I don’t know about you, but I look forward to hearing about various April Fools jokes every year. April 1 is an unusual day where, thanks to tradition, we look forward to trickery, and find fun in joking deception. Google, the search engine, is notorious for its pranks every year. One of my favorites was last year, when they changed their searchable maps into a giant Pac Man game! A couple of years ago Netflix, the TV and movie streaming service, came out with a new original movie – a 73 minute video of rotisserie chicken cooking!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Have you ever had a fuse go out in your house? Maybe your family is running too many appliances – the hair dryer, the blender, the fan – or maybe the whole neighborhood gets overloaded. Especially if this happens at night, there’s nothing quite like getting plunged into total darkness when you least expect it! I know I always intend to have easy access to emergency candles or a flashlight, but it usually takes some searching to locate fresh batteries or a pack of matches. But when you finally get a match lit, what a difference that light makes!
Jesus is referred to as a light in darkness for a reason – it’s the perfect symbol of hope. There’s something going on right now that I want to tell you about, something that’s giving me hope for the future. I’m talking about a movement happening in the city of Durham, North Carolina. It’s a gathering of young adults, including four GCI interns, and it is truly a bright and shining light.
This small group meets weekly. They’re not a formal church, but a consistent gathering of young believers, supporting and challenging one another each week. It’s a diverse group, from all different backgrounds. Only one of the nine regular attendees grew up with GCI. They gather on a weeknight for an hour or two, just to connect. This community prays, brainstorms, and fellowships. They mull over Scripture, perhaps share a meal, and discuss a book they’re reading together.
Although these meetings are extremely informal, that’s just how this body of believers wants it. They know how tempting it is to impose our preconceived notions on how God works in community. In the past, missionaries often imported Western customs and expectations along with the true gospel. Even today, it can be all too easy to rely on what “already works” in reaching a new community. Instead, this group is committed to letting church grow from the ground up. In fact, a favorite phrase of theirs is “What if?”
They ask this important question because they want to remain wide open to the Holy Spirit – to be moved by God’s calling. Instead of worrying about how church should look, they’re investing time in one another and in their community. This ethnically and socially diverse gathering has been drawn together by a common faith and a common call. They are seeking to reach Durham authentically, remaining open to God’s guidance. I can’t think of anything more hopeful than this – a Christ-centered community following God’s call.
This kind of church planting looks different than it may have in the past. It seeks to establish deep roots in local community, and to rethink the “how” and “when” of Christian gathering and worship. Grounded in sound theology, but pushing the boundaries of traditional church structure, this gathering in Durham is an example of church planting in the 21st century. It reminds me of my starting analogy, that single match in a dark house. This group of eager young people coming together to speak the language and meet the needs of their particular place and time, in order to spread the gospel is indeed a small, bright light shining for the world to see.
This group wants to carry Christ’s light into the world. They’re open to the Spirit’s guidance, rooted in solid theology, and want to plant a GCI church that’s suited to their community in Durham, North Carolina. They have the resources to think outside the box and follow God’s guidance thanks to donors like you, and your faithful investment in our future. Jesus tells us to “let [our] light shine before others” so that they will “glorify [our] Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16, NIV). That’s what this body of believers is doing – and what you do when you support them in ministry.
This movement in Durham one of the reasons we here at Grace Communion International are hopeful about the future. The future of GCI is a diverse one that attracts rising leaders, like our interns, to invest in true Christian community. GCI is committed to bringing the good news of the gospel to all nations and all communities. If you believe, as I do, that reaching communities “where they are” and equipping the next generation to engage those around them is a valuable goal, then I ask that you continue to support GCI – with your prayers, your investment, and your financial gifts.
Thankful for those who shine in darkness,
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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.