Hope Lutheran Church
Welcome, Enrich, Serve & Proclaim
Twenty years ago, at the 1999 Annual Meeting, Hope Lutheran Church approved our current mission statement that was forwarded to the congregation after good and faithful discernment by the appointed taskforce. This mission statement was to cast a vision for what God was calling us to in the particularities of our community. Our call to Welcome, Enrich, Serve, and Proclaim continues to serve us well, however, some time has passed since we’ve given attention to what this means for us, especially now in 2019.
This August, we will dive into a preaching series centered on the themes of our mission statement, inviting us all to imagine what it means to welcome all, enrich one another’s lives, serve our neighbors, and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To spend time dwelling on God’s call for us as a community and individually is important work. Doing this good contemplation can keep us focused in a world full of distractions, can call us out of complacency, and reminds us to remain connected while recognizing the changing world around us. Here are a couple thoughts to get us thinking about our Mission Statement.
We claim our welcome is to ALL people. That is a radical claim, and one that is not always received from visitors and guests. Does that mean we should exclude this? By no means! Welcoming all gives us a target to shoot for, and invites us to emulate the welcome Jesus offers to all who are burdened by sins, heavy-laden by the world. This welcome we know Christians.
We’ve all experienced true welcome and hospitality before, I hope. What did that hospitality look like, and what did it feel like? What we do know about hospitality is that there is no one program to install and no quick fix that transforms a congregation’s welcome. True hospitality goes beyond a handshake or invitation to a table during coffee hour, and involves expressing genuine interest and attentiveness to visitors and guests. This transformation is cultural and depends on the whole community embracing a commitment to hospitality.
Our call to enrich one another’s lives inherently assumes we are connected in a way that we have access to each other’s lives. This is all about the relationships and fellowship we share as a part of the family of God. Ask what it means to be connected in meaningful relationships, and we’d get a variety of answers. What we can agree on, however, is that without connection, our ability to impact or enrich one another’s lives is impeded. Once connected, our fellowship through Bible study, worship, hanging out together, singing in choir, dining out, or a myriad of other ways we gather, impacts our lives in deep, meaningful ways.
We are sent to serve our neighbors and the world, but what does that mean? I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but service is rooted in relationships, particularly those with our neighbors and community. Though the Jesus gave us some mandates to care for the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, protect the widow, welcome the alien resident among us, and so on, there is no cookie cutter service plan for every congregation around the world. This is because there is no two communities that are alike, and each of our neighbors is different than the next. For our service to our neighbors to be most effective, we need to know who our neighbors are, what life looks like for them, and recognize that they have ways of serving us as well. This is why our model in the ELCA for mission and service work is accompaniment, meaning we come alongside our neighbors, walk with them, and in doing so all are blessed in the mutual connection we share.
Finally we are called to proclaim the Gospel in all we do. Many today embrace the quote, “Share the Gospel always, and when necessary, use words”. While there is truth in this, we also remember Paul’s words in his letter to the Roman church, chapter 10, verse 17, “faith comes through hearing.” If what we do is never attributed to the name Jesus, or our faith in Christ, how will our actions point to the Gospel? Further, we have a story to share, and as demonstrated in the early church and throughout history, it is the proclamation of God’s great love revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the promise of forgiveness of sins through his crucifixion on the cross that creates faith.
These are just some thoughts to get us thinking about what it means for us to Welcome all people, Enrich one another’s lives, and send believers forth to Serve, as we Proclaim the Gospel!