Do you expect to be changed when you walk through the doors of your local church for that committee meeting on Tuesday evening? Is your life – your attitudes, your behavior – different after you gather with sisters and brothers for the discussion group or Bible study in someone’s home or at a coffee shop? Are you challenged, comforted, confronted, renewed, reformed, transformed by your presence at worship? Are you moved by your participation in congregational life to find ways in your daily life to share with others what you have so wondrously and freely received in the gathering of God’s people?
Reflecting on Jesus’ appointment of the first twelve apostles in Mark 3:13ff, Darrell Guder suggests a deep evangelical rhythm of gathering and forming disciples (followers) and sending them into the world as apostles (sent ones) and witnesses.
First, Jesus calls his followers to be with him. Whenever and in whatever ways we gather as church we gather around Jesus, crucified and risen for us and for the world. This Jesus claims us in baptism, feeds us at the table, speaks to us through God’s Word, and transforms and reshapes us – each of us – into his self-giving image. Being with Jesus, however, is not the end; it’s the beginning.
Transformed, empowered and equipped, those who have been with Jesus are “sent out to proclaim the message.” That is not just the pastor’s job! Every person who is with Christ, marked with his cross and sealed with his Spirit, is sent to make known Christ’s good news in the world. Everyone. That’s why we are called to be with Jesus in the first place.
But there is just a bit more. Jesus gives his sent ones (apostles) “authority to cast out demons.” Speaking the good news of Jesus is intimately woven together with the embodiment of it, visible and concrete witness to the forgiving, curing, raising, cleansing, freeing power of Jesus crucified and risen for the life of the world. One is not complete without the other.
Rooted in this biblical rhythm, this priority raises a couple of questions: How can your congregation more intentionally and powerfully create space in every gathering of every kind to be with Jesus? How might your life together be different if everything you did together in large and small groups and gatherings were crafted around the goal of being equipped, empowered and transformed by God’s Spirit for your witness in the world?
For in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence -2 Corinthians 2:17.
+ Bishop Bill Gafkjen
i Darrell Guder, “The Continuing Conversion of the Church.” Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (March 20, 2000). pp. 50ff.