These Wednesdays in Lent have been enlightening as we explored our “Life Together” from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book of the same name. We’ve taken a hard, honest look at postmodernism and seen how our world has become more relativistic, individualistic and willing to hold multiple views that would otherwise seem contradictory. Our life together as Christians exists in this world, whether we like it or not. God very plainly wants us to live in the world, but not to be of the world. More and more I’m convinced that in order for us to be effective in reaching out to this world with the love of Jesus, we need to make sure our unity is strong and authentic and that we have a place for people here when we bring them in.
Rethinking Liberian Ministry
The concept of planting a new church is near and dear to my heart. However, Vicar Fofana and I have come to the conclusion that it is not in the best interest of our Liberian fellowship to aim at a stand-alone church plant right now. The fact of the matter is, Liberian immigrants are not positioned well to independently operate their own church in America. Most work 2-3 jobs, few have cars, some have housing, and many are sending money back home to Liberia. We have also noticed that the 2nd generation (their children) is quickly becoming more and more American and less Liberian. Liberian customs and worship styles are less engaging to the children as they become more American. Our concern is that if the Liberian fellowship is fully independent, they will struggle to keep their children connected to the church and will watch them drift away.
The new Liberian ministry concept has everything to do with Life Together. We are all Bethel, whether “American” or “Liberian.” The Liberian fellowship will still have their 11:30am Sunday worship service in the West African style. It’ll always be the 1st generation’s heart language. We’ll still get together at least 4 times a year to have a combined service and potluck so that everyone gets to dance and eat! But in every other aspect the members of that fellowship are as Bethel as everyone else. We will strive to include them as equals and utilize their gifts and talents to minister to an even broader range of people. This is getting exciting.
1st and 2nd Generation Ministry
As one church, we can minister to both the 1st and the 2nd generations effectively. Using the strengths of our entire church we can come around the 1st generation Liberian members to help them conduct a powerful ministry of service and outreach to other 1st generation Liberian immigrants. At the same time, we can use other strengths to engage all our children into the ministry of our church through Sunday School, Confirmation, EPIC – Future Church Now, Vacation Bible School, our Young Family Group and more.
This is the opportunity God has prepared for us. This is our chance to make an eternal difference in these families by unifying them in Jesus and in His church. This is Life Together.