Last Friday evening after a challenging conversation around how we would do worship, it became readily apparent to me that we needed to clarify a few essentials. In this process of helping people locate themselves in the church we are launching in Northampton, we realized that the burden was on us to explain further issues that surfaced so that I will do.
The Centrality of Jesus:
Everyone on the imagine/northampton team is a Christ-follower. We know he is the way, the truth and the life, the Father is found only through him. The main reason we are in Northampton is to make him known through unexpected love and service to people far from him. Without Jesus and his completed work of salvation and redemption, we have nothing to offer anyone. Spiritual formation will be central to our life together, especially as it ignites our ability to love Jesus and people who do not yet know him. Therefore, those who join our missional community will be challenged in grace to know Jesus and surrender wholeheartedly to him, learning intimacy with God as a way of life.
He will be the sine qua non of everything we do.
The Scriptures Ground and Guide Us:
All of us on the Launch Team hold to the view that the Scriptures are uniquely foundational to the formation and life of all Christ-followers: inerrant, authoritative, and complete for salvation and sanctification. The Bible will be read, studied, preached and lived in the life of imagine/northampton. They and the vivifying Holy Spirit are our daily vitality. They focus, guide, chasten, inspire, and motivate us. Without the Scriptures in our hearts and minds we are impotent toward the Kingdom and the world. Therefore, those who join our missional community will have all sorts of opportunities to learn and live the Scriptures individually and together.
Truth and Love:
We believe that all truth comes from God. Most importantly, revealed truth from God gives all of life meaning. Without God's truth we are blind, deluded, and lame. We also believe that the truth is best lived and most expresses God's heart through sacrificial love to one another and to everyone/anyone who crosses our paths and lives in our lives. Imagine/northampton will work to exist within the revealed truth of God and manifest that truth through loving service.
Truth and love anchor us.
Truth and love guide us.
Truth and love tether us.
Truth and love free us.
Therefore, those who join our missional community will be invited constantly to think about the truth so that love rules their thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and actions with increasing maturity.
The Arts have a Unique Role in Revealing Truth and Beauty that Provokes the Mind and Captivates the Heart:
We believe the arts have an unmatched ability to see deep into the reality and mystery of life, people and God. Through the imagination, doors into the ineffable and the real are possible. Art and story open truth that can be felt and understood. We will use the arts in worship, teaching and outreach to express the heart of the Gospel and capture the exquisite joys and crushing sorrows of the human condition in a fallen but beautiful world. The cries of the heart, the play of the imagination and the searching of the mind for truth will find an ally through the arts at imagine.
Therefore, those who join our missional community will have ample opportunity to know and be artists in service of Jesus and Northampton.
We Will be a Missional Church:
One of our deepest desires in imagine is to love and serve the community of Northampton. We believe the best way forward is to incarnate the Kingdom through relationship building, loving and helping. We want to do so in a way that will be unexpected, outrageous for the context, out of the ordinary. We want to challenge the antagonism that people have toward Christ-followers by doing what they least expect and doing it selflessly.
So our life together will be about reaching "those guys out there." It will be in our DNA, at the core, a focus of our reason for being. On the other hand, don't misunderstand that we will care little for the community of Christ-followers within imagine/northampton. We will care much for people God sends us, but not as the sole end of the church. If we are going to be Christ-followers we think it means following him in the Kingdom work he is doing in Northampton. Helping each other heal, grow, strengthen and be freed will be in order to follow him with abandon outside our walls, not merely to enhance our imagine's community.
We are here for them out there....
Therefore, those who join our missional community will be cared for well so that they might take every opportunity to follow Jesus and love those he loves who are far from him.
Christ-followers we admire and respect believe that where there is creativity in the church there is the Spirit. The Scripture says that where there is freedom there is the Spirit also. Creativity thrives in freedom. Therefore imagine/northampton will be a welcoming, freeing estuary of creativity, imagination and innovation that glorifies God and enlivens people. We are not afraid of change that comes when creativity challenges our human traditions, best-laid plans security, presuppositions or sacred cows. As long as it seeks to tell the truth, ennoble people and point, however nuanced, toward the wonder and unparalleled magnificence of Jesus, we will strive to catalyze it in ourselves and others.
Therefore, those who join our missional community will be exposed to creativity, be challenged to create and encouraged to unleash creativity in others.
So....we love Jesus, period.
We stand on the Scriptures in their entirety, period.
We are humbly fierce for the truth and will try to express it through love as God helps us.
We will use the arts repeatedly toward truth and beauty.
We will be outwardly missional to the core.
We will invite creativity everywhere.
While I know there is much more to say on the ideas above and other equally important subjects, I hope what I have written helps people locate imagine/northampton's heart a little bit easier and perhaps themselves within it. If not, tell me. We'll talk.