We see our community not as being interested in “missions,” but as being mission.
We recognize that it’s our job as a community, not to attract and convert people, but to go and serve them. We believe that this will introduce people seeking God to Christ better than any “program” we could ever devise. We see our community not as being interested in “missions,” but as being mission.
In other words, the church is not here for “us”- to serve us and make us happy… we are here for the Church which is here for the world.
We recognize our fundamental identity as “sent.” We gather together regularly to share life and grow closer to God and one another, but that in itself is not the full extent of our mission. Our mission is to “be Christ”, to do those things He would do in the world were He in our shoes
The Bible says that whoever oppresses the poor insults their Maker, but those who help the poor honor Him. In a world full of AIDS orphans, poverty and starvation, and people desperate for hope, the Church can no longer remain indifferent. We must allow our hearts to be broken by the things that break the heart of God.
The Evergreen Community aims to be a group of people who honor God the way that He wants to be honored, not necessarily in the way that is most comfortable or convenient for us. And that means actually doing something for the poor, because that’s what God wants, even if it pulls us far outside of our comfort zones.
The reason we call this “justice” rather than charity is because we have a responsibility. We have been commanded to give out of our wealth to the poor in their poverty (1 John 3:17, James 1:27, 2:14-17) . This is therefore an obligation, not a gift. It’s uncomfortable to think of it this way, but we owe God our obedience… and we owe the poor our help. Thus, when we give or do acts of charity, it’s only what is right, what is just. Justice. And when we fail to give that way…
We need to realize how easy it is to fall into the trap of “doing church” and becoming useless to the world around us. Sharing the love of Christ is about more than sharing the “Plan of Salvation.” It’s about loving people the way that Jesus loved them- giving them what they need physically, loving them unconditionally and sacrificially, all the while sharing the Good News of the Kingdom
Recognizing that Christianity calls us out of individualism and towards a life focused on the well-being of others, we’ve made “community” one of our core values.
Our hope is that this church will be something entirely different than a provider of religious goods and services where people come once a week to have their religious needs serviced by trained professionals. Rather, we dream of throwing in our lives together as a covenant community- a group of people committed to seeking God together, to serving the world together and to being there for one another through the joys and trials of life. Can you see the difference between the two?
When it comes to your experience with church, there are different ways to evaluate. The first is “I liked it/I didn’t like it.” This is where we all start- centered on ourselves and what the community offers to us. We all start there, but imagine what a shallow community we would have if we all stayed there!
The second is, “God used it in my life.” This is still centered on ourselves, but it goes a little deeper than the “like/dislike” categories. You may not have “liked” it, but you can see what God was saying to you and how it makes a difference for you. In a way, this is growing up, recognizing the value in something that may not be entertaining, that may even make you uncomfortable, but may also be exactly what you needed.
The third and deepest way to evaluate experience with church is “God used me in someone else’s life.” This is mature, recognizing that we come not to be built up as individuals (at least that’s not our regular motivation), but to be built up as a community, as a whole. And this only happens when a significant number of us move from an individualistic, “I like it/don’t like it” mentality to a community, “what difference can I make for someone else today?” mentality
We want to develop a consistent feel to what we do- a voice that we speak with. Our desire is that it would be one of Hope.
Too often faith devolves into religiosity and what ought to be a life-giving message becomes merely a checklist of items to believe and behaviors to adopt. Somehow, Jesus’ message gets reduced to a list of “shoulds”… as in, “You should do this” and “You should do that.”
While there will always come a time when we need to point people in a certain direction and say “should”, more often than not we need to be about “coulds.” Drawing a picture for those we meet of who they could be, of the person God created them to be… and rather than pushing them towards that out of guilt or obligation, pulling them towards it out a sense of love and hope
Why is history… story… one of our core values? This one more than any other makes people scratch their heads.
