The Purpose of Orangeburg’s Redeemer, part 1.

Note: this is the first of a four-part series on living into our vision for the future here at Orangeburg’s Redeemer. This series was originally one talk given in the third week of our 2017 Lenten series, "Purposes".

In our 2017 Lenten series of teachings we looked at five God-given purposes that explain why we do the things we do as Christians. We began the series with a look at life itself - the purpose of life.

And we answered the question of why we are put here on this earth. We saw that we were put here to make a contribution, not just to consume. God made us to make a difference.  Ministry is the purpose for which we were made. We are designed – created - meant - to be ministers for God.

We saw that the purpose of your life is far greater than finding your personal happiness.  Or your personal fulfillment or dreams and ambitions. You were made by God and for God and until you understand that, life doesn't make much sense. It really doesn’t. You were MADE for God, for His service.  

Your purpose in life is to be what God made you to be; to use the gifts and talents and abilities God gave you for His glory. Again, you were meant to be a minister.

The main Bible verse that I hope you walked away with in our beginning Lenten session was Ephesians 2:10: 

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  That, in so many different ways, really is the overall purpose of life.

In our second week of teaching we looked at the Church (that’s big “c” church) and the purpose of the Church, universal.  We saw that the Church is the people of God, the family of God and the Body of Christ. And we noted that since we are the Church, the church’s purpose is pretty much our purpose.

And what is our basic purpose?   Ephesians 2:10! “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  We also talked in detail about the five purposes of every church - Worship, Lay ministry, Evangelism, Fellowship, and Discipleship.

Our third week in the Lenten teaching series is the focus of this four-part article which we inaugurate today.  Over the next four weeks we will examine the purpose for this particular church – The purpose for Orangeburg's Church – The Church of the Redeemer.

Remember the theme song from Cheers? Here are the words:

“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And they're always glad you came. You want to be where you can see our troubles are all the same. You want to go where everybody knows your name.”

Wouldn't it be great if that theme song was a description of the church, instead of a bar? But it's not. Or at least it's not for the average person on the street today. Ask the average person on the street which they enjoy more - Saturday night or Sunday morning? I think you know what answer you'll get.

Or let me quote you Michael Green's description of how the modern mind sees the average pastor:

"The Christian priest is thought to be irrelevant to modern life. He is simply there to be called on in the times of crises. Or to Baptize, Marry, and Bury. He keeps an ancient building going. He recites services on Sunday but nobody knows what he does the rest of the week! He is seen as a figure of fun, a meek and mild little fellow attempting to teach Christianity to middle class women and children, but steering clear of the real world of men. He seems to be, and often is, a man unsure of his role in a society that has left him behind."

How did we get this way? Surely this wasn't the way it was when the Church was born over 2000 years ago! How did the bars of the world become more exciting and more fulfilling for today's average person? Really, I've got nothing against bars, but shouldn't the Church be the place to go to get away from life's worries and troubles? Shouldn't the Church be the place to go where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came?  Where we did we go wrong?

Could it be that somewhere, somehow, we lost sight of who we are and why we're here? I think so. I think we did.

The Church is a community centered around the serving and worshiping of our Lord. Sadly, most of us don't see the church that way. We see the church as buildings, or as some place you go to on Sundays, once or twice a month, when you haven't stayed out too late the night before.  And for a lot more folks, Church is a place that they used to go to every once and a while. Used to go.

Then too, for a lot of people today, Church isn't exactly what you'd call fun - it's more of an obligation to fulfill.  Do you think when we get to heaven, we're going to gather around the throne and say to the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, "Hurry up and get this worship over with so I can go eat lunch!"

Am I being too cynical? I don't think so. Let me ask you this: What comes to your mind when you think of a bar?  Do you see a building?  Or do you see people gathered around hoisting glasses and having a good time?  Yet, when we think of the Church we see buildings.

Is it any wonder the "Cheers" of the world are beating us in our game? To an ever-increasing segment of society, the church is a place, not a people. Instead of BEING the Church, We GO to Church.  

And today, in 2017, fewer and fewer of the people in Orangeburg are going. And it's not just here - it's all across America.  Half of all churches in the U.S. did not add any new members to their ranks between 2010 and 2013. That would include the Redeemer between 2010 and 2013.

In addition, the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today. Pollsters call them the Nones.  They have no church affiliation and they answer “none” on the religious preference poll questions.  In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated – the Nones - have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults.

Again - from 2011 to 2016, the number of people who listed their religious preference as “None” went from 15% of the US Adult population to 20% of the US population. The over-18 population of the US is roughly 248 million, so that would mean close to 50 million adults are religiously unaffiliated and don’t want to be. To break it down even further, there are about 14 million self-described atheists and agnostics in America as of last year, and there are 34.5 million who believe in God but have no particular religious affiliation.

Our churches are getting older and smaller.  And smaller. And older.

That's just the way it is.

So what are we going to do about it?  Is "That's the way it is" going to be the way is will be?  I believe God says "NO!"  The way it is, is NOT the way it's supposed to be. And that's not the way it's GOING to in the church we call the Redeemer!

We are going to be the church. THE Church. The most significant Church in the area!   And God willing, from this church the ministry of Jesus Christ will be carried out to the Glory of God. Ministry that will transform this town!

Picture this in your minds eye - What if we could make this church the way the church was in the time of the New Testament. What if the Church of the Redeemer, through its Sacraments, worship and powerful witness, and on-fire ministry could not only attract, but also COMPEL outsiders to join us!!

Wouldn't it be great? Wouldn't YOU like to get away to this kind of place?  Where you can take a break from all life's worries? Where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came?  

Won't it be great when we can one day say that song is a description of the Church, not "Cheers?"

So how are we going to do that?  We’ll begin that exploration in next week’s installment.