Following Jesus Together

Following Jesus Together

Holy Cross Oxford is a community welcoming all people of all ages to follow Jesus, learn and grow. Our mission statement defines a lot of who we are, and what we do at Holy Cross in Oxford and all of the communities we call home. Everyone is invited to follow Jesus. You don’t have to have it all together, in fact, you probably won’t—we don’t, but we are loved by a savior who sacrifices everything for us. As we follow Jesus, we learn from Him and from each other about love, forgiveness and salvation. We grow closer to God and closer together as we follow him. 

We’ve been working on expanding our mission statement to include a vision statement for what we believe God has planned in the future for His people gathered at Holy Cross. A team of awesome people worked with as many faithful followers as they could and developed this: “We innovatively reach out and authentically welcome everyone by sharing what God has given us: love, forgiveness and salvation.” 

Breaking down that vision statement leads us a few places with invitation and innovation. We will creatively do whatever we can and go wherever we’re able to share God’s grace. We want to engage people where they are, to discover who they are and what they need most and provide it as we’re able. We want to love people for who they are and love them as God loves them. We will keep an open mind, open arms and an open heart.

How could collaboration and cooperation between people and churches in our area best serve others? What’s best for people? What’s best for the Kingdom of God? There are a number of other churches in our area, and every single church is facing issues. There are some people who would say the era of the church is over. Christian America is dead. They’re right. Following Jesus has moved from a central idea for most people to the periphery. It’s no longer a foregone conclusion that anyone knows anything about Jesus. The Field of Dreams church era is over. You cannot build it and expect people to come. We are a people who are saved and sent to share the Gospel with others in every aspect of our lives: home, school, work and play.

There are some people who lament this bygone era, but I think there’s hope for today, especially in this era of transparency and real conversation. Dale Meyer, the President of Concordia Seminary St. Louis, has been speaking and writing about how “It’s a great time to be the church.” It’s a sentiment that grew out of the time he was called to be the president of the seminary back in 2001. He was teaching a class of fourth year students who were ready to head into full-the ministry, and he said “It’s a great time to be entering the ministry.” He remembers the class staring at him like he had the plague. A student explained, “No one ever told us that before. They’ve been telling us it’s a bad time to be entering the ministry.”

That’s the reality we face today. No one thinks it’s a good time to talk about Jesus. There’s too much else going on. We have salvation in our hearts and minds, but we hesitate to put it on our lips. President Meyer asked the question of his students, “Do you believe Jesus is Lord of the church? If so, isn’t it always a great time to be the church?” Jesus hasn’t retired from sharing his grace and love with others. Neither should we. 

In every aspect of our lives, God tells us to be ready to share the love and grace he’s given us with our family, friends and everyone we meet. 
What does the future hold for the people gathered at Holy Cross? I don’t know, but there are tremendous possibilities that God has laid before us. Wednesday night, a small team from Holy Cross met with a small team from Living Word to talk about what’s possible in terms of doing ministry together. In July, eleven churches in our north Oakland county area will gather to have a similar conversation about what God would have us do to share His love, mercy, grace and forgiveness with others. There are many questions which God has laid before us as we seek to follow Jesus together. Do we merge congregations? Do we share staff among multiple congregations? Do we employ a multi-site model, where we have different access points for people to hear about Jesus?

A group of 300-plus congregations from Lutheran Church Missouri Synod convened in Ann Arbor this past week in the 102nd Michigan District Convention. This is part of our duty to one follow Jesus together on a larger scale. The gatherings happen in our state every three years, and then the following year happen on a national level with more than 6,000 churches represented.  

Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, the president of the LCMS, was present to share some of the issues and challenges facing our church body and some of the possibilities which exist for the future. Toward the end of his presentation, he had time for a question, and I asked him, “What would you tell us about working together, putting away our pride, seeking solutions and innovating, how can we be stronger together for the sake of our neighbors?”

He told a story as part of his answer about two churches in close proximity which were struggling with many of the same issues some of our churches are today. He shared how these two churches came together, strengthening one another and how their work was a blessing to their communities.

There is tremendous potential in our area for sharing the Gospel and following Jesus together. There are many questions as it pertains to Holy Cross, Living Word, and the other LCMS congregations in our area working together. We want to ask as many of those questions as possible, knowing that we may not have every answer. We invite you to ask questions that are on your mind too, so we can start working together on answers and our future.