Why does it say becoming "authentically and wholly centered on Jesus?”
We confess that other things have come into the center of our lives. While we would probably write a good paper about how we are centered on Jesus, our actions reveal that many other things have become more central than we realize: entertainment, politics, sports, news, ideology, comfort, convenience, control - just to name a few! We are invited to be honest and authentic with how other things have gotten in the way of Jesus. Instead of shame, this affords us freedom and the chance to recenter our lives again because as we center ourselves, we’re much more balanced in our approach to life.
How will that work out, practically speaking?
This means we are less attached to things like the translation of the Bible, worship style, our preferences in church life, etc. We recognize that we are a diverse group of people at Thornapple - always have been and always will be - and that rather than split hairs over things like partisan politics, ideologies, parenting styles, or our individual convictions, we will keep Jesus as far and away our number one priority.
What is “show our neighbors”?
American church life can easily look like private country clubs. Data reveals that churches of a similar age - approximately 40 years old, like Thornapple - naturally turn in on themselves. The church, as a structure, is an organization that exists not for itself but for the benefit of others. Christ’s love compels us to turn outward, to our neighbors, at school, on our streets, at work, on the soccer field, etc. In short, we are called to develop relationships wherever we go so that we can generously show the love of Christ to our neighbors in a real and ‘felt’ way.
God always works in the concrete situations and places of people’s lives. This vision speaks to both parts of how God works in history - taking broken things and making them beautiful. In addition, it addresses the divisiveness in the American church and society. God is taking Thornapple in a particular direction for a time, which we estimate to be 3-5 years. Where will God take us after that? We will have to discern that in due time!
How do we get conflict out in the open?
This question presumes: (1) There is conflict among us and (2) It is somehow closed off. As leaders, we agree! There has always been conflict among God’s people as we read in the Bible, as we know from Jewish traditions, and as we study Christian history. The prevailing question appears to be: is the conflict harmful or helpful? That question, and the resulting answer, is largely unique to the situation. Yet, we are called to walk together by faith, living in the discomfort of the unknown. In realizing this space of discomfort, we will lean into prayer for discernment as we seek to cause as little damage as possible when acknowledging conflict. We will also engage with outside resources to help guide us in this process.