There’s an article on the Youth Specialties website that explains it really well… here’s an excerpt:
“The biblical text isn’t some dusty, ancient book of cute stories written long ago in a far off land. The Bible is the very story of God at work in our lives. It’s the very essence of what God is doing in our lives today. “In the beginning” was the first line of the story of God’s work in this world, and the story has not yet reached “The End.” God desires each person to become part of this story. We have to teach teens that in a world that values the superstar, the leading man, and the hero, God invites us to become one member of the cast of the greatest story ever told. God tells us to forsake the glory of our own story and become part of the glory of a heavenly story. God asks teenagers whose worlds revolve around themselves to become characters that will be immortalized not for who they were, but for the role they played. God asks the lonely soul to join a band of characters millions wide and centuries deep. God asks each member of the cast to share billing with such great names as Moses, Elijah, Peter, Paul, and Jesus. I believe God created us to connect with stories for the sole purpose of drawing us into God’s story.”
We also want to see ourselves not as a disconnected community, but as a group of people who stand in the stream of something much larger than ourselves: the Church down through history. As a result, we want to look back to that history and draw inspiration, resources and role models from it, while recognizing that we aren’t necessarily bound by it.
“History” is a short-hand way of saying we value people’s story (how they came to be where they are at in life), we value the story of the Church (how we as a people seeking God came to be where we are at) and we value God’s story (the story of our fall and His persistent, costly seeking of us). And with all three of those aspects, we are eager to see our place as a community in those stories, and what we can add to them.
on Life in the Way of Jesus– Evergreen is a distinctly Christian community, and though one does not need to be committed to Christ to participate in it, this community as a whole is committed to seeking God through the person of Jesus. For those who are following Jesus, this means commitment to living life in the way of Jesus, and to introducing others whenever possible through word and deed to the person of Jesus. We commit to time spent listening to God individually and as a community and to living out life in the way of Jesus for the glory of God, and the good of the city of Portland.
on Presence– part of being a part of a community is being present. We commit to being present physically, emotionally and spiritually at community events whenever possible, and present to others in the community, giving them the gift of our attention, our wisdom and our friendship as well as our prayers. We commit to time spent with each other, formally and informally, whether in Sunday gatherings, home groups, or in each others homes and over meals, and seeking a balance in our relationships between those within the community and those who are not.
on Giving Yourself– Evergreen is committed to organic, non-programmatic ministry. All that to say, if you don’t do it, no one else will. Being a part of evergreen means making significant contributions to who we are becoming as a community. We commit to giving our time and our skills and passions as well as our financial support to this community. We commit to praying for evergreen, for its continued health and service to God and to Portland. We commit to missional living in the city of Portland, serving others for the good of the city and for the sake of others knowing and esteeming the person of Jesus.
on Discipline- A large part of being in community is teaching others, making substantial contributions to their lives, as well as being teachable, being open to learning, changing, and occasionally, being corrected. Very, very rarely, a church community needs to confront someone (as in the case of a spouse who is cheating on a husband or wife). In this instance, every attempt is made to approach the individual in a sensitive and listening way, but at times, when someone refuses to listen, refuses to stop hurtful/sinful behavior, church discipline needs to be enacted on behalf of the entire community through the agency of the elders. We acknowledge the authority of the community in our lives enough to listen and we commit to loving the community enough to speak. When we see someone acting in a way that is hurtful to themselves or to others, we accept the responsibility to speak to them in a loving manner.
on Leaving Community– When, for some reason, someone decides that he or she no longer wishes to participate in the evergreen community, it is important to let the community know, and to let them know why. Rather than simply disappearing or jumping to another church community, commitment to community means informing someone (whether that be an elder, or someone else with whom you have a relationship at Evergreen) of a decision to withdraw. Part of community life is being open with one another, and the future absence of someone will affect the entire community. The reason we ask you to tell someone is that 1. We value your presence and want to know if you choose to be part of another community. 2. You probably have something to tell us, something that we need to hear.
on Our Core Values– Our presence as part of the evergreen community signals our commitment to the core values of the community. We commit ourselves to missional living, to justice, to participation in the community, to giving the gift of hope to others and to seeing ourselves as part of the story of the people of God.