]
Part 9: What is the Plan?
What is the strategic plan for the church?”
“What is the strategic plan for the church?”
I can offer material that answers this question. However, my basic response is: “You are the church’s strategic plan” or, better yet, “We are the church’s strategic plan!”
God’s plan of redemption and restoration is incarnation. Incarnation is the Eternal Word becoming flesh in Jesus Christ so that it dwells through communities of disciples that embody Christ’s ministry. In other words, all the dreaming, discerning, and doing of ministries locally and globally, as guided by the Holy Spirit, are the essential elements of God’s vision as expressed through the church.
It is vital that we get this concept! WE are God’s way of redeeming and transforming the world. Whom WE become in Christ and what we share of our giftedness and resources is how the reign of God expands on Earth. There is no detailed plan that can substitute for communities of disciples and friends discerning and Living Christ’s mission together daily.
Clarity we seek about the future will come as we journey together in response to guidance of the Holy Spirit and befriend all we meet along the way. Remember the Samaritan who had the courage to see as God sees and respond as God would to the wounded traveler (Luke 10: 25-37)?
Elephant and the Hummingbird
Recently, I was reminded of an old fable. One day an elephant was walking down a road. It saw a hummingbird lying in the road with its tiny feet pointed into the air.
“What are you doing, little bird?” boomed the elephant.
The bird replied, “I heard the sky might fall today, so, I am ready to help hold it up, should that happen.”
The elephant trumpeted a laugh that echoed off the hills and said, “Little bird, do you really think those spindly legs could help hold up the sky?”
The bird responded, “Well, not alone. But in a situation like this, one must do what one can do. And this is what I can do!”
In some cultural versions of the story, the elephant reflects briefly, then carefully lies down near the bird and points its massive legs toward the sky, too!
And, in yet more versions, other animals curious about this surprising sight gather asking, “What are you doing?” and “Can we help, too?”
One time I took our granddaughter, Bailey, who was seven at the time, with me to my office on “Take Your Daughter (granddaughter) to Work Day”. I set up a little table for her to use for her “office work,” which was mostly drawing and coloring. She produced an amazing picture of the Temple. Later I invited her to sit with me as we explored the World Church website and talked about the church. Then we looked up her family in the Ministry Information System (Shelby). We zeroed in on her name. By her name was the term “friend” since she was not yet baptized and confirmed.
She looked at the screen and then at me with puzzlement as she repeated the word “friend.” Then she said, “But Grandpa, I want to be more than that!”
Bailey was experiencing the stirring of Christ’s call to discipleship and whole-life commitment that has now continued through her baptism, confirmation, and continued growth as an active church member.
What about you? Do you sense the encouragement of the Holy Spirit to keep growing in discipleship and ministry, to be “more than that” at this point in your life?
Ruth Haley Barton in her book, “Life Together in Christ”, observes that:
“Spiritual transformation takes place incrementally over time with others in the context of disciplines and practices that open us to God. In general, while we are still on Earth, our transformation will happen by degrees (2 Corinthians 3:18), and we need each other to grow (I Corinthians 12).”
These are unsettling, disruptive, demanding, and opportune times! We can allow ourselves to be paralyzed by uncertainty and conflict or we can keep growing and transforming in Christ as we respond to opportunities and challenges. Let’s be and do all we can to move into the future with courage, creativity, and commitment. Let’s surprise ourselves and others as we grow in love, faith, ministry, invitation, generosity, and bold action with God.
I’ll see you at World Conference where important experiences and decisions await us!
Until then, Courage!