“Consider Your Call!”

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Intro to Strategic Planning)        July 3, 2016

(Isaiah 66:10-14   Psalm 66  Galatians 6:7-16   Luke 10:1-11, 16-20)

“Consider Your Call!”

There is a powerful African proverb that provides both a warning and an invitation:  when you travel a journey by yourself, you can go fast; but when you travel with another, you can go far!

There are numerous biblical stories of sending and journeying, people sent by God in the Old Testament, and disciples sent by Jesus in the New Testament.  Never are they sent alone!

Today we hear Jesus sending 70 disciples out in pairs into the harvest.   He tells them what they should and should not carry, how they are to be taken care of by those they visit, how they are to approach both those who listen to them as well as those who reject them.

Jesus gives instructions—carry no bag, no sandals, greet no one on the road, cure the sick, eat the food given to you, stay with friendly people.  When you run into those who are not friendly, make a big deal about it by going into the street and wiping the dust from your feet.

Being “sent” also means being “called” to move beyond ourselves, sometimes detaching from traditions and cultural norms that we have gotten used to, in order to prepare others to encounter Jesus, which is the central task of discipleship.

Which brings me to the central theme of today’s sermon.  This morning I want to share a vision for St. James, which grows out of a deep longing to keep this congregation vibrant into the future in its task of preparing others to encounter Jesus.

Some may call this Vision Mission Planning.  Others may call it Congregational Transformation.  We are using the term Long-Range Strategic Planning.

St. James is about to embark on a new journey.  This is a journey into our future.  We need not go fast, but we do need to go together; we need to take each other with us.  Pastor Andrew has mentioned this several times in the past few months in his sermons.  Now we are ready to begin this journey, although in many ways we have already begun.

Conversations to begin a strategic plan began more than 1½ years ago.  Since that time there have been many conversations with our congregation Council and with a Long-Range Planning Task Force.

Part of the excitement for me is that over the past 12+ years, I have gotten to know you as a congregation who understands the importance of living in the present, yet not forgetting our traditions, and at the same time looking toward the future.  In only 12 years since my being called as your lead pastor, we have written two mission plans and pretty much completed them.  We held a series of cottage meetings leading up to that first mission plan.  We’ve re-written our mission statement, our vision statement, and have written a welcome statement.  We’ve adapted to staff changes, pastoral changes, and as we have done this, we continue to welcome  new members. In many ways, this has been healthy 12 years, but there is more to do!

I am confident we are ready, so let me share a few specifics:

After many months of discussion, we have decided to invite an outside consulting firm to help us in this process.  There are many good reasons for using an outsider consultant.  The most important one may be that with a congregation our size, we have many people who have many different ideas as to what we see for the future of this congregation.  An outside consultant can more easily steer a congregation like St. James through the waters of diverse ideas.

We have chosen to work with the Samarian Counseling center in Lancaster to help with the Holy Cow! Consulting.

We are in the process of gathering a leadership team.

There is a fee:  approximately $1800.

There will be a prayer/discernment retreat with congregational leaders

We will collect data related to who we are and how we see our future here at St. James.  This data will be collected (hopefully) from every member of SJ.  There will be a few different ways to collect this data, which you will hear more about in the coming months.

My beginning point is that I deeply believe every one of us wants what is best for St. James, whether we’ve been a member for 65 years and seen lots of change, or whether we have just joined in the last year because we recognized something we’ve deeply appreciated within this faith community. I believe we all want what is best today and into the future.   Let me also say clearly, that every person’s voice and opinion is important and will be heard.

Beginning today, the month of July will be used by Pastor Andrew and me to lay a Biblical foundation for this journey.

There are several scriptural foundational points we will share.  Here are a few:

  1. Church as a Pilgrim People. 2.  A future rooted in God’s Promise. 3. The Resilience of Hope, trusting in God’s future.  You will be hearing/reading a whole lot more in the coming months.

And as the African Proverb reminds us:  When you go on a journey by yourself, you can go fast, but when you go with another you will go far.  We are embarking on this new journey for this congregation, and in order to get where we are being led, we need to go together-you, us, the Holy Spirit.  I believe this is who we are!  Amen.



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