Dear Brothers and Sisters, I want to tell you the story of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. They were a remarkable group of individuals who used their God-given talents to overcome tremendous adversity to build a legacy that has burned bright for more than a hundred and fifty years.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Down through the ages the church has faced many challenges in a wide range of social and political situations. And through it all the church has taken many forms. As our surrounding American culture shifts we are once again confronted with the question, “What does it mean to be a church?” Around the globe, especially in North American and European nations, rethinking about this issue is earnestly taking place. That’s exactly what Christ calls us to do in order to be lights in the world, but not conformed to it. But GCI, its pastors, and congregations have already been responding and experimenting. Let me tell you a little more about an encouraging development referred to as missional community.
Often, the local church has concentrated on having a building that Christians strive to make as attractive as possible to their neighbors. From the best worship music and summer camps for kids, to ample parking and coffee hour, churches have tried hard to be inviting places. Often, evangelism has boiled down to welcoming our friends and neighbors to the church building, and expecting the Sunday morning service to do the rest.
But when we look back to the Bible, we see that Jesus’ ministry involved more than going to the Temple or synagogue or meeting in an upper room. We see this when he calls his first disciples. Jesus comes across Peter and Andrew fishing on the lake of Galilee. He tells them, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.” The Bible says, “at once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:19-20, NIV). With this surprising invitation, Jesus gains his first followers. And of course we know that those very apostles he chose “to be with him” he also sent out to invite others to follow Jesus and live under his gracious rule and reign. Jesus’ parables of the sower and seeds, the casting of nets and being light on a hill, not to mention his Great Commission, reveal this same dynamic.
Following him means gathering together, but also going out into the surrounding communities, near and far, to introduce people to Jesus Christ and invite them to become a part of his people, his body. Jesus described this dynamic in ever widening circles, “You will become my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the furthest parts of the world.” The church has a rhythm of gathering together and sending out, of ebb and flow. The very heart of discipleship is found in relationships that draw others into community with God as well. That’s what a missional church realizes.
The story of the Samaritan woman demonstrates that everyone can serve as a light, a sign, of God’s presence to all those around. Having met Jesus she merely goes into her own town and tells all those she knows there, you really need to meet this Jesus. She then, simply introduces her community to Jesus. It doesn’t require her to leave her immediate and daily community. Nor are we required to do so.
As followers of Jesus, we are people passionate about living out the good news in our own lives. We believe that God empowers us to make a difference for him right where we are, in what we are already doing. We at GCI truly believe we get to participate in God’s story for the world every day. The disciples are a great reminder: God has already sent us somewhere. It might not be another country, and it might not be serving on pastoral staff of a church. The radical idea of missional living is this: that the church is a place to equip disciples to join in with God’s work in our everyday relationships, in our surrounding communities.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of attending GCI’s Mission Developers Conference in South Africa. As I met with pastors and missionaries from around the globe, I was struck by how perfectly positioned Grace Communion International is for community impact. I am deeply inspired by the creative, incarnational ministries I heard from in South Africa – many from around the world, and some from my own backyard!
A major part of living missionally is reaching people where they are. One ministry we support in South Africa does the vital work of digging wells to supply clean water to those in need. For years, this operation has been done by hand. This year, thanks to the generosity of donors just like you, we were able to help this ministry purchase a truck equipped to dig wells, which will cut down on many hours of hard physical labor. Tim Maguire, the man in charge of the project, plans to train young people in need of work to operate this equipment. They can then pass on that training – and that blessing – to others. This ministry meets tangible needs in a local community, and does so in the name of Jesus.
Another GCI congregation in Los Angeles shows how important it is to be on mission every day. Iglesia Evangelica Communion De Gracia is located in Lincoln Heights, a largely Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles. Throughout the week, the congregation finds opportunities to share life with their neighbors. This might include handing out 500 water bottles on a hot summer day – no strings attached, just caring for their community. The church members pray with people who need it, visit the sick in their homes, and invest in lasting relationships. By living every day on mission with Jesus, they plant the seed of the gospel by demonstrating his love in real ways.
This kind of missional mindset emphasizing local action across the globe is an important part of the gospel. Whether it’s hosting a barbeque in a neighborhood known for poverty and addiction, or sitting and chatting with the person who lives next door, or worshipping with them on the weekend, we at GCI believe that God’s church is expressed in relationship. Meeting real physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those we already live alongside is a powerful testament to the transforming power of Christ. Painting a house or giving away clean water might not seem like much. But in the long run, these acts of kindness and care demonstrate the love of God in our lives and communities. I am humbled and grateful that we at GCI get to be a part of this kind of impact for Jesus – all over the globe, and in our own backyards. Thank you for preaching the gospel through your actions wherever you are and by supporting GCI in our efforts to share Jesus around the globe.
With hope in Christ's mission,
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Grace Communion International is dedicated to helping people everywhere understand the truth about God and the gospel. Because of your generous support, we can share the good news of who God really is for us with many more around the world. We appreciate your support.