Friday, March 20, 2009

Unmistakable and Irreplaceable Presence

A church can choose its reputation, or it can just let it happen.

In talking to people in the community about our church, they often say, “Oh, you’re that church up on the mountain,” or “You guys just built that new church up on the mountain.” It’s nice that we have a visible location that instantly identifies us, but is that really how we want to be known, as “that church on the mountain”? Is that what we mean by “Light Unleashed,” that we shine some lights on our steeple?

That’s been bugging me for the last few weeks, and as I’ve thought and prayed about it, two words keep coming to mind: “unmistakable” and “irreplaceable.” If Light Unleashed is to mean anything close to what Jesus meant when he said, “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven,” it must mean that our presence in the community must be unmistakable and irreplaceable.

By “unmistakable” I obviously mean that our presence can’t be missed by the vast majority of people in the Frederick community, and I contend that in order for that to happen, much if not most of our ministry must occur off campus and in the community. Let’s face it, if people have to come here to see our ministry, then the percentage of the Frederick Countians who will ever see it will always be low. Our work must be out in the community, it must be where people live and work and play. It must be where people hurt, struggle, try to cope. “Unmistakable” means that our ministry must be pervasive in the community, either by a lot of little things that we are doing throughout the area, or through one or two really significant ministries that are hard to miss.

This is where “unmistakable” leads to “irreplaceable.” “Irreplaceable” is one of those words, like “inflammable” and “flammable”, where the prefix doesn’t change the definition, at least in the way that I’m using it. “Irreplaceable” means that something is so valuable and so significant that it is not easily replaced but that it must be replaced. Therefore our ministry must have a significant impact on our community. It must make a real impact on people’s lives and on the quality of life in Frederick County. Instead of evoking a comment of “Oh, that’s nice,” it should evoke an, “Oh, wow, that’s really needed.”

“Irreplaceable” also refers to a quality of uniqueness. Why duplicate what is already being done by other churches or agencies when there are needs being unmet by anyone. We need to look for the gaps that need filling, not adding more to the gaps that are already being filled. This leads to the test of whether or not a ministry is irreplaceable: if the ministry were to disappear, would anybody notice? Would anybody care?

I’m stating right up front that I don’t have answers to what an unmistakable and irreplaceable presence would look like. In fact, there’s probably not a single person among us who can tell us, but I’m counting on the fact that in discussing and brainstorming this with one another, we can begin to figure it out and it can begin to put flesh on these bones.

So we need to talk and listen to each other. Here’s what I’m suggesting. First, that in your groups, your Sunday School classes, your hallway conversations, you begin talking about it. Come up with some ideas, and be ready to share them or, even better, act on them. Second, since not everyone is in a group, I’ve scheduled two times for people to get together with me and we’ll talk and brainstorm: Sunday, April 5th at 2:00 p.m., and Sunday, April 26th at 5:00 p.m. We may schedule some other times, but this is a start. Third, I've set up a couple of online discussion forums so that we can share ideas with each other. One is on the church website, Just log in, and click on Groups, then on the First Baptist Church Group, and under messages you'll see one about Unmistakable and Irreplaceable. Click on that and you'll be able to read any previous posts and leave one of your own.

The other discussion forum is on Google Groups, and you don't have to be a member or in any way associated with FBC Frederick to enter the discussion, although I will moderate all comments before posting. There's a new link to that discussion here on the left, so go for it.

We can't afford to just talk about this, we need to act; but talking is a necessary first step to acting. We can get better ideas, we can improve on each other's ideas, and we can connect with others who share a passion for the same causes or needs. So, go!

1 comment:

  1. Richard talked about this Wednesday night. I'm really excited for what the youth group is going to be doing this summer.
    - Jennifer Kunze