We believe that God’s Spirit works in four key areas in our lives to shape us more into the image of Jesus: knowledge, community, Christian practices, and mission.
This is how God works in spite of how we organize and program our church. Imagine now what would happen if we actually walked together in step with God as he transforms us. What if we paid more attention to the methods we already know God uses? What if, as a church, we concentrated on the ways we’ve all experienced God moving in our own individual lives?
These “formation zones” are not steps or principles. These are not building blocks or programs or projects. These are faith catalysts. These are dynamics. This is the lens through which everything we do is viewed, evaluated, and measured. This is the atmosphere, the place where our God works to make us into the people he uses to touch the whole world with his joy and peace.
Learning to Live
“…in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.” ~Colossians 1:10
We’ve all experienced spiritual growth through knowledge: a Bible study that opened our eyes to the truth of God, a preacher who inspired us to deeper faith and commitment, or an author that explained things in ways that really made it click. Yes, we believe God changes us through his Word. Of course, the holy Scriptures are transformative. But the Scriptures never uphold knowledge only for the sake of knowledge. It’s not just gaining more information. The knowledge of God is intended to shape the way we think and behave. More knowledge should impact every facet of our lives.
Central intends to be focused on learning about God together well. We want to teach and learn together with excellence, powerfully and effectively. That means a commitment to enhancing our classroom environments and updating the technology. It will involve more experiential learning, more interactive time in our classes and worship assemblies, more participatory exercises when we’re together. It will concentrate on good theology which provides the foundation and motivation for effective ministry and Kingdom fruit. Mostly, learning at Central will primarily be aimed at understanding the Bible as God’s current and ongoing story and discerning together our own roles within that story.
“In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” ~Romans 12:5
The older couple who took you in and paid attention to you during your early years of marriage. Your family life group that’s been together through thick and thin for more than twenty years. Your greatest friends in the youth group. The Tuesday morning prayer group. We can all look back and see where God placed the perfectly right people in our lives at the perfectly right time. These are the people who love us, who encourage us, who challenge us, and support us. Through them, our God has worked to deepen our faith and enrich our relationships to him and to one another.
We want to do community well at Central. We want our family life groups and small groups to pay more attention to the transforming work of God within our smaller communities. We intend to build on Sticky Buddies and combined Bible classes to foster more intergenerational relationships. We see more relational components within our Bible classes and worship assemblies to cultivate more mentoring opportunities. And we’re experimenting now with covenant groups that are built on a holistic discipleship / mission foundation in hopes of implementing it in phases to the entire congregation.
Growing with God
“Be still and know that I am God.” ~Psalm 46:10
We spent six weeks together last year learning how to “hear” the voice of God. We experienced silence and solitude before the Lord. We experimented with dwelling in the Word, praying the Scriptures, and community discernment. Mainly, we explored what it means to be in tune with our Father and to his leading in our lives.
We believe a better understanding and more faithful practice of the spiritual disciplines will shape us individually and congregationally into the image of our Christ who, from time to time, went off alone to be with his Father and pray. We want to place more value on these exercises. During the coming months, we’ll be introducing more of the disciplines into our Sunday assemblies, Bible classes, and small groups. We’re using more borrowed prayers, more meditating on the Word, more times of silence in our leadership and committee meetings. We’ll take it slowly --- this is traditionally not an area of strength for us in the Churches of Christ --- with a special weekend retreat for the leadership in April, and then offering the same retreat to the rest of the church family at least a couple of times before the end of the year.
Serving in Love
“Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” ~1 Corinthians 10:24
Central is already blessed by God with a tremendous track record of selfless service to others. Space here does not permit even a partial listing of all the good works undertaken by this church family in the name and manner of Jesus. God be praised! Doing good works for the sake of others is an imitation of Christ. It’s a reflection of the glory of our God who gives us talents and passions by his Spirit to be used to benefit those around us. We have all experienced the spiritual growth that results from actively participating in ministry. Mission is a natural outcome of a life lived in gratitude and appreciation for the blessings we have in Christ and love for all of God’s creation.
We all have spiritual gifts. We all have a role in the ongoing story of God. We want to foster an environment at Central that raises the bar, that sets the expectation that every member of our church family will be using his or her gifts to serve others. Eventually, we’d like for every Bible class and small group to add a ministry component that reaches outside of the room. We’d like to adopt a more pronounced “gathered and scattered” identity as we come together to be equipped and encouraged and then leave to live our days in Christian ministry in our own specific contexts. And we’ll celebrate on Sundays what God is doing with and through our people during the week. A new opportunity in this “formation zone” will be the “Heal the City” free clinic at our Madison Apartments, hopefully to be near completion by the end of the year. There’s a need for lots of volunteers in a variety of capacities, both medical and not. Whatever you’re good at, whatever you really enjoy doing, we believe it’s a gift from God if you use it to benefit other people in the name of our Lord.