Thursday, January 25, 2018

Prayer is How You Get There

It’s a wonder of modern technology, although younger folks take it for granted: using your smartphone for navigation. On a road trip maps aren’t needed; just type in an address and your phone tells you where to go.

It’s hard to get lost, and (good news for guys!) you don’t have to stop and ask for directions. But there’s something about smartphones that tend to make us less smart, and taking a trip can be something of a myopic experience. Sure, you get to where you want to go, but you don’t have much understanding at any point along the way where you actually are. And if you made an error in entering your destination — say, you enter “Gainesville, TX” when you really want to go to Gainesville, Virginia — well, you might go a very long way before realizing it.

Where is the church going? Some don’t think of the church as “going” anywhere in particular. Church is (in good ol’ Lutheran lingo) where the Gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered. We don’t really have to “go” anywhere, do we? Perhaps. But how we go makes a difference.

The church has always been in motion, always going somewhere. The early followers of Jesus were called “the people on the way,” with movement and adaptation to surroundings implied. Those who lament the changes from the way the church “used to be” — say, back in the 1950s and 1960s — don’t seem at all bothered by the fact that the church then didn’t look anything like the church of the 19th century, or the 16th, or the 2nd, for that matter. The church has always had to change, always adapting itself to the needs and peculiarities of its time. And with our world changing at its current pace, it is critical that we adjust our direction accordingly.

There is no app into which to punch in a desired destination, no piece of wizardry that will provide directions for every turn. To make matter more difficult, the church is prone to just “plug along,” doing things “the way we’ve always done them.” If we simply put our heads down, doing things as we’ve always done them without looking carefully at our surroundings and understanding the bigger picture, we may end up lost, disconnected from the world around us, and unable to fulfill our primary mission, to reflect the love of Christ and share in his work.

In the year ahead, Redeemer will journey together through a planning process that will help guide the shape of our ministry. We are calling this process Vision 2020 because the plans we make now will likely come to fruition in the decade to come. Details about the planning process will be shared as the process gets going later this winter.

To discern the church’s direction is the work of vision. There is no app, no boilerplate plan to follow. What we will be and do together in the years to come is discerned, prayerfully and thoughtfully. We are called into the future, attentive to the Spirit in each step and every turn.

What’s the first step? Prayer is how you get there. How else are we to discern our direction if we are not attuned to God’s guidance system?

Vision 2020 will seek to engage as many Redeemer members as possible in this visionary work, and prayer will be an integral dimension of it all along the way. The upcoming season of Lent provides the perfect invitation for us all to “go deeper.” (See the “Journey Together” article in this edition.) I encourage you to take advantage of every opportunity for renewal in the coming weeks to deepen your faith, to strengthen your trust, and to grow your love in Christ.