I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. But here I offer here a vision for the church I serve, Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Wasilla, Alaska). This isn’t an “official” mission statement of the church, nor something the elders have written together. Rather, it is my idea on what a church should be and what our church should strive for. Also, this vision isn’t comprehensive, covering every aspect of what a faithful congregation should look like. But I hope this rough sketch is a vision worthy of the Savior who loves his church and died for her (Eph. 5:25).
First of all, and most of all, we should be a worshiping church. Our highest and noblest calling, and the very purpose for which God has made us his own in Christ, is to proclaim his excellencies (1 Pet. 2:9). God – Father, Son, and Spirit – should be enthroned upon the praises of our congregation (Ps. 22:3) as we worship in Spirit and truth (Jn. 4:23). We ought to worship from the heart (Isa. 29:13), being filled with gratitude towards God (Ps. 100:4), and desirous that Christ, not ourselves, is the center of worship and that he alone receives the honor, praise, and glory. In the presence of our God and Father, a God who is at once majestic in holiness (Ex. 15:11) and mercifully near to all who call on him (Ps. 145:8), our hearts should be both awestruck and full of joy (Heb. 13:28; Ps. 16:11).
In worship, the glory and beauty of Christ should be impressed upon the hearts of all, and the gospel of eternal life faithfully proclaimed from the pulpit. May those who know Christ by faith embrace again the good news of their salvation with the same wonder and joy they felt the first time they believed. For those in worship who are not yet believers, Christ should be so preached and praised, that they may come to faith, declaring, “God is really among you” (1 Cor. 14:25).
Every part of worship should exalt God and edify God’s people. We should expect to be blessed by the sacraments, knowing God gives grace to his people through them (Rom. 6:4; 1 Cor. 10:16, 17). Our hearts should be united in earnest and zealous prayer. And our singing, robust and heart-felt, should praise Christ and build up one another (Ps. 147:1; Ephesians 5:19).
My vision for Grace is, without apology, Sabbatarian. God has given us the Lord’s Day as our Christian Sabbath (Ex. 20:8; Rev. 1:10), for our own good (Mk. 2:27) and as a sign that he is our Savior (Deut. 5:15) and Sanctifier (Ex. 31:12, 13). Therefore we ought to endeavor to keep it holy. We should devote the day to rest and worship (Ex. 20:9, 10; Heb. 10:25), not as though it is a burdensome duty, but because we sincerely delight in it (Isa. 58:13).
In a world plagued by broken and strained relationships, where so many suffer hurt and loneliness, where can genuine community be found? Ideally, among the redeemed people of God (Acts 2:42-47). The fellowship at Grace should be marked by compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Col. 3:12). The people of Grace ought to serve and encourage one another (1 Pet. 4:10; 1 Thess. 5:11). When someone sins against another, forgiveness and reconciliation should quickly follow (Col. 3:13). We ought to be holy (1 Pet. 1:15, 16), not holier-than-thou, so that we welcome and embrace the repentant brother who stumbled in his faith (2 Cor. 2:6-8). We should pray for and with one another (Eph. 6:18; Acts 2:42), bear each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), and rejoice and weep together (Rom. 12:15).
In sum, ours should be a fellowship of love: unfeigned love (1 Pet. 1:22), bold love (Eph. 4:25), long-suffering love (Eph. 4:2), Christ-like love (John 13:34). Those who do not know Christ should not only hear us confess the name of Jesus, but they should “see” Jesus in our love for one another (Jn. 13:35).
And our families should be led and encouraged to pursue this same love, and biblical order, in their homes (Eph. 5:22-6:4).
Our congregation should be one in heart and mind (Phil. 2:2), a Spirit-wrought unity that goes far deeper than a begrudging co-existence (Eph. 4:3)
Grace should be a congregation always growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). We should love God’s Word (Ps. 119:97) and strive to better understand all that God has revealed in it (Acts 20:27). That includes knowing sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). The Westminster Standards comprise my confession of faith and our church’s doctrine, so my vision includes a growing understanding of the system of truth contained in them. But this doctrinal truth must take root in the heart as well as in the mind, so that all biblical and theological knowledge will not puff us up (1 Cor. 8:1) but humble us, and lead us to say with Paul, “Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom of knowledge of God!” (Rom. 11:33).
We are a covenant people (Lev. 26:12). God’s covenant promise is to be our God, and the God of our children (Gen. 17:7). 20, 30, or 40 years from now, when our children are far into their adult lives, what will they remember about Grace? Will they remember a church where they were loved and patiently instructed in the faith, and where they saw many examples of godliness? My vision for Grace is that through her ministry, we will see God’s covenant promises for our children will come to pass as our sons and daughters are brought to Christ and built up in the truth (Col. 2:6). Parents (especially fathers – Eph. 6:4) should be encouraged to bring worship and instruction into their homes with family devotions and catechizing.
As our Father in heaven is generous and kind to the poor and needy (Ps. 72:12), and as Jesus performed countless deeds of mercy, so Grace should abound in compassion and care for those in need. We should help one another, and help those outside the church (Gal. 6:10; 1 Thess. 5:15).
Likewise, as a church, we should give of our resources generously and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:6, 7). God’s grip on our hearts should be tighter than our grip on our wallets! We should abound in the giving of our resources to sustain the ministry of the church and to support the work of the Kingdom elsewhere. Blessed shall we be to have the reputation of the churches in Macedonia, who gave joyfully and abundantly despite their poverty! (2 Cor. 8:2).
As for outreach, my vision for Grace is simply that we seek to make Christ known to others, doing our part to fulfill the Great Commission of making disciples (Matt. 28:19). Whether it is church members’ faithfully bearing witness to Christ to others (1 Pet. 3:15), or inviting them to church, or by some other means, as a church we must to seek to take the good news to those who are without God in the world and have no hope (Eph. 2:12).
So there you have it, one pastor’s vision for his church. I am sure there is much I have left out. But I hope this at least gives a sense of God’s will for us as congregation.
We are a modestly-sized church, some would even say small. We don’t have an impressive budget or a pastoral staff. We don’t even have a church secretary. There isn’t a slew of programs at Grace. Each Sunday, about 70 to 80 souls gather in our sanctuary, take their seats on used pews – mostly in good shape – and worship together as a congregation. As of this writing, we haven’t turned Alaska upside down (cf. Acts 17:6) or set the state on fire for the gospel. And despite our decades-long presence here as a Reformed church, Wasilla has yet to earn the nickname, “The Geneva of the Far North.”
But this vision above describes the sort of church I pray Grace will become. By God’s grace, in some ways we already see some of these realities, at least to a certain degree. And so I give thanks and praise to the Spirit of Christ for his present work among us. My hope, however, as the months and years go by, is that our congregation will more and more conform to this biblical ideal.