Pastor’s Note: A short reflection on where we are headed…. Part 1

Howdy City Road friends,

During the past year or so we’ve been focusing on regaining a sense of purpose and vision for our ministry here in Madison. A big part of what I’ve tried to do in my year and a half here has been to listen about where we’ve been, research the reality of where we are, and to dream big about where God might be leading us. I’ve talked with many of you about parts of what I’ve been hearing, and have met with our church leaders to flesh out our plans for carrying God’s mission to Madison, but we are just now beginning to articulate that mission in a broad sense. I think God is calling us to an exciting place, and want to share a bit over the next several days about where I think we’re headed as a congregation.

The starting place, of course, is the recognition of where we are today. I think we all can agree that the Madison where we are located today is not the same Madison from just 25 years ago when City Road built the Fellowship Center to enhance a flourishing program ministry. Much of the the surrounding neighborhood has fallen into poverty. There has been a significant increase in the number of homeless folks around us. As the community has struggled, so to our congregation has struggled to maintain the level of programming we saw back in the day. Yet, even as the numbers have dwindled, City Road has maintained a strong ministry in addressing the needs of the impoverished (through things like the Community Meal, Room in the Inn, Sunday’s Table, and other outreach programs) as well as reaching out to area children and their families (through the Child Development Center, Mother’s Day Out, and Shadetree programs). From the very beginning, I’ve observed City Road as a place with a strong “missional impulse,” meaning that part of our ethos involves reaching out with the love of Jesus Christ in tangible ways to our neighbors. It’s just simply part of who we are as a church.

As our leaders met together to think about where we are headed, we considered two types of churches in the U.S. today (there are more than two types, but there seem to be too focuses in most of American churches). One holds to an attractional model of ministry, in which the focus in on developing programs which entice people to come to the church building. The other is a missional model, where the focus is on carrying out God’s mission to the world around us, using the facilities as a tool for carrying out that mission.

Another way of thinking about this is to contrast what some would call a consumeristic church and the missional church:

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I could make the argument that the early movement of the people called Methodist were very much rooted in the notion of a missional church, however over time, the Methodist fell into a more consumeristic model.

As our leaders met and talked, we all agreed that City Road didn’t seem well suited for trying to carry out the attractional model. There’s nothing wrong with being attractional on the surfact (and there are several megachurches in our area that do it well), but we believed that our location and our ethos leant itself more toward the missional understanding, and that our future lay in understanding ourselves as a mission outpost for the people of Madison. Our vision is to be a community of disciples of Jesus Christ committed to growing in Christ and sharing God’s love, leading us to make a difference in Madison. 

So how do we do that?

As our leaders met and talked about what we are currently doing and where God might be leading us, two areas of focus came to mind:

  • To help children and youth experience God’s love in a safe environment and provide relationships and resources that move children and their families toward spiritual and personal maturity and success.
  • To offer God’s love to the un-housed and impoverished of Madison, building relationship and providing resources to support the “least of these,” helping them move toward physical, emotional, and spiritual wholeness.

These foci shouldn’t surprise anyone, because they reflect what we are already doing. We are already engaged in ministry with children through our Mother’s Day Out, Child Development Center, and Shadetree programs. We already work with those in poverty through our Feed the Need, Community Meal, Room in the Inn, and Sunday’s Table programs. Again, they are part of who we already are, and are consistent with where we see God calling us.

At the same time, there are several new ministries in the works which likewise focus on these areas. We are working to create an afternoon/evening program for youth utilizing the Fellowship Center. Based in our relationship with some of our homeless members, we are creating a hangout space for folks with no where to go during the day, and we are looking at several creative partnerships to more fully utilize the Neely’s Bend Building in carrying out God’s mission to those in need.

Yes, God is doing some exciting things! To quote the prophet Jeremiah, God has plans in mind for us . . . plans of peace, not disaster, offering us a future filled with hope.

There is a whole lot more to say about where God is leading us, so be watching for my next article where I hope to unpack some of the values that underly all we are doing.

God is good! All the time!

Jay

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