This last January, the elders presented their vision for the next season of community together at Evergreen. As we’re now halfway through the year and heading fast towards Fall, we wanted to circle back and re-emphasize what we’re thinking will be important in and to our community over the coming months.
All of this comes in the overall context of our Mission together as a church:
The mission of the Evergreen Community is to make disciples of Jesus as we invite others to join us in the life of the Kingdom. We do this through intentional communal practices of worship, listening to God, attentiveness to His word and through loving and serving one another, the neighborhoods in which we live, the City of Portland and the world.
For more than 12 years we have been a community without a home. Though this nomadic existence has allowed us to prioritize people over buildings/property, and to become a widely dispersed community with Evergreeners coming from all four quadrants of the city and many of the suburbs beyond, it has also led to a feeling of rootlessness, tiredness from constantly setting up and tearing down, and an inability to focus mission geographically. As we have grown and matured as a community, we have felt for some time the desire for a more permanent home in which to worship and out of which our missional efforts can flow. For a number of years now we have sought that more permanent home. Now that we have found what looks like a long-term solution for our community in the PCL building, we want to intentionally choose to look ahead. No living thing, including communities of faith, can remain the same for long- we are either maturing and growing or we are stagnant and in the process of dying
To that end, we, the elders, see the priorities for our community in the next season as being:
- Spiritual Growth (Read last week’s installment here)
- Hospitality/Invitation Culture Growth– We have never prioritized numerical growth, because too often that devolves down to a race to see who can attract more Christians from other church communities. And while we want to avoid falling into that trap, we also want to avoid becoming lax about creating a welcoming culture for those who do visit as well as seeing our community grow in their commitment to forging relationships with those who don’t know Jesus and and through those relationships inviting them to explore who He is within the context of our community.These disciplines could rightly fall under the category of “spiritual growth” as concern for others (that they be welcomed and introduced to Jesus) is rightly part of the spiritual life we are called to, but we feel that at this stage in our community life, we need to challenge one another to turn up the heat on this value.
What this means for you:
In this last season, we’ve had a good number of people move out of Portland, out of state, and even out of country! The good news is that Evergreen people are being blessed and sent to serve in new contexts. The bad news is that if we’re not careful, we can sometimes develop in ourselves a desire to invest only in people we know are going to be with us for the long-term or indefinitely. We can also (again, if we’re not careful) find ourselves only talking to, connecting with and investing in those we already have long term relationships with. While this may be more comfortable, it’s problematic in a number of ways.
First, put yourself in the shoes of someone entering our community context for the first time- coming on Sunday, attending a home community, etc. What kind of welcome would you desire? You would certainly want people to notice you, greet you, take time out from conversations with those they know to welcome you. Further, you’d desire the people of that community to make room for you in their lives and extend invitations to dinner, to coffee- you’d want to be known and given the chance to get to know others! Part of continuing to cultivate a culture of hospitality at Evergreen is making sure that we all take part in doing just that.
Second, beyond just what we ourselves would want, we ought to consider what Jesus would offer people if He were in our shoes. Jesus, though challenging people at times, always seems to have led with welcome, with invitation. He led with love. That’s the kind or people we ought to be as a community trying to live life in the way of Jesus.
A community that grows in hospitality grows up into a community of invitation- in other words, we begin by learning to welcome those who show up, and we mature in that kind of love until it develops in us a love for those who haven’t yet come, who don’t yet know or aren’t yet seeking Jesus. We develop the ability to have the kinds of conversations that move towards spiritual things, the kinds of hearts that long to love people towards Jesus, and the kind of eyes that see where God is at work in the lives of our friends, neighbors, and co-workers and the desire to join Him there.
Evergreen- can we continue to mature as a community into a being the kind of people who live lives of invitation and hospitality?