Why does it say becoming "authentically 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.
How can we participate if there are not practical, concrete things at this time?
The staff is developing additional concrete practices and/or activities. The first steps were the vision launch events and vision video, the May vision sermon series, and the May 15 first service of lament. The next step is an invitation to prayer throughout the month of May! Stay tuned for information about sharing our holy histories over the summer and some new concrete practices/activities.What is a holy history?
Stay tuned for more information on the Holy History Sharing. Later in May, the dates and specifics for these summer events will be shared.Is there concern that we are possibly focused too much focus on lamenting and that could cause more division?
We are divided presently on several levels: Thornapple, the American Church, and society at large. Lamenting is a move out of silence and into vocalizing that which is affecting us and causing us pain. As Christians we are called to share with each others’ joy and sadness (Romans 12:5). Lament helps us know what to do with our sadness in the presence of God and other believers.Can you explain a service of lament so I know if I will be comfortable?
The goal of the first service of lament was to not be repulsive. Lament is a part of the Christian life many of us are not familiar with. So, the goal was to introduce lament in an inviting and welcoming way. The process of lament, like other Christian practices, is personal yet there is beauty and value in walking through lament corporately as well. The May 15 service was recorded and is available HERE
How do we help ourselves become more dependent and open?
The vision invites greater dependence and openness. Like starting a flywheel, it will be slower at the start. Knowing our direction can spark progress. Though, bear in mind, we will move through this together because we feel the Holy Spirit is guiding us. In short, the staff and elders will be modeling greater openness. The pastors and staff will be helping us cultivate greater dependence.Can we go faster? (Don’t want this to take too long…)
Thornapple has moved faster in the past two years than it has in the past two decades, if not in its entire 42 year history! We are coming into summer, a time when Thornapple takes on a new rhythm as governed by how we spend our summers - cottage season, more travel, camps, etc. Honoring the time of what summer represents is important as it affords us the ability to galvanize plans for activity this fall.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.How do we know we are on track?
The visionary plan will be stewarded by Pastor Andrew, the elders and the staff. It includes metrics that help us know if we are on track. Reporting back to the congregation is part of it. As an example, we aimed for 200 people at the vision launch events, yet only saw about 150. Further, we aimed for 100 people at the first service of lament, but only about 60 were present.Why now?
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.How will it live out in the lives of the staff?
This vision has been being lived out in the lives of staff, elders, and the congregation. This was acknowledged by elders and staff as part of the verification process. The staff influences the congregation akin to how coaches influence players in sports. The only way this vision will take root is for the congregation to see it in the staff.---
The visioning team and the elders intentionally created the vision launch events to gather questions and give thoughts on the vision through small groups, large groups and question cards. The team welcomes your feedback via email (email@example.com) or face-to-face chats. Lastly, this week and next, the visioning team members are available for chats over coffee (check out the digital bulletin for details).