Pastor's Blog

Our Congregational Core

Through a happy set of very unexpected circumstances, in May of 2013 I had the great privilege of becoming the pastor of La Mesa Central Congregational Church. The congregation’s call for me to become the next pastor, and my acceptance of that call, was a challenge on both sides as I have no official Congregational roots. These first sixteen months together have been, and continue to be, a journey of getting to know each other and building trust.

Through my reading of Congregational history and practices, attending local Congregational leadership gatherings, and through many conversations with individuals here at CCC and from other Congregational churches, I have gained an appreciation for what I believe to be two core values of the Congregational movement, or the Congregational Way as we like to say.

The first of these values is the autonomy of the local church that is supported by the equal voice and value of each member. In response to the controlling, hierarchical system of the Anglican church of the 17th century, the original Congregationalists, the Pilgrims (also known as Puritans and Separatists), affirmed the authority of the local church made up of a body of believers bound by covenant, wherein the community of individual believers was directly responsible to God to discern and implement his will for that particular congregation.

This emphasis on the importance of each member as a key part of the local body is perfectly in line with the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. In 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” With the coming of Jesus, the official, representative priesthood of the old covenant has been done away with. Now, by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, each of us is a priest unto God and is therefore responsible to hear from God and act on his behalf as his representatives to this world that he loves so much.

However, we do not serve alone. And that leads me to the second core value of Congregationalism, that we are a community based on relational covenant, rather than doctrinal confession. Doctrine - what we believe about God and his purposes -  is supremely important, but it is also incredibly divisive, as the list of what is essential in belief and for fellowship can quickly become unnecessarily long, and is often used as a prideful tool of distinction instead of a unifying grace of inclusion. While varying in particulars, Congregational churches are bound together by a covenant based on a belief in Jesus Christ as the risen son of God and the concomitant pledge to walk in obedience to his commands. We can differ and debate about other issues, but if our focus is on Jesus and a desire to honor him, we can maintain fellowship and serve the Lord together.

With these Congregational Core Values in mind, I want to encourage you that each one of you is vital to the life and ministry of CCC. And, that our life together, in covenant relationship centered on Christ, is the most valuable asset we have and is the key to our witness to the truth of Jesus Christ. As Dr. David Gray, a key leader in the Congregational Way has stated, everything else is simply tradition that may be more or less helpful as time goes by. So, let’s do our part, find our place and stay connected for the glory of God and the good of our neighbors near and far.

By His Grace,

Pastor Scott