This blog is part of my ZionBound series. The full series can be read in post order here.
~ Resonate ∙ Relevant ∙ Redemptive ~
There have been many times when I have pondered what direction the church should move towards. We began in the 1830s as a Restoration church that sought to restore things to how they were in the New Testament; and while our understanding of “restoration” has deepened and broadened over time, we continue to regard ourselves, quite rightly, as “the Restoration”.
This can be seen in some of our most recent revelations, including:
“Be faithful to the spirit of the Restoration” –Doctrine and Covenants, Section 161:1b
“The spirit of the Restoration is not locked in one moment of time, but is instead the call to every generation to witness to essential truths in its own language and form. Let the Spirit breathe.” –Doctrine and Covenants, Section 162:2e
“Beloved children of the Restoration…” –Doctrine and Covenants, Section 164:9a
For quite some time I have had a sense that if Community of Christ is to have any hope of flourishing, it must be two things simultaneously:
1) It must be a Latter Day Restoration church.
2) It must be a 21st century church.
However, I’m sure that many people might wonder … can the church truly be both of these things? Oh my goodness yes! Another question might be “are those not incompatible goals?” Absolutely not!
So how do we ensure that we are both of these things? Well, the first part is of course very simple. By permitting ourselves to be what we already are – perhaps with a little more passion.
You see, we already are a Latter Day Restoration church. So, we just need to keep being that – we just need to remember who we are (and it might serve us well if we turn up the Restoration gauge a bit).
It is being a 21st century church that takes more work. To be that we need to be a church that is Relevant, which Resonates with people and which is Redemptive. If we strive to be these things, we will make wonderful progress toward truly becoming a 21st century church.
Happily, being relevant, redemptive and a church that resonates with people in no way conflicts with being a Restoration church. We do not have to surrender our Restoration theology in order to be a 21st century church as we strive to be relevant, redemptive and resonating.
In fact, there is some overlap in these concepts, and that fact helps answer the following question:
Why be a Restoration church in the 21st century? Well, as I hinted above, we have no choice, if we wish to flourish – or just survive.
More than ever, we need to embrace our Restoration identity, culture, and heritage. Why? For one simple reason: if we lose it, than we will become just another street corner church. Of which there are thousands. Many of which seem to be stagnating and dying.
If we want to be relevant, we have to exist, and if we become less than who we have been before, we won’t exist. Therefore our very Restoration heritage keeps us, in a very real and direct, if not always obvious way, relevant; and yes often our heritage might be relevant in less direct ways – but that does not make such relevance any less worthwhile.
Also, we cannot ignore the fact that one of the ways in which we do resonate with people is simply by virtue of the fact that we *are* a Latter Day Restoration church.
Through the wonders of social media, I have, many times, conversed with people outside of the church who are fascinated with our unique Restoration identity, culture, and heritage. Some of these people are serious seekers, desiring a new spiritual home in which God is not a distant figure, but a guiding voice. Quite simply, our Restoration theology resonates with people.
If our Restoration theology is deemed by some to be relevant and / or if it resonates with people, than of course it follows that it will also (hopefully) be redemptive.
Yet, I fully recognize that we cannot look only to our Restoration theology to ensure that we are resonating, redemptive, and relevant.
We need to make the mission, purpose, ministry and work of Jesus Christ our own; and we need to invite others to join with us. To do that, we need a message. A message of invitation. If we look to the example of Christ himself, he had his message of invitation: It was (and is) the Gospel, His Good News of God’s doctrine of salvation.
As Christ’s disciples, His message can be our message. In fact, it should be our message. But, not all the time. Not with all people. To put it quite simply, a lot of people today just don’t care about such things. At least, not right away. Many will hide behind their masks, resisting every opportunity to hear the Good News. Therefore, we need, in our ministerial kit bag, other messages of invitation.
Here comes the annoying part. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what your other messages of invitation will be, because it will be different for each of us. It will be different depending on who you are talking to and who you are ministering to.
However, I can think of three possible foundations, scripturally based, upon which to shape a message that hopefully we will all be comfortable with.
The first message foundation is based on Doctrine and Covenants Section 161:3a, which states:
“Open your hearts and feel the yearnings of your brothers and sisters who are lonely, despised, fearful, neglected, unloved. Reach out in understanding, clasp their hands, and invite all to share in the blessings of community created in the name of the One who suffered on behalf of all.”
You see, you might speak to someone who simply needs to be invited to a place where they will be loved. Where they will find acceptance. For being real. For being who they truly are. Where they don’t have to worry about rules or false perceptions. Or guilt. Where they will be valued for simply being who they are.
Our enduring principles, especially Unity in Diversity, and the Worth of All persons promote this type of accepting, welcoming community.
And there are people who are thirsting for that invitation, to be a part of a community like what we have in so many of our congregations and camping programs. For them, there may be nothing more relevant than being invited to belong to our community.
The second message foundation is based on Doctrine and Covenants Section 163:4a, which states:
“God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.”
You may encounter people who want to do something meaningful. They want to support a cause; they want to make a difference in the world. So we need to have ministries in place that anyone can be a part of, member and non-members alike. We need to have the means by which we unlock what people are passionate about.
Peace and justice, abolishing poverty, ending suffering. These are some of our World Church mission initiatives. We need to find ways to embrace them, and support them, and invite others to be apart of whatever it is that we decide to do, to bless our community. These are areas that will, if properly done, resonate with people.
The third message foundation is based on Doctrine and Covenants Section 162:7d, which states:
“Each disciple needs a spiritual home. You are called to build that home and care for it, but also to share equally in the outreaching ministries of the church. In that way the gospel may be sent to other souls also yearning for a spiritual resting place.”
Some people want a spiritual home. They want to grow in spirituality. To grow closer to God. There are people who want to be converted to peace. There are people who want to be converted to hope. And we can help them along that path, by increasing our own spiritual formation.
When I was at the Kirtland Temple in early November 2012, I came to realize that being religious and believing in God is not enough. We can’t just be religious, we can’t just be people of faith: we must also be spiritual. And many of us are. Yet many of us are less so, but all of us need to grow in spirituality, and encourage others to do the same, which can enable us to provide redemptive ministry.
Relevant. Resonating. Redemptive. If our message, whatever it may be, can support these notions, then we will be doing the work of the Lord. We will be supporting his mission, purpose, ministry and work, his message and his invitation.
If we can find diverse ways to promote these three concepts, then we will be well on our way to being a 21st century church, and if we combine that with continuing to be a Restoration church (which again, also promotes these three concepts), I feel assured that we will, like never before, drive forward the cause of Zion.
Questions to Ponder
What is your message of invitation?
How can you ensure that the church is relevant at the local level?
Does the church resonate with others? Does it resonate with you?
Are there times when the church is not redemptive? If so, why?