While we are presenting this vision, we believe that the passion for this vision comes from our unbridled determination to make a real difference in this world and the strength for this vision comes from God’s power. God has called us to more than exist in a location; he has called us to make an impact in the lives of people who need the gospel. To this end, we now share our vision.
The church at Park Avenue is a family committed to reaching out and caring for others in the love of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Our mission is clear – We are to go into the world to teach and disciple others. We are to go not wait until someone comes to us. God ultimately revealed what it means to go when Jesus came to this earth. Jesus told us over and over that he came to seek and save the lost. No place is clearer than in Matthew 9:12-13 when Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
If Jesus came for the sick and the sinners, then should we not also be seeking those who are spiritually ill and lost? The Park Avenue congregation has no other mission. One of our greatest strengths is our love for each other and our willingness to welcome others. We believe this is true. Each of us recognizes our need for the Great Physician. We each recognize that we are sinners and that we need to be encouraged and strengthened in our spiritual journey. Just as we have tried to build a spirit of community, family, and acceptance, we want to spread this same spirit beyond our walls. And so our vision is built around this great strength
We envision a people who go out to assist those who are spiritually ill and lost to find their way. We envision a people who will accept others who are different while living out the gospel message. We envision a people who are reaching out to the broken and hurting bringing words of comfort and peace. We envision a people who closely resemble Jesus in walking, talking, and touching those who are powerless, rejected, and ignored. We envision a people that will champion the cause of the weak. We envision a people who honor God through every relationship because we are filled with God’s love and grace (Psalm 147:3; Eph. 4:32).
Surely there is no one among us that will disagree that this is what Jesus did with his ministry. What greater vision than to be like him in touching the lives of those who are too often forgotten. While we have not finalized the specifics of how this vision will be carried out, we are ready to share four areas for your consideration.
First, we are going to continue our work in the Sea Isle neighborhood. We want to encourage the Neighborhood Involvement Ministry to continue seeking ways to engage our community. Activities such as Movie Night, Parent’s Night Out, Ice Cream Social, Sea Isle Park (Neighborhood) Festival (SIP Fest) and various ways of interaction with the Sea Isle Elementary school need to continue. But we need also to find additional ways to engage our community.
Second, we want to engage SOMA at the Christian Student Center. We recognize that this is an age of great transition. Students, many of whom are from the Memphis area, search for ways to leave behind the teenage years and to find a way to fit in an adult world. Many of you have already financially contributed to this group. As a congregation, we want to engage this group in real and tangible ways. In addition to our financial encouragement, we want to hear regularly about the Student Center; we want to engage these college students in real ways and we want to encourage them to learn how they fit into an adult world through their interacting with us. We want to help mentor these students, as opportunity presents, to love our Jesus and give them ways to make an impact in our community.
Third, we want the vision to find expression in a tangible ministry among the poor. Initially, this vision found expression in the Poplar and Hollywood community and partnership with Memphis Urban Ministries. Although still working with a family from the Poplar and Hollywood community our work has shifted to ministry outreach among the poor at Bella Vista apartments in partnership with AGAPE. We envision assisting in feeding the poor, helping to provide clothing, and various ways of demonstrating the love of Christ to those who are powerless in our community. We envision making a difference in the lives of others.
Fourth, foreign missions will continue to be a part of our ministry. We are committed to Japan. We will continue to stay in touch with our brothers and sisters in Japan through means that have been and are being used now. Additionally, we envision using similar methods to be a better supporting congregation for Ivan Voser and the work in Thun, Switzerland. We envision utilizing resources to encourage mission work in these two areas primarily. However, while being mindful stewards of our resources,we will always seek areas into which Park Avenue may expand God’s word for we want to remain a sending congregation. We want to continue to encourage others to be a part of our body as they prepare to be sent out to all parts of the world. While we may not be able to financially support each mission effort, we have resources of experience and a willingness to train for mission work. We envision being a place where future missionaries will see how mission work can be done.
As elders we are challenged by this vision. This will not be easy. We each have a personal responsibility to engage others. There is a function for everyone. There is a place to make a real difference. There is an opportunity for each one to be just like Jesus. May God bless us as he transforms us into the image of his son.