A few years ago I wrote down what I thought were the “Parkway distinctives,” the characteristics of our congregation that were not unique to us, but that taken together provided a profile of who we are. I wanted our members to be able to articulate, beyond our shared faith in Jesus Christ, what we value as we converse with neighbors and friends, especially those who might be searching for a church home.

To refresh your mind, here is the list:

Reverent worship: We believe worship should usher us into the presence of God. While worship may be exuberant and energetic, it should always be offered in a reverent spirit as the best we have to bring before a holy God.

Personal connections: Partly due to our size, but mainly because of the open and friendly nature of our members, we are able to make connections with one another that give us support and encouragement for the Christian journey.

Meaningful involvement: Parkway is not a “spectator church.” Everyone is encouraged to participate fully in the life of the congregation, including service to one another and ministry to the community.

Diversity: We are located in an ethnically diverse community and we encourage all people, regardless of their personal backgrounds, to become part of the family. But we are also diverse in our thinking. While we are united in our commitment to Christ as Lord, we are open to a diversity of opinions and stances on non-essentials.

You might want to add to the list but I seriously doubt you can take issue with anything that is on it.

As I look at this list now, it strikes me again how important it is that a congregation like ours maintain our presence in this community. Many people have no interest in being part of a Christian church; others are only interested in a church where there is no expectation of commitment; some are looking for a church of a different style or with a different predominant ethnicity. But for those of us who are here, a church like ours is the place where we have found a home and where we can continue to grow in our faith. I believe there are others who would also benefit.

It is readily apparent, however, that, given the demographics of our community and the natural aging of our congregation, we face significant challenges to our long-term viability. Whether or not we have a place in this community into the future is ultimately up to God, but God also allows us to play a part.

Whether or not anyone else ever comes through our doors, we can do all within our power to maintain our own commitment and give of our time and resources to our programs and ministries. There are many steps that each of us can take to make Parkway a great place to worship, learn, and love. We can start by committing to a higher degree of personal participation.

During the Civil War, my theological alma mater, the former Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was in danger of having to close its doors. One of the professors, John A. Broadus, declared, “Perhaps the seminary may die, but let us resolve that we will die first.” He believed that using his gifts for God was best done through the work of the school, and only death would stop him from doing that.

I believe that Parkway Baptist Church is of enough value to the kingdom of God that it is worthy of a similar level of commitment. Perhaps one day it may die, but let us resolve that we will die first. Who is with me?