"All politics are local." So said Tip O'Neill, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The same is true for the church. Effective, life-changing ministry occurs in local congregations, not bureaucratic structures or committee labyrinths.
Our world president, Robert S. Folkenberg, has a clear vision of this, as was evident during recent discussions he held with his staff. We identified issues upon which we ought to focus and the key results to expect. Out of this came a consensus that the local congregation is the site of real ministry.
I shared with the president my understanding of 13 key outcomes to expect from a proper focus on a local church-based ministry. As I now share them with you, see how they resonate with your own convictions and ministry priorities, then give me your feedback and I will pass it along to Pastor Folkenberg and to Ministry readers.
1. Members experience personal joy of salvation. I believe our people have no greater need than to experience a vibrant, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Indeed, stronger church life can be summed up in this reality: "He who has the Son has life" (1 John 5:12).*
2. Members experience hope in the reality and nearness of Christ's coming. We are Adventists because of the Advent. The return of Jesus is not only our name. It is our reason for existence. Amid social, economic, and moral chaos, I long for my members to be confident in the blessed hope!
3. Members experience personal Sabbath rest. Far beyond the identification of the correct day of worship, it is essential to experience total rest in Jesus mind, body, and soul. Resting securely in a saving relationship with the Lord of the Lord's day is the essence of Sabbathkeeping.
4. Members experience joyful family relationships. Love in our marriages and with our families becomes a foretaste of fellowship throughout eternity in Christ's kingdom. Bathed in this blessed hope, my members become willing to work through their difficult relationships instead of abandoning commitment. The resulting health of these home-based relationships will attract others to Jesus living in us.
5. Members experience fellowship of all believers together. I want my members to live a love that transcends barriers of nationality, race, tribe, age, gender, or social status. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).
6. Members experience ownership of the church's mission. What a victory if my members see their church as more than just the place to be on Sabbath. Going beyond mere belief in the church's mission, I want them to experience personal investment in mission. This involves their time, their talents, their energy, and their funds.
7. Members receive motivation, empowerment, and equipment for ministry. The work of the pastor is to foster the work of members. I long for pastoral leaders (both clergy and laity elders who serve in ministerial functions) to view as their first task the training of believers into becoming disciples.
8. Members receive permission and encouragement to serve their surrounding community. We have too much isolationistic judgment of society and too little involvement in our neighborhoods. Jesus saw the church as salt and light to the world. So let's get out of the saltshaker and into the world.
9. Members experience success in evangelism. Harvesting souls for the kingdom is the business of every believer, not just professional evangelists. I long for my members to experience the joy of conversion in people for whom they personally labor. If we wait for the professionals to fulfill the gospel commission, we will wait in our graves. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Luke 10:2).
10. Members learn discernment and discretion. Scripture admonishes: "Test everything. Hold on to the good" (1 Thess. 5:21). When my members are bombarded by spurious tales and sensational conjectures, I long for discretion that separates every wind of doctrine or devilish rumor from the truth as it is in Jesus.
11. Members teaching kingdom values to the coming generation. The purpose of our extensive parochial educational system a partnership of teachers, parents, and pastors must be to develop individuals who think God's thoughts and live God's way. Our students learn from our priorities those values in which they will invest their future.
12. Members express confidence in God's leading. As we recall divine providence throughout our history and His continued presence moving us toward the victorious conclusion of the great controversy, we can fearlessly rejoice that "all His biddings are enablings." 13. Members served by pastors who lead as visionaries of greatness for God, facilitators of deepness in spiritual maturity, and enablers of real-life service to others. This is the pastor I want to be, and it is my prayer that this is the pastoral ministry you will experience.
* Texts are from the New International Version.