Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Vision for a new faith community

"What is The River like?" Maybe a better question is "Who are we being called to be?"

Life Changing
Small groups of people are where it's at. When asked where our church meets, we laugh. "All over the place," is our response. The church is about people, not buildings. Our Small Groups ARE the church. They meet regularly to share life; both its joys and struggles. You'll find them meeting in bars, malls, coffee houses and diners. You'll see them serving others in our community and beyond. And you'll hear about them starting new Groups. There are people all over the place who need to reconnect with God and with others; without new Groups we'd never get to share this journey with them. All kinds of friends are invited to walk along with us. They come because here they discover acceptance and love.

Love Redefined
Love is the melody and chorus of this song. Taking the example set by Jesus, we focus on loving and serving people as they are and where they are; no strings attached. Our motivation is to love people simply because they are loved by God. Instead of trying to get people to come to church, we bring the church to the people. When we tell the good news by BEING the good news, we offer Jesus in person to a world that is weary of being tied to religion. Living our faith in this manner results in light invading darkness. We believe that the love of God is realized with every kind act, every addiction broken, every injustice made right and every truth proclaimed.

All Things New
We stand for truth. The Truth that shouted "It is finished!" and passed into death, only to reclaim life three days later. We believe that because of the Cross, and only because of the Cross, broken people like us can reconnect with God. And we believe that this reconnection is only the beginning of true life. God is making all things new. We believe that God's vision of heaven, a kingdom of reconnection and restoration, starts here and will one day culminate with the return of Jesus. Everything will be restored to the way things were created to be. That longing in our hearts that something just isn't right in this world will vanish along with death, pain, sorrow, and isolation.

Inner Growth
No Lone Rangers are allowed here. We were created to live in community with God as well as each other. We want to be like Jesus so we take hold of His identity and allow Him to wrap His life around us, above us, beneath us, yes, even within us. We recognize that truly following Jesus is a process that does not come from just reading the latest books and taking a bunch of classes. Rather, we learn His ways as we serve others and walk with those on the Journey. The Way of Jesus is caught more than it's taught. As we follow Jesus, we begin to see changes that we couldn't bring about in ourselves. Miracles happen. We become more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient and self-controlled. We choose a lifestyle of purity because it's how we were designed to live and who we were called to be.

Discovering Identity
What's your name? We believe there is so much more to our identity than a jumble of letters assigned to us at birth. That's why we are focused on discovering God's name for us. Who are we really? What drives us? What are our passions? How are we gifted? How do we go from feeling like just another member of the human race to finding out who we were created to be? This isn't about what you do to get a paycheck; it's about your calling in life. As we discover our calling, we find ourselves walking alongside other people who share our passion and talents. Artists and Poets, Storytellers and Musicians, Dancers and Singers, etcetera, all find communities where they can connect with others. This quest for identity is a journey we cherish and celebrate.

Gathering to Honor
Once a week, all these groups gather together. Why? So we can honor God as a community of faith. We have had gatherings of the church in warehouses, garages, train stations, and houses. During these gatherings we take time to worship God through music, art, scripture, reflection and questions. We believe in a life that wrestles with questions. It's how we grow as individuals as well as a community. These gatherings are not about numbers. It's not about getting a crowd to sit in our seats; it's about helping people find out how they fit in God's story. A story about a kingdom unlike any other in human history. A kingdom not based on political might or brute force but rather the power of reconnection and restoration that can only be found in the love of God.

Creating a New World
A kingdom where the poor are rich and the lonely find family. Where justice and mercy slow dance. Where hearts, souls, and minds are opened and wisdom expands. Where we pour love on Jesus' tired, dirty, beautiful, aching feet whenever we serve another person. A kingdom where we receive our name and engage our calling. Where shattered lives and fragmented dreams find the hope that leads to restoration. We have caught a glimpse of this kingdom and we have found it captivating. We as the church have been called to get this kingdom started on earth as it is in heaven. The keys to this kingdom are in our hands. When are we going to unlock these gates? Who will help push the boundaries of this kingdom until it swallows up all that causes disconnection and suffering? As this River bursts forth we will flood our community with the tangible presence of Jesus Christ.