A reflection on our purpose

by Pastor Bill Walles (Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Marysville, WA, WordAlone board member)

December 17, 2002

I had a conversation this morning with a number of area pastors on how things were going in their churches. Here in the Pacific Northwest, any signs of economic recovery are few and far between. In fact, the news continues to be more bad than good. But, even stronger than feelings of economic uncertainty, we discussed an apparent hunger for purpose.

The people we know who have been laid-off, or are in danger of being so, are concerned about money, but are even more concerned about purpose. What is the purpose for their lives? Does this curveball open up a door to what their purpose can and should be, or does it close off that door? It was a good discussion, and one that I feel is reflective of the mood of many people and organizations in this time.

What is our purpose? As Children of God, as churches, as WordAlone, that question should be a challenge in this time. As we live through the season of Advent, and prepare for the coming of our Lord, it’s easy for others tell us what our purpose should be. To be consumers, to be buyers, to be happy, to be wealthy.

And by the ELCA, I wonder if we aren’t also being told what our purpose should be. To be tolerant, quiet Christians? To be Christians who focus on the discussion of faith instead of the lived out faith? To be Christians who seek to have conversations of understanding with other Christians instead of those who don’t know Jesus?

I’m generalizing, of course, but for me that sentiment is still there. And it was brought home again when I read from John 1 what I think everybody’s purpose should be. In speaking about John the Baptist we read that “God sent him to tell everyone about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light, he was only a witness to the light.”

That’s what we should be about. That should be our purpose, even our personal mission statement: To be a witness to the light of Jesus Christ. If that’s our focus, if that’s our center, then somehow the Spirit will help all the rest of things to work out. Come what may financially, personally, or spiritually, this purpose will help guide us through. This Advent, as an individual believer and as a member of WordAlone, testify about the Light. Let His Light shine through you in all you do. And perhaps, together, we might all remember what it means to have a purpose filled life, and a purpose filled church.