“The Conejo Valley Church of Christ seeks to be a thick intergenerational community of reciprocal love and grace, embodying the Christ-centered, Spirit-led character and durable unity of the church in times of harmony (Acts 2) and of discord (Acts 15). When we genuinely belong to each other and are actively equipped for service, we can be God’s ongoing blessing (Genesis 12) in the Conejo Valley and beyond.”
Earlier this year, our elders announced a visioning process for the Conejo Church involving a team of church members representing various age and life stages. That team worked with church consultant Jon Mullican to draft a vision description for the next twenty years at the Conejo Church. Last week, members of Conejo’s vision team introduced our vision description for the next twenty years (see above). In last week’s article, I reflected on what it might mean to be a “thick intergenerational community of reciprocal love and grace.” This week, I’ll reflect on “embodying the Christ-centered, Spirit-led character and durable unity of the church.”
“Christ-centered” may seem like a no-brainer for any church vision statement—we are “Christians” after all! But our intent is to emphasize that the goal of our shared Christian lives is to become more like Jesus in our congregational attitudes, practices, and behaviors, leading us more and more to exhibit Christ-like character in every facet of our shared and individual lives. The goal is not to be right about every debatable doctrinal detail. The goal is not to condemn others with whom we disagree on secondary matters of faith. The goal is not to endlessly argue and then divide in a quest for Biblical perfection. The goal is to drink deeply from the gospels and be formed by Jesus’ teaching, model faithfully Jesus’ actions, and participate creatively in his kingdom mission. When we’re in doubt about how to treat a person we disagree with, we remember we’re called to be “a community of reciprocal love and grace.”
“Spirit-led” describes a humble responsiveness to God’s leading through the Spirit. Spirit-led doesn’t mean 150 people individually doing whatever seems best to them in the moment; rather, it means we discern together through prayer, listening to Scripture, hearing each other’s perspectives, and considering what is wise and appropriate for the whole congregation. When the early church discerned together God’s direction on the question of circumcision of gentile converts to Christianity, their final decision was expressed as, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28). Spirit-led does take seriously, however, that we are each given a variety of spiritual gifts that get expressed through diverse personalities and temperaments. This means that God may lead or direct our congregation through a number of differing gifts that are found throughout the body of Christ.
“Durable unity” is an aspirational quality we’ll need going forward, given the many societal fault lines and political divisions in the United States. Like the early church, we believe that God can empower us to work together and be loyal to one another, even without political and theological unanimity. Durable unity is bigger than litmus-test politics and one-strike-and-you’re-out doctrinal stances, ever seeking to lift our sights to Jesus, ever inviting us to walk together as we grow in Christ’s character. Next week, we’ll reflect on what will enable us to manifest durable unity through good times and bad, “In times of harmony (Acts 2) and of discord (Acts 15).