The brochures Jason brought me included a description of the mission, vision and core values of the church. These are statements that experts in church say are absolutely necessary to have written down somewhere if you want to “do it right.” UBC’s went like this…
Mission: UBC exists to embody and communicate a refreshing hope discovered through God in the way of Christ. God has not abandoned us to live life on our own, but is dynamically working out His story of redemption among us within relationships of integrity.
Vision: Challenging People to Know God. The essence of the church is that it is a community of people empowered by God on a mission, striving to establish the reign of God on this earth. We must not be confused with local businesses in our area whose goal is to meet the needs of individual consumers. We do not exist to market a product or provide a service amidst a free market. Instead, our efforts focus on engaging the culture in which we live and transforming it by lives incarnating the person of Jesus Christ. We are grounded in a specific place, Waco, Texas, where we can be a community who critiques and affirms both the culture and the church.
The Real: Simply, to be authentic before God and others.
The True: Truth for us is summed up in Jesus Christ and His story that has been accurately revealed to us in scripture. When we refer to Truth, we are not talking about a set of propositions, but a person. In a person, then, truth is not simply reasoned, or evidenced, but is someone experienced.
The Communal: At UBC we strive to embody an authentic Christian community. For us, the dependence on a community of faith is a primary means of spiritual growth in our understanding of relationship with God. So in community we are not talking about a place where people are encouraged to posture holiness, nor are we talking about a people who simply strive to disengage from life into some super-spiritual anomaly. We are not talking about a place that breeds a strong division between the sacred and secular. Instead, what we ARE talking about is a people who engage into the whole of life together, a place where the authentic person can find freedom in expression, where we strive to encourage honesty, trust, and responsibility through accountability, where avenues exist for questioning to take place.
The Historical: In striving after the establishment of God’s reign, we will not be blindly arrogant about our purpose and place as a local church body at this juncture in history. Instead, we will look to and learn from the pitfalls and insights of the Church that has gone before us that we might find ourselves firmly established in an historical Christian community. The saints and traditions of the past give us direction and vision for the future.
The Experiential: In today’s culture, people will hold as Truth for themselves whatever they personally experience. So, at UBC, we have redefined our culture’s understanding of experience with a more biblical perspective in that a balanced experience of God actually finds itself rooted in community and engaging the whole person – mind, body, heart, senses, and soul – yet shielding itself from straying into emotionalism or intellectualism. By balanced we mean that God has given us the opportunity to experience Him on several levels, and when we find ourselves operating on one single level, then possible pitfalls might incur. We experience God with others (via community), with mind (via thinking critically), with heart (via our pathos), with body (via service), and with senses (via fragrances, art, creation).
The words and thoughts expressed in these marketing materials from 15 years ago seem today a bit pedestrian. They are currently the waters most evangelical Christians swim in. But at that time and place, they were revolutionary. And, to me, they were intoxicating. I had no previously established category for these words. Faith for me, up to that point, was about reading the Bible, praying, going to church and telling others about Jesus. (And, of course, really, REALLY meaning all of it.) Sure, as I got older each of these practices took on greater meaning and nuance. For example, in college I started to see a need for social justice and taking care of the poor, not because I believed this helped to realize the Kingdom of God in our midst, or because obedience to Jesus demanded it, but because putting food in people’s stomachs and helping to meet their basic needs made them more susceptible to accepting the gospel of Jesus. But these words, words about God “dynamically working his story of redemption among us,” and about Truth not being a set of propositions but, instead a person, and about there being no division between what is sacred and secular, these words raised my eyebrows and awakened a sense of curiosity in me that I hadn’t felt, well, maybe ever.
Enough curiosity to give this place a visit.