At our recent “Mission and Ministry” class, I asked the participants to share a story of when they had experienced church at its best. The responses were inspiring! People echoed a common refrain of how other sisters and brothers in Christ were there for them during a time of need. All of the stories involved genuine care and loving relationships. All of the stories involved believers being the Body of Christ to one another. When those who have experienced the mercy and grace of God pass it on to others, the Church is the greatest redemptive force in the world!
We could all probably share stories about Church at its worst, or Church at its most disappointing or mediocre. There are too many of those stories. In today’s divisive and often toxic culture, in these days when so many people feel isolated, disenchanted, and lonely, we need Church at its best. We need the gospel of Jesus Christ to set us free from our captivity to self. We need converted hearts that deeply know the love of God and the peace that passes understanding. In a world low on hope, we have a prime opportunity to allow God to demonstrate something remarkably different through the Church. Jesus lived, died, and rose, so that we could experience a different kind of community - the kind of community that the Trinity is - mutually loving, holy, and interdependent.
As we approach the season of Pentecost (starting June 9), we are reminded that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead resides in us. The Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost not only for the purpose of empowering the Church’s witness to Jesus’ resurrection, but to verify the reality of the resurrection through the sociological miracle of diverse people coming together through Christ to become a grace-filled community. This is the New Testament vision for the Church. This is Church at its best.
What does Church at its best look like? There are twenty-two unique references in the New Testament to the early church’s shared life using the words “one another.” The most repeated phrase is “love another another”, which covers just about everything, but there are other instructive verses such as “forgive one another,” “honor one another,” “pray for one another,” and “submit to one another.” During the season of Pentecost, we will explore these basic “one another” practices that are hallmarks of genuine Christian community. We will take weekly dives into New Testament Scriptures that are given to shape our life together.
We also will be providing an easily accessible way for all of us to practice Church at its best - through eating together! The gospels are filled with stories of Jesus having meals with both insiders and outsiders. The early church made table fellowship a regular practice and priority. During this Pentecost season, we want to strengthen our community by eating together, being curious about each others’ stories, and practicing Church at its best with Jesus at the center. All you have to do is let us know if you’re interested, and we’ll help arrange groups of six to eight adults (plus kids if applicable). Groups will meet two times and will figure out what times work best for them. As we hear about the “one another” passages on Sundays, we will be creating casual and relaxed spaces to put them into practice. What better way to do this than around dinner tables? Let’s practice being Church at its best and invite others to join us!