I am currently preparing for a leadership retreat in September, and therefore I’ve been pouring over ECPC’s vision vocabulary (e.g. See. Savor. Serve. …Marriage, Family, Feasting). If I had to add two more “S” words I would choose “Steadfast” and “Style.” By steadfast I mean to emphasize the fact that, on one hand, we are simply put into the ECPC community (despite what our preferences may be); like all families, ECPC is a diverse composition of personalities and preferences, and we endure with each other not because our preferred styles synchronize, but because we are siblings set in each other’s midst against our will. On the other hand, we do in fact have stylistic preferences (sometimes even rising to the status of “almost vitals” or “almost principles”), and therefore we must have candid, clear, and compassionate conversations with one another about these cherished desires which we harbor in far greater abundance than we care to admit (…if we admit our desires we run the risk of having them diminished or dismissed, so we often choose to conceal them). If we look at Jesus, we see Him putting a diverse group of people (with various divergent tastes and priorities) together, and insisting that they love each other with endurance, steadfastness, and devotion. At the same time, we see Jesus incessantly pushing a particular style of ministry and life (e.g. “foxes have holes, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” [Matthew 8:20; Mark 10:25]).
I invite you to read the ECPC vision below, and then ask yourself: How do I specifically, measurably, aggressively, realistically, and regularly see myself participating in this vision/mission?
Our vision is to be a church defined by The Gospel (Heb. 12:1-2).
Our mission is to invite, equip, and exhort people to See, Savor, and Serve our Lord Jesus.
- Jesus Christ as King of kings (Rev. 19:16), and Savior of sinners (Matt. 20:28).
- Ourselves as made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), and as sinners deserving of God’s wrath (Jer. 17:9).
- Jesus Christ and our redemption found in Him alone (2 Cor. 5:21).
- The Church, the diverse body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12), bonded together by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:42-47).
- The Church, the bride of Christ, by sharing, investing and involving ourselves in each other’s lives (Rom. 1:11-12; Gal. 6:1-10).
- East Charlotte and the world’s people and places in need of Jesus (Jn. 10:10).
We worship Jesus through the means which He has supplied: preaching, praying, singing, and sacraments.
We experience life together as a church family because of the unity we have through Christ.
We see all of life through God’s eyes.
We are employed in the Lord’s work in the world.
…Another way to articulate our values is to simply say that we are ALL ABOUT:
M A R R I A G E , F A M I L Y , & F E A S T I N G
The imagery of marriage is throughout Scripture (Gen. 2:23-25; Ex. 4:26; Isa. 54:5; 61:10; 62:5; Hosea; Matt. 25:1; Mk. 2:19; Rev. 21). We believe that it is impossible to rightly understand and apply Scripture unless it is read and interpreted as a covenantal/marital document (Ezek. 16:8-14). The Bible begins and ends with the covenant of marriage front and center (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:23-25; Rev. 21-22). The imagery of marriage permeates Scripture, and ultimately Scripture reveals that marriage is all about the relationship between Jesus Christ & His Bride – the Church (Deut. 25:5; SoS; Isa. 62:3-5; Hosea; Matt. 9:15; 22:30; 25:1-10; Lk. 5:34-35; Jn. 3:29; Eph. 5:32). If we fail to see ourselves as Jesus sees us (i.e. as His beloved Bride), we soon cease to be a true church. Therefore, special attention is placed not only upon the overarching biblical story of Christ’s pursuit of His Bride, but also upon the importance of the marriages represented in our local church (1 Cor. 7; Eph. 5:22-33). We invest time, energy, and money in pre-marital and marriage counseling, mentoring relationships, date nights, and a complimentarian perspective of marriage; and we encourage & equip husbands and wives to serve together (Acts 18:18, 26; 1 Cor. 16:19). Marriage inescapably effects and influences ALL of us in the most formative sort of way. By God’s created design, our very existence is contingent upon the promise and/or privilege of marriage. The story of Scripture is at its essence a story of marriage, and this story doesn’t just entertain or enlighten us …it holistically shapes us.
The imagery of family is throughout Scripture (Gen. 4:9; 12; Ps. 22:22; 50:20; 122:8; 133:1; Hos. 2:1; Mal. 1:2; Matt. 5:22-24; 12:46-50; 18:15-21; Lk. 22:32; Acts 2; 9:17; Heb. 10). In our union with Christ we find that Jesus has taken the liberty of inseparably connecting us to His Body. Jesus insists that we belong, engage, contribute, and live in reliance on others. We are called into fellowship with God and with one another. Jesus tells us that our love for God cannot be separated from our love for one another (Jn. 13:35). It is the will of God that we not only be born again (Jn. 3:3), but much like our first birth we are unavoidably born into families. The family of believers is to be a diverse (yet not divided), unified (yet not uniform) body (1 Cor. 12:21-26). Much like our first family, we perhaps wouldn’t even choose to be friends with our fathers, mothers, brothers, and/or sisters …but we nonetheless find ourselves inseparably connected to them, and persevering in our relationship with them (e.g. every Thanksgiving …there we are, gathered together again!). Jesus actually makes it clear that our church family is more primary than even our biological family (Matt. 12:46-50; Luke 14:26). Moreover, people are best cared for in the context of family, therefore we intentionally emphasize small groups, meeting for meals, Bible study, and prayer in homes. We seek to serve our neighbors and those whom God has placed in our sphere of influence, eager to invite them into the familial fellowship of the church. We engage and minister to one another as family, and we seek to serve our neighbors and the community of East Charlotte – including the widows, the orphans, the oppressed poor, the foreigners and the refugees in East Charlotte – as family.
The imagery of feasting is throughout Scripture (feasting fosters & nourishes marriage & family) (Gen. 19:3; Ex. 12; 23; Lev. 23; Deut. 16; Neh. 8; Isa. 25:6; 55; Matt. 22; Lk. 5:29; 24; Jn. 6). Practically, and most regularly, family is community gathered ‘round a table. Feasting fosters and nourishes relationships. God’s people are called to regularly and lavishly feast with God and one another throughout Scripture (Exod. 12:14; 23:16; Num. 28:26; 29:12; Deut. 16:16; Esther 9:21-22; Matt. 9:11; 14:16; 15:32; 26:26; Luke 15:23; 22:15-16; 24:35-47; Jn. 6:50-58; Acts 2:42; 10:13; 27:35; 1 Cor. 11:23-25; Rev. 19:9, 17). The most regular and lavish feast disciples of Jesus are called to partake of is the Lord’s Supper. Moreover, meals are inherently relational and life-giving, and therefore we minister with and amongst one another via food.