You’ll see on this website that our “mission summary” is that “As East End Baptist Church, we are going to walk with Jesus and take as many people with us as we can.” You’ll see this statement come up again and again in the days around this church, and the resulting question: “Does this help us walk with Jesus and take as many people with us as we can?” is one of the primary factors in determining if we take something on as an action. The other question is “Does this glorify God?” If both of these questions are a clear “YES,” then we try to do it as best we can.
But what does this statement mean? Here’s the extended thoughts that underline each part of that statement:
First, “As East End Baptist Church:” this is who we are. “As” is selected rather than “at,” because the geography is not the main concern. This statement is a reflection of our purpose as a community of faith. If we are together somewhere else, we are still part of the community of faith, the body of Christ, that identifies “As East End Baptist Church.” This opening word reminds us that who we are is more crucial than where we are.
“East End Baptist Church” is how we identify our specific body of believers. We are unique in God’s Kingdom, unique in this point in history. There is a diverse mix of people that make up this body, and we are more than any one particular individual or small group. Further, we are unafraid of our heritage as Baptists, though we acknowledge that much grace has been poured out on us. As a church, we know that we are part of a community larger than we can see, as the church is not only the local body but all the redeemed of all the ages.
“As East End Baptist Church,” reminds us that this is our part of the mission that God gave the church. It is assigned to us, here and now, and not something that we can farm off to another. Neither is it something that we can accomplish by simply copying the work and methods of another church. Our work must match our understanding of the Lord’s assignment to us.
“We….” while every action of the church requires individual participation, this is not a summary of God’s command for your life. Instead, this is our unified summary of God’s directions for the body as a whole. “We” means that this is not just for the pastor or the deacons, the leadership team or the outreach team, but for the whole of the church.
Additionally, “We” reminds each of us that we are not in this mission alone. God has given us not only the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower us, He has also given us the fellowship of believers to support, encourage, and keep us focused in our work. “We” includes the newest of believers to the most seasoned, the youngest to the oldest. There is no one left out of “we.”
In that regard, we will strive that no one faces the daily challenge of walking with Jesus in a lost and dying world alone. To that end, we endeavor to pray honestly for one another, share openly with one another, and live with integrity together, not isolating ourselves from day to day. This type of community requires a trust that runs two ways: first, as a body we trust each other to speak and live the truth with us, even if it is unpleasant. Second, we trust each other not to abuse that trust in our treatment of one another. This starts with respecting one another fully, excluding sinful actions from how we treat each other. That includes avoiding gossip and slander, and extends to refusing to use the community of faith as a marketing group.
“Are going…” this is not a predictive statement. It is a commitment statement. Obedience to the Word of God requires effort and diligence, and we commit to do this. Further, we note that this is an ongoing aspect of our lives as disciples of Jesus. We cannot simply check this off the list one week and be done for life. “We are going” is a statement that reflects the need for action in the lives of believers, not waiting and hoping someone else does the work.
And as “we are going,” we are not leaving anyone behind. We, the body of Christ, cannot spare a foot, a hand, an eye, or a liver to inaction. We are going, all together, in obedience to the Word of God.
“…to walk with Jesus…” Jesus is at the center of everything that we do as a church family, and walking “with Jesus” is our primary mission. This requires a few things of us, which “we are going” to do:
First, we must know Jesus. At its core, the church is made of those people who are redeemed by Christ’s death on the cross, who know Him and the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings. Those who are not in Christ are welcome to observe our actions, participate in our services, but the first step in accomplishing this mission is that we walk with Christ. This is different from all being listed on the church list, and in fact the “official membership” of the church should only be those who believers in Christ.
Second, we must know Jesus. There are many now, as has long been true, who would warp the image of Jesus for their own purposes. Some would warp Him into the image of the culture, to approve of whatever the lusts of the moment desire. Others would warp Him to their power and control, even in the name of strengthening, purifying, or protecting the church. Yet Jesus Himself is unchanging and unchanged. We must know Him as He is, as He has revealed Himself through Scripture. And it is for Him to change us, not for us to change Him.
Third, we must know Jesus. We must know what He would do, where He would go, how He would act. If we do not know this, then how will we walk with Jesus? If we do not know that He would bind up the brokenhearted, then we won’t be there for those in need. If we do not know that He would serve, then how will we know to serve? We must know that Jesus is Lord of All, not just lord of the people that look and talk like us.
Fourth, we must go “with” Jesus. He sets the direction, He sets the pace, He sets the pattern. We do not pull that information from the society around us, nor from our own goal-setting workshops. We stay “with” Him, not running off to the next thing that draws our attention, even if it is a good thing. Jesus also determines who else goes “with” us, because if we are “with” Him, then anyone else who is “with” Him is also with us. And we do not get to tell Him who He can bring.
Fifth, we “walk.” Again, we are reminded that the Christian life is not one of static stuffiness. We are actively engaged in obeying the Lord Jesus Christ, not passively waiting to cross over to the other side.
“…and take as many with us…” reminds us that we are not satisfied with going alone, or even in small groups. We believe, firmly, that apart from walking with Jesus a person is judged for all eternity, and will bear the weight of that judgment for all time. That is neither God’s intention nor ours, even for those we count as our enemies. We will therefore walk through this world seeking, actively, to bring others to a relationship with Jesus.
“Take” sounds aggressive, and it expresses our intent to seek out and engage the world that is separate from the love of God. We do not believe that disciples are made by force, nor that disciples can be made by renting or tricking the affections of people. Instead, we will present the truth as plainly as we know it, while making clear the beauty of walking with Jesus to the people we know. We will build relationships with others to show the love of God to the people we encounter.
“with us…” is a reminder that we will not abandon new believers to figure life out on their own. We will build on the relationship that exists, and help draw new believers ever nearer to the Lord of us all. As we do so, we will learn and grow together, believing that God did not intend closed community as the life of His people.
“…as we can.” We are not satisfied with pushing our church attendance to a certain level, or with attaining an arbitrary goal. While we draw breath, we will use it to proclaim the Gospel to the world. As God enables to go through our normal walk of life, we will continually seek out those who need Him. We will not abandon anyone whom God has not abandoned. We will use the fullness of all God has blessed us with: material wealth, time, skills, health, all that we have–to share the Gospel. We recognize that there are not enough of us here to do all the work, but that does not excuse us from doing as much as possible.
Further, “we can” should be considered as defined by the power of the Spirit of God. Apart from being connected to the true vine of Christ, “we can” do precisely nothing. With Him, though, all things are possible. Therefore, we understand that “we can” is defined by our limits but by His power.