This January, our elders announced the beginning of a visioning process for the Conejo Church. A team of church members, representing various age and life stage cohorts in the congregation, was commissioned to work together with church consultant Jon Mullican to draft a vision description for the next twenty years at the Conejo Church. The group met seven times between January and May, sharing in demographic research, future dreaming, Biblical reflection, in-depth conversations, and prayer. This process included a larger gathering with the whole congregation on February 19, focusing on our prayers for the future of our congregation. In June, the group shared the results of this process with Conejo’s elders and ministers. This Sunday, members of the vision team will spend time unpacking the vision description below with our congregation.
“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.”
I will focus on the first part of this vision description: “The Conejo Valley Church of Christ seeks to be a thick intergenerational community of reciprocal love and grace…” The word “thick” deserves some explanation. We do not mean “thick” as in the British slang usage, which connotes “stupid, dull, dense, or insensitive.” A thick community imagines a community that is durable, sturdy, and long-lasting; a thick community envisions a deeply rooted and richly interconnected church family that endures through challenges, invests meaningfully in relationships, and is characterized by constancy, tenacity, and strength. The opposite of a thick community is one that is flimsy or fragile.
The phrase “reciprocal love and grace” connects the notion of “thick community” with two foundational New Testament words. The kind of grace we learn about in the story of Scripture describes unmerited favor and undeserved generosity. Such grace is reflected in Romans 5:8, “…while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” Love describes an unconditional care for others shown in word and deed. Such love wills the best for others, which means love is no pushover. Parents express love for children when they offer discipline and training. Friends express love for one another when they refuse to enable self-destructive behaviors. Love and grace work together in a community to create a space that is welcoming and charitable and at the same time highly committed to one another.
As we pursue God’s unfolding future for our congregation, may we continue to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). And may we do so as a thick community of reciprocal love and grace!