Q: Could you please advise whether our vision statement of joining our church to "Experience Heaven Together" is a slogan and concept readily used by other Free Methodist Churches, and other Protestant denominations?
As stated in the title and in the inquiry, Westlight Community Church's vision statement is "Experience Heaven Together." There is a lot of thought, prayers, fasting, and discussions that went into the creation of this simple three-word-phrase. To explain the origins of this, and also to share how this fits into our denomination requires a bit of a background.
I will break this down into three questions, which will somewhat represent the steps we took to arrive at our vision. Then, finally, I will answer the question.
First, what is a vision statement? When we close our eyes and imagine what our church can look and feel like in the distant future, what do we see? This image is the foundation of our vision statement. We aren't talking about what our building will look like (since a "church" is not a building), what the music will sound like, what kind of programs we offer, how much people give monetarily, or how many people will be in attendance on a given Sunday. We are talking about what a healthy church ought to feel, and what a healthy Christian ought to represent.
Second, what is our goal? The goal of a church is determined by how we measure success. As hinted earlier, we do not consider attendance, building, or cash (the ABC's of a church institution) our goals. Success is measured by whether the people of Westlight are living out their faith in a healthy manner. Are we pursuing what Jesus wants us to pursue?
Throughout church history (especially in the last two centuries or so), there seems to be a divide in the global church, when we attempt to describe the Christian goal. In one camp, we have Christians that feel that going to heaven is their ultimate priority. This is usually epitomized by Rev. Billy Graham. He traveled around the world giving everyone countless opportunities to accept Jesus as their Savior so they can have eternal life with Jesus.
The other group is represented by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He fought for the rights of people, because he had a deep-seated conviction that heaven must be experienced here on earth. He's the champion of social justice and laid his life on the line to bring a little more equality amongst ethnicities and races.
For a long time in church history, these two pursuits were not separate. If one reads the ancient writings of the first five hundred years of the church, these two goals went hand-in-hand. There are many other heroes of our faith that continued this tradition since (such as William Wilberforce, John Wesley, B.T. Roberts, etc.).
Our goal is to bring these two ideals back together. We love seeing people coming to know Jesus, but we don't think it is healthy for a person to merely believe - there needs to be action. We also think that it isn't healthy to merely do projects related to social justice - there needs to be a relationship with God.
Third, how should we phrase this? One of the principles of creating a vision statement is that it needs to be easy to remember. We chose "Experience Heaven Together" because of its dual meaning. 1) Experience heaven together after we die. 2) Experience heaven together here and now, as we do God's will in our community.
So, is this vision statement used in any other church? We don't know. This is due to the fact that we don't know the vision statement of other churches.
We don't know if other Free Methodist Churches (our denomination affiliation) would use these three words, but our beliefs are well within the boundaries of FM Theology. As a matter of fact, what makes the FMC so unique (compared to most other denominations) is that we have a good theology for salvation but an even richer doctrine for what we ought to do afterwards. This is why we have a rich tradition of fighting for women's rights, care for the poor, participate in movements against slavery, assisting in racial reconciliation and preaching about the transformation of our hearts.
Did you know that the Wesleyan movement (which the FMC is a part of) was the moving force behind small groups in Christianity? Life is not meant to be experienced alone. We believe intimate communities is valuable for us to connect with God, transform our hearts, and do God's work. It is not healthy to go through life alone.
Our board and leadership feel that the words "Experience Heaven Together" expresses our desire to be a healthy community of Jesus followers.