Our vision can be summed up in the words “Mission and Maturity.”
What does it mean to be “missional”? A missional church is a servant church. We believe Jesus Christ has sent his church into the world to manifest the life of the future kingdom in the present time (John 20:21), in order to draw the nations into the family of the Savior. Christ continues to fulfill his mission through the church, which is his living body, and which represents his presence on earth. We desire for others to witness our love for one another and the quality of our community life so that they may know that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one sent from the Father to be the Redeemer of the world (John 13:34; 17:21). We have been given the life and gifts of the kingdom in order that we may share these treasures with others, transforming the fallen cities of men (including Birmingham!) into the glorious City of God. The church herself is an alternative city, a kind of counter-culture, showing the world in a microcosm the shape and structure of a renewed human civilization under God’s blessing. But as the church acts a counter-culture, she also becomes the transformer of culture, more and more shaping the wider world into the kind of society God desires.
We know that the church does not exist solely for her own benefit; like her Savior, she is called to die for the life of the world. Thus, we don’t want to simply “throw rocks at the culture;” instead we seek after ways to serve the culture in the name of Christ, that it might be transformed and renewed, that the kingdoms of this world might more and more become the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe the secret to cultural transformation is not education, politics, or programs (as good and important as all those things may be in their own right). Rather transformation comes as God’s people practice worshipping him in holiness and truth; as they begin living lives of self-giving love for their neighbors; and as they strive to embody the way of the cross in all their cultural endeavors.
Being missional means we seek to show the world that only in the light of the gospel story can we begin to make sense out of life -- including our sufferings, our joys, and the wider scope of history. We seek to embody this story in how we live as a church and in how we engage those outside the church. We desire to be a missional church in all we do, empowered and impelled by the gospel, as we reach out to the community and world around us in love and humility, serving in word and deed, and showing forth hospitality and mercy.
What do we mean by “maturity”? We believe the ultimate aim of life is conformity to Christ’s image, as the Crucified and Resurrected One. To this end, we believe Jesus has gathered his people into the church in order that through the means of word, sacrament, and fellowship, we might come to be the kind of people God intended from the beginning, full of faith, love, and hope. Through the gospel, our fallenness is overcome, as we are enabled to repent of destructive and dehumanizing ways of life and enter into the obedience of faith. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ inaugurated a new eon in human history; by faith in him, we become God’s new humanity and begin to model the way he designed human life to be lived, conforming to the pattern of the cross. The cross not only cancels out our debts before God; it also becomes the mold into which our lives are poured. In Christ and among the community of his people, humanity comes of age, attaining to wisdom, holiness, and glory. In Christ, we not only find the forgiveness of sins, we find a new way of being human. Christ not only gives to us what Adam, our first father, squandered away in the Garden of Eden; he turns the Garden into the glorified New Jerusalem (Revelation 21-22).
As we grow towards Christ-likeness, we more and more live out the life of the kingdom in our families, communities, and callings (work). Discipleship is not limited to personal growth or private Christian practices; it extends to the whole range our cultural and social life, including the way we view money, power, friendship, marriage, parenting, work, leisure, art, entertainment, and so forth. Our lives come to more and more manifest Christ’s victory over sin and death; our community increasingly becomes a sign-post pointing ahead to the final, renewed creation, where sin and death will be completely removed.
Our desire is to be a mature and ever-maturing church, manifesting the maturity of Christ’s humanity in every way, including how we live together as the body of Christ, in how we embrace God’s whole counsel revealed in the Scriptures, in how we make use of God’s gifts in creation, in how we live out our Christian identity in the culture, and in how we practice living lives of forgiveness, joy, peace, compassion, sacrificial love, and self-control.
Of course, “Mission and Maturity,” or sending and gathering, serve and reinforce one another. The path to Christian maturity is only traveled as we fulfill our mission to the world in sacrificial love. And the way to complete our mission to disciple the nations is to strive for holistic conformity to Christ in every facet of life, obeying all he has commanded. We do not pretend to have executed our vision to perfection; we have not yet arrived at the goal, by any stretch. But the vision serves as the blueprint according to which our church seeks to build its inward and outward facing ministries.