(This is Part 2 of a post from earlier this week)
Now, as I stated earlier, let me explain what I see as one of the key things that I believe Jesus wants to give to us as His church in our city in this key time of transformation.
There is an identity shift happening. I see believers, leaders, and churches beginning to think and act less like individuals on a solo mission, and more like members of an extended family with external relational reference points for discerning their path and shared vision. This identity shift might be at the crux of everything else good that is in motion, because when we truly understand the Father's Heart of adoption for ourselves, we are able to connect with an access the love that he has for others outside of ourselves. Spiritual adoption changes the way that we see ourselves and others. Like Neo at the end of The Matrix seeing everything through a code lens, we see others through the lens of Father’s love (Major faux paux with the overdone Matrix reference here. I know. Forgive me. I just did it anyway). All of a sudden, there is compassion that we didn’t have before---and joy in seeing the dreams of others coming to light and supported. Life isn’t dominated by our own pursuits, accomplishments, and comforts. It becomes a dance that we join in with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and all the rest of their big, beautiful Family---and we all just want to see the party grow! There is both a deep abounding joy that takes the stage in our shared lives, as well as an aching lament in our souls for the ways the world around us falls tragically short of the vision in God’s heart for us all. When seen through to its next healthy end, this lament leads us to transforming action on the other side.
One of the reasons I point this out as a major game-changing characteristic of what I see happening in Grand Rapids, is that the heart, or impetus, from which the motion of a movement comes from is so telling about how far it will go and what it will become. So many attempts at catalyzing movements in prayer, justice or church unity come from individuals’ attempts to accomplish or achieve. I’ve seen and been a part of so many that have started strong, but petered out after a couple of meetings. Let’s not scorn these at all because they are attempts at something that is getting at the Heart of God, but is very difficult to walk this stuff out because of our messy humanity. I think we need to be willing to try new things and fail often in order to learn our way forward humbly, one step at a time. So let's celebrate these failures---because nothing is lost in all these humble attempts at unity in our history.
"The heart, or impetus, from which the motion of a movement comes from is so telling about how far it will go and what it will become."
The interesting thing, however, is that true unity in the Church WILL NOT come about from that kind of origin because individual achievement at its core is directly opposed to the heart of what unity in the Body of Christ is about, and true unity only comes about from the the Holy Spirit's shepherding and knitting hearts together. From what I see currently, there is not a primary individual carrying this movement, but MANY who are humbly offering what they have to serve others and see something greater happen. This is very encouraging to me and I am excited to see the Holy Spirit grow and develop this.
Since we live in this reality of the Church of the city as an extended family under ONE Father---only because of Jesus’ work of salvation and adoption---and this shared understanding has made itself more prominent in our common language among leaders and individuals in the Church of Grand Rapids, I see that there is a quality of family relating that The Lord desires to impart to us. That is friendship.
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have hear from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15
Think about the fact that you are related to your mother father, sister, brother, cousins, etc.—no matter what—that’s just the reality for you. However, though you are bonded for life, what your relationship looks like with them can vary WIDELY from sharing life closely and having a deep aching affection for one another to not even being on speaking terms. The quality of our family relationships can be all over the place. However, Jesus said, I have called you FRIENDS—and He shared life with the people He said this to in such a way that was true to the statement. In His incarnation, death, and resurrection, He changed our reality by bringing us into His Father’s family. In his life on earth, He showed His disciples a quality of relationship—friendship—that reflects what family in the heart of the Holy Trinity looks like.
Think about this. For anyone who’s grown up with brothers and sisters in your life, isn’t one of the best things you can hope for to be friends with your siblings. (I might have a biased perspective here because I have five siblings and I think they are all the most amazing people.) Or what about having an amazing friendship with your mom or dad as an adult. Or the negative point, you can be married to someone with whom your friendship has completely dissolved. What a tragedy.
In the church, that is, the Church with a big C, I think Jesus wants to show us friendship between leaders, congregations, missional communities, house churches, and ministries. We are starting to really get this reality of FAMILY, let’s embrace a quality of friendship by learning how to love one another with the wild grace, joy, and power the Spirit gave to us on the day of Pentacost. We get to walk in that too! This is a long term journey, lived out with a long term perspective, and requires so much grace and patience with one another. But not giving up on one another is the key. Each season brings forward new challenges, perspective and new opportunities for connection. We need to honor one another through each and trust the Spirit is leading us forward together as we keep a vision of His Kingdom in our minds’ eyes. Making space to just be with one another and lay our hearts vulnerably before God in prayer with one another will go so far in making this a lived reality.
Bringing it all back to this moment.
This weekend, on September 8 and 9, we will have a festival in our city that will be a climactic experience for so many individuals and churches who have been planning and sowing into this for years. My prayer, however, is that this wonderful evangelistic event will not be a climax with falling action to follow, but that it will be a beautiful launching point for so much more into the future through united city-wide 24-7 prayer, justice initiatives with the ONE West Michigan campaign and many others, and missional communities and initiatives to impact the city for the Kingdom long term---all sustained by the transformative bonds of an extended FAMILY of FRIENDS, the Church.
Lord, help us keep showing up in one anothers’ lives and extending new grace to one another, growing into greater maturity in each season---for your Kingdom’s sake. Amen.