On Sunday my pastor began a new topic in adult Bible class: The Theology of the Church and Recent Practice in the LCMS. He started out our first session with this 1985 quote from Dr. David Daniel of Concordia Seminary: "The doctrine of the church will be the next big issue in the synod and the church at large" and went on to observe that indeed, Dr. Daniel's words were prophetic, as we in the LCMS are now fighting that very battle. As my pastor explained it: "Part of the synod wants the church to be modeled after the culture and another part wants it to be patterned after the heavenly Jerusalem." To illustrate the division, he spent some time in class focusing on one LCMS church in particular. I won't name the church, although some of my more savvy readers may figure it out. But here is the church's mission statement:
"Our Mission is Love God. Connect People. Impact the World. Passionate commitment to living out this mission is the best way we can be authentic followers of Jesus!"
Pastor pointed out several things wrong with this mission statement (setting aside the question of whether a church really needs a corporate style mission statement), all of which can be summed up by noting that the focus is simply wrong. Because the Christian life is not about what we do, but about what Christ has done for us. It's not about our love for God, but about His love for us. It's not about our commitment or our passion or our authenticity or our success at following Jesus (thank God for that). And it's not about all the ways we can help people and make the world a better place. Instead, it's about the One who died to redeem mankind and Who is going to return some day to gather His redeemed and take them to the home he has prepared. And guess what will happen to this world when He comes back? As a friend of mine likes to say, "It's all gonna burn." God is going to destroy it. So much for our so-called "impact."
Now this is not to say that we shouldn't care about this world. For the time being this is our lot, and while we sojourn here we are called to love and serve our neighbor. But to get caught up in "changing the world," "leaving our mark," "having an impact," etc., misses the point. Better to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and His impact, which is timeless, extending backward and forward in history as he gathers His flock.
It's really rather liberating if you think about it. You don't have to leave your mark on the world. Jesus has left the only mark that matters, and He did it all for you.