Theses about the vision and the mission of the church in Estonia of the third millennium
- To save the mankind, God sent His Son, so that "whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16). Apostle Paul confirms: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:11-13)
- So that the mission of Christ could continue, the Lord sent apostles and built His Church upon them. "We believe that the Church is constituted and sustained by the Triune God through God's saving action in word and sacraments. We believe that the Church is a sign, instrument and foretaste of the Kingdom of God. But we also recognize that it stands in constant need of reform and renewal." (Porvoo Common Statement, 32f)
- Church is travelling people of God. Church father Augustine says: "Thus in this world, in these evil days, not only from the time of the bodily presence of Christ and His apostles, but even from that of Abel, whom first his wicked brother slew because he was righteous, and thenceforth even to the end of this world, the Church has gone forward on pilgrimage amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God." As travelling people of God, we are like strangers and visitors in this world, keeping in mind a farther goal. "Set before the Church is the vision of unity as the goal of all creation (Ephesians 1) when the whole world will be reconciled to God (II Corinthians 5)". But while striving for this, we have a task to fulfil – a task which Christ has trusted to the apostles.
- Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever forth. Also, the mission of His congregation is always one and the same. "The Church today is charged, as were the apostles, to proclaim the gospel to all nations, because the good news about Jesus Christ is the disclosure of God's eternal plan for the reconciliation of all things in his Son. The Church is called to faithfulness to the normative apostolic witness to the life, death, resurrection and exaltation of its Lord. The Church receives its mission and the power to fulfil this mission as a gift of the risen Christ." (Common Statement, 37) The solution to this task is the unity of the reconciled creation and its integration into Christ. The path to this solution is related to training, hiring, posting and strategies necessary for developing the community.
- The Lord Jesus Christ has given a task to its disciples: "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16) For this, we need to rise into the position necessary for integration: the centre. The whole creation is groaning in labour of birth, waiting for the children of God to rise as a prerequisite of renewal.
- Although the first task of the Church is to proclaim the gospel and to conduct the sacraments, God and people are expecting more from us than just giving services in church buildings. As a creative resource, our faith takes on new forms to successfully fulfil old tasks. Like the apostles went out into the world, proclaiming the gospel of Christ in word and in act, so we are also sent to the people living beside us and around us to feed the hungry, to give a drink to the thirsty, to invite in the homeless, to visit the sick and the imprisoned, to clothe the naked (Matthew 25:31-46). The unity of faith, hope and love is looking for application in solution-oriented actions that heal both the social environment and the environment of humans and nature for the greater honour of God. This is especially true for post-traumatic societies, societies damaged by violence from the state or from people.
- Today, in the beginning of the third millennium, we are face to face with the secular society; we are a part of this society, but we cannot much affect or direct anymore the lines of thought and behaviour that are running and directing this society. At the same time we cannot settle for less than the task of winning over the entire world, by abiding to the missionary commandment of Christ: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you!" (Matthew 28:19-20) For this, we need to learn to understand, command and attributively use different languages, i.e. systems of symbols and meanings, but to also study at least as much the needs and resources of every region.
- To fulfil the missionary commandment of Christ in every specific age and every specific place and situation requires self-denial from the Church and a focussing of all its forces and resources. The disciples of the Christ are always standing before the warning words of the Lord: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?" (Matthew 5:13) We believe that the decrease of importance of the church and the removal from the Christian values of life cannot be blamed solely on the changes of the modern society, but instead we as Christians must also ask ourselves how well we have been able to trade the talents that the Lord has trusted us with (Matthew 25:14-30). Isn’t the spoilage caused by the blandness of the salt? Isn’t the homework neglected, thus leading to a lack of analysis of resources and activities, a lack of systematic action plan?
- The socio-political goals of the EELC are stated in the document "Mission of the Church in the Society" which was approved by the Church Government in year 1998. According to this document, the mission of the Church has a societal outlet: "The primary task and obligation of the Church is the sacral and moral serving of the society." (1.4). The participation of the Church is seen in shaping the family and youth policies, the policies on education, culture, social matters, crime, law and administration, and also national and foreign policies. At the same time there is no achievement programme for the goals, not to mention an action plan, a list of responsible parties or a budget.
- For the Church to be able to participate in solving the problems of the society and in spreading the Christian values, both human resources and material resources have to be found and raised. We think it essential to train those who perform the work of the Church, and to train them in a way that most conforms to the challenges and needs of the present age and the future ages. More attention must be paid to the needs and opportunities of the society. Resources must be allocated into developing a working network. The material and immaterial means that we have must be used in an optimum and purposeful way, forecasting and shaping the future. But first, targets must be determined.
- In order to better proclaim the gospel and to show the light of the Christ that has entered this world, the creative trinity of faith, hope and love must be lived out to be visible, instead of just preaching or teaching it or any part of it. Only this way a cultural change can be effected. For this, every congregation, institution and structural unit must turn a critical eye to its targets, fields of activity and structure. We have to ask ourselves whether the current structure and distribution of human resources and material resources are the best for achieving the main targets and the intermediate targets, and what is the result of our activity, what is the additional value that we create. A large benefit of the church activities is the social capital, connectedness and solidarity produced as additional value. Acknowledgement of this on various management levels and in different sectors of the society is the beginning of a cultural change, because unlike other sectors, the immaterial result of church activity is more important than its material result and its additional value is more valuable that direct gain. It is more important to give the gift of sight than to rub eyes with saliva and also more important to give absolution than to cure paralysis.
- Change begins in every individual person. It is our goal as members of the society and as Christians to achieve a humane society of humane people. This goal is brought closer by every Christian doing the work of prayer and love in his or her community. This way, the effect of living out the faith spreads to the entire society, bringing about a cultural change.
- Upon striving for this goal, the Church:
- Knows its goals and can make its members aware of them;
- Words its credo and management values comprehensibly;
- Makes the church education conform to the conditions of the learning society and to the goals of the Church;
- Has long-term value-centred, results-oriented and interconnected programmes;
- Implements them with flexibility, results and mobility;
- Proclaims the gospel not only in words, but also in acts;
- Voices an opinion about the phenomena in the society;
- Stands as a spiritual guide to all seekers of the truth;
- Provides and mediates spiritual and material aid;
- Acts in unity and communion, using its organisation;
- Stands as a conciliator between different political, economic, social or national groups;
- Shapes, activates and uses networks;
- Develops the social, moral, religious and economic competence and coping of the region (community, parish) via congregations and result units;
- Establishes associations and institutions belonging to the church, paying heightened attention to work with children and youth (establishing kindergartens and schools);
- Co-operating with the state, the local governments, the social classes and the third sector.
These intermediate goals must be made conformant to the SMART conditions. The stages of achieving them must be possible to monitor and measure, they must conform to the goal, to the credo and to the management values. Both actions and achievements must be measurable in time-based money (an investment can have a different value if made at a different time) and in social time (density of important events in a time unit).
With greetings and in hope of editing,
Vision and Mission Team of the Reverends Conference