Vision for Drayton Avenue Presbyterian Church by the Rev. Dr. J. Scott Miller
When a pastor first comes to a church, I believe he or she must spend those first several years learning about the congregation and the community in which it is located. As of June 1, 2008, I have been here 5 ½ years. During that time, I have listened and observed to the extent that I now have a good idea of who we are and what our community is like. It is on this basis that I feel prepared to share my vision for what I believe God is calling us to become. I offer this vision with both conviction and humility – with conviction because I truly believe it; and with humility because I recognize that no vision can be realized without all of us working together to bring it about.
Simply put, my vision for Drayton Avenue is that we become a community of faith that is vitalized by worship, nurtured through education, and committed to service. Some might say, “But that’s who we already are.” And my response to that would be, “Precisely. I believe God is calling us to become more fully who we already are.” I am convinced that the best way for this church (or any church, for that matter) to grow is for it to be faithful to its identity and to build on its strengths. A key strength of Drayton Avenue, it seems to me, is the deep sense of Christian community that people experience here. I want to see us deepen and broaden that sense of community. In order for that to happen, we must focus our energies on the three areas mentioned above: worship, education, and service.
Let me speak to each of these areas in turn:
Worship is the life-giving center of our church. All that we are and all that we do is rooted in our worship of God. It is common these days for churches to use adjectives like “contemporary,” “traditional,” or “blended” to describe what type of worship they offer. Such adjectives, however, tend to limit worship and draw attention to us rather than to God, who ought to be the true focus of our worship. Here at Drayton Avenue our worship seeks to glorify God, which as one of our confessions puts it is humanity’s “chief end,” our main reason for being. When we do that, moreover, we find that we are sustained by the presence of Christ in Word and Sacrament and empowered by the Spirit to go and bear that life-giving presence into a broken world. Working with our musicians and other worship leaders, I therefore envision that we will find even more meaningful ways to help worshippers of all ages to glorify God not only with their lips, but with the totality of their lives.
Education is a life-long process of Christian formation that begins at Baptism. In Baptism we are born anew into the family of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s expectation, however, is that we will not remain spiritual infants, but that we will grow in our faith into mature believers and committed disciples of Jesus Christ. Thus, the goal of Christian education is not just information (learning about the Bible), but transformation (applying its message to our lives and allowing it to change us from within into the people God has called us to be). In a day and age when many no longer know the biblical story, we must encourage one another to become more biblically literate. But beyond that, we must also help one another to interpret the Bible responsibly and faithfully so that it becomes a living Word in our lives through which God continues to speak to us. Working with our teachers, I therefore envision that we will find creative ways to engage more of our children, youth, and adults in learning opportunities that will deepen Christian faith and discipleship.
Service to others is one of the more important ways in which we live out our faith in Jesus Christ, who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). In a culture that urges us to serve ourselves first and others last, the gospel turns that around and calls us to serve others first and ourselves last. Expanding that to the church as a whole, we could say that the church exists not for its own sake, but for the sake of others. When we turn inwardly to serve only ourselves, we become stunted in our growth. But when we turn outwardly to serve others, we are renewed and energized for growth. Working with our leaders, I therefore envision that we will explore new ways to involve our members in serving our neighbors in need.
A community of faith that is vitalized by worship, nurtured in education, and committed to service can be a beacon of hope to those here in southeastern Michigan who find themselves sinking ever deeper into the darkness of despair. That is my vision for Drayton Avenue Presbyterian Church. With God’s help, let us together live into this vision and make it a reality.