“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 (see above). In this series of articles, we’re reflecting on the various phrases in the vision description. This week, I’ll be reflecting on “embodying the… durable unity of the church in times of harmony (Acts 2) and of discord (Acts 15).”
“In times of harmony” describes a healthy state of the church, which is by no means her only state. In Acts 2:42-47, Luke describes life in the earliest days of the Church, a time of great devotion, vitality, and growth. Verse 42 offers a summary of some of the key practices that formed early Christ-followers: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” In addition to these practices, the apostles performed many wonders and signs. Believers shared their goods and possessions with those in need in ways that humble us today. The believers gathered frequently in their homes to share meals, they worshiped and praised God in the temple, they enjoyed a good reputation within the larger community, and drew others in with the life-changing message of Jesus. Our ardent prayer and vision is that the Conejo Church should be a thriving congregation, filled with such signs of life and vitality, understanding that health more than perfection is our goal.
“In times of discord” acknowledges that our shared life as a faith community, in addition to times of harmony, will feature misunderstandings, honest disagreements, wrestling together to understand and apply complex Scriptures, and new cultural situations that the church must struggle to navigate her way through. Acts 15 narrates the story of the Jerusalem Council, a gathering of the leaders of the early Church to reach a decision on a very divisive issue: the necessity of circumcision for the salvation of gentile converts (15:1). It wasn’t an easy decision, culturally or theologically. Yet the church leaders gathered before the assembled congregation to consider the matter, debated the merits of the case, testified to the workings of God’s Spirit, reflected on the story of Scripture, and kept Jesus at the center of their deliberations (15:11). We believe that such a model will serve us well in our shared future. It is no shame to have occasional disagreements; they happened in the early church as well. What is shameful is when we don’t love one another enough to gather and hear each other out while reflecting on Scripture and church history, while also utilizing our reason and experiences.
In every congregation, there will be good times and difficult times. Our vision is that we should not be surprised by the latter, but develop healthy practices together for working through the inevitable disagreements that come our way as a church family.