Spirit Alive: What is Your Church's Signature?
Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.
September 13, 2016
With Heart, Soul, and Mind:
What is Your Church's Signature?
"And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch."
Acts 11: 26
We are all known to others for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is because of things that people see us do, while at other times it is about what people hear about us from others. In a way, you could say that our "life work" is a kind of signature that we leave behind for others to see. And...our signatures are one of our distinct characteristics as people. No one signs their name in quite the same way, but each of our signatures matter...they say something about who we are.
When I was the District Superintendent for the Columbia District, I often asked my congregations: What is your church's signature? What I meant by this was...How are you known to others in the community? What do others see in you? What marks have you left behind that reflect what you are all about?
How would your church answer these questions?
What do you think others would say about who you are? What would they notice? What would matter to them? What conclusions would they draw? And...as in Antioch, would they say: "Now these folks are truly followers of Christ."
We all have signatures as individuals...
I recently returned from a special event in Oklahoma City with my two brothers, Mark and Gordon. We had been invited there to attend a special event in which our father, Alfred Greathouse, would receive an award and be inducted into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame. Our Dad taught banjo, guitar, and accordion for nearly fifty years, and he was being recognized for his contributions as a teacher and instructor of the banjo.
What made it such an amazing and humbling experience for us was the fact that he was being honored for his work twenty-two years after he died in 1994. His instructional book, The Banjo Players Bible, published in 1970, was his signature piece. For us, it was an honor to receive this award on our father's behalf.
One of the things that I said in our family's acceptance speech was that I was humbled to realize that our father's teaching and writing of instructional books mattered to others so many years after his passing. People pay attention to what we are doing in our lives...sometimes even when we are gone. Indeed, our signatures matter!
But what is true of us as individuals is also true of us as communities of faith. People are paying attention. They are curious to know what we are all about. In fact, the truth of the matter is that what we know about the Early Christian Church is what we learn about them from Paul in his letters as he shares what he is witnessing in these various Christian communities. And in Corinth, Ephesus, and Galatia...just as with us...we are known to others by our fruit.
So when something we do gets in the news, we become known pretty quickly. Consider, for example, these stories and what they say about the "signatures" of the congregations at University Park and Eugene First United Methodist Churches. What do you think they tell others about those church communities?
Portland Tribune: Church to Build Affordable Housing
Music Heals: December 6th, 2015
We can't always be in the news, but we can grow and bear fruit for others to see. If someone asked you what your church's signature looked like, what would you show them?
Blessings on your journey,
Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. It seeks out where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities.