VISALIA, Calif. — First Covenant Church unveiled a new mission statement last week, hoping to launch the church into an era of greater unity and spiritual effectiveness.
But response to the two-page statement has been decidedly mixed among church members who despair of memorizing it as the church has requested. "It’s a verbal tangle of quasi-eloquent nothingness," grumbles one man. "I can’t even say it right when it’s projected on the screen. I end up with a mouthful of blah."
The new statement reads:
"First Covenant Church exists for the passion and purpose of inspiring, discipling, equipping and sending out Christ followers with the destiny of transforming the world to the glory of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and fostering a graceful yet convicting church environment in which people of all faith experiences and backgrounds are molded into the image and reflection of Christ, together creating a God-honoring community of authentic worshipers deliberately focused on reaching their community, the nation, the next generation of believers and the world through missions works, innovative programs and prayer." And that’s just the first sentence.
The church has gone into a full-court press to get members to memorize the statement. The full text is posted on every door in the church, in bathroom stalls, in the bulletin and on all church correspondence and emails. The church is running a half-page ad featuring the statement in the local newspaper for two weeks. They were unable to fit it into their usual quarter-page space. Services now begin with everyone holding up their Bibles and reading the statement off the screens together with the pastor. All church-sanctioned events, from small groups to softball games, must now begin with participants reciting it together.
"It takes longer to get through than the national anthem," says one softball team captain. "The other teams laugh at us." Pastor Jack Lewine says he felt obligated to promote the statement mainly because his associate pastor Glen Pamplin had labored over it for six months before presenting it to the church. But even Lewine admits he had to delay the unveiling for two weeks so he could "get my own head around it." He can now recite it in less than 90 seconds, of which he is proud. Pamplin is reportedly irritated by people’s "reluctance to get on board with what God is doing at First Covenant." He says the statement’s length simply reflects that God has a lot in store for the church in the future. Bristling at the criticism, Pamplin recently floated the idea of throwing a contest with a cash prize to see if anyone in the congregation can come up with a better statement "that still fully encompasses, embodies and encourages our fundamental mission as an outpost of grace, joy and love for Christ in the city to which he has called us at this time in history," he says.
Suggestions are already rolling in.
"How about, ‘Jesus rules,’" says one seventh grader. "They should pay me by how many words I didn’t use." •