by Keith Wieser, Resonate Lead Pastor
I hate snakes. It’s not a theological thing. It’s not a “bad experience” thing. I just hate snakes. Last summer I took a hike and counted 11 snakes on the trail. The hike was supposed to be beautiful but I missed most of it. I kept my head down to make sure that I was stepping on rocks and dirt instead of a snake across the trail. Finally, I stopped and took in the view. I saw the trail I had climbed behind me, and I saw what was coming up next. In that moment, I realized how much I had climbed. It felt more dramatic than it looked when I started. What was ahead was also even clearer.
In the midst of the hike, that moment reminded me why I wanted to go on the journey in the first place and what I should expect as I continued. Similarly, I’d like to take a moment to lift our eyes and look at the journey of our church. Here are four things that I think are worth celebrating and three challenges that may lie ahead.
Four things we should celebrate:
1.Sentness has become a new normal
A growing number of college students have recognized that their calling and ultimate purpose is fulfilled as they point their life to God’s mission. Many have exchanged the pursuit of the “American Dream” to accumulate wealth and comfort for themselves, for giving their lives in a missional context to affect eternity.
Groups of individuals have demonstrated what church may have looked like as they moved in groups to other places among other people. As people have chosen missional choices for their lives they have created real-life stories that others can look to. In Moneyball - a movie about a radical change to the way that baseball teams achieve success - Brad Pitt’s character states, “First one through the wall gets a bloody nose.” There have been countless Resonaters who have chosen to be the first ones through the wall. Now we have stories and scripts that reveal that what seems impossible is achievable and what seems crazy can actually be accomplished.
2. Multiplication isn’t just a theory
We are now at the halfway point of our vision to plant 21 churches by the year 2021. As we plan out the next 3 years of church planting it’s overwhelming to see God provide pathways to planters, money, and teams. What seemed like an audacious goal 3 years ago now seems empowered by God to be achieved. What should be celebrated isn’t just an accomplished vision, but what this vision means: Multiplication really works.
We are now watching the beauty of Kingdom math at work. The redemptive “flywheel” is spinning faster and faster. This means that our potential doesn’t end at planting 21 churches by 2021, but that we are just beginning.
3. The idea of real Gospel community has been incepted.
A few years ago Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Inception said, “There’s nothing more powerful than an idea that’s fully formed and understood.” In Resonate there are growing pockets of people who are experiencing a kind of community that forever changes them. The truth of the Gospel plus the purpose of the Mission create a dynamic community that forever changes people. There’s nothing more deeply connective than honest, vulnerable community that is established around the crucible of living towards the mission of God to redeem a broken world. It can’t be faked, it can’t be replaced, and once experienced it cannot be forgotten. Our baptism stories are filled with the discovery of something the world cannot duplicate and finds increasingly rare.
4. Everyday missionaries are discovering their calling to demonstrate God’s Kingdom on earth.
Across our network, we are seeing owners discover their calling and be mobilized to do something that shows Jesus to the world around them. As a church, we have worked to give permission, and even funding, to make sure that everyday missionaries are released into every nook and cranny of our world to war against evil. I believe that what we are seeing is just a small sample of what has incredible potential. The imagination and capacity to bring heaven to earth is just beginning to be realized in our midst. When we begin to believe with confidence what we can accomplish, we will achieve things on a scale we previously believed to be impossible. Let’s celebrate the beginning of something great happening among us.
Three challenges for the future:
1.Comfort over Sacrifice/Suffering
There is a natural draw for all of us away from sacrifice towards comfort. We have to make the decision of whether sacrifice is just for a season or if sacrifice is the default posture of someone who follows Jesus. As we continue in our faith journey will we choose his ways above other more “reasonable, respectable, or conventional” choices? It’s in the moment of suffering that we often find clarity and calling in our lives. If we begin to choose comfort and security, we will lose clarity, we will miss our unique calling that taps into the deepest passions and pains, and we will and settle for generic pathways that quickly bore us. If we believe maturity in Christ actually means He requires less of us, we should question whether we are actually mature at all. Where do you find yourself drifting towards comfort?
2. Focusing inward over focusing outward
As we get bigger and have churches scattered broadly it will become easier for us to focus on the increasing number of people who are insiders. We have to remember the church is one of the only organizations that exists primarily for the sake of its non-members. Our church (like most churches) is made up of primarily Shepherds and Teachers on the APEST functions in Ephesians 4. This means if we don’t set our eyes to the lost, broken, and marginalized FIRST, we will gradually turn the focus on ourselves. We will justify meeting the needs we see in our community instead of seeking out the needs of others. Do you have a passion for the lost, broken, and marginalized?
3. Strategy over prayer and fasting
As we move ahead I believe that two things are likely. 1. What we are doing to join God’s work on earth will have more and more opposition. 2. We will have greater and greater opportunities ahead of us to truly create a movement of God. In both cases, we cannot rely on strategy to sustain us. Throughout history when these kinds of conditions have met the Church, and the Church responded with the practice of fasting and prayer, the fireworks of revival followed. We must decide that we will become a church known for its commitment to prayer. I believe we can accomplish some good things with a great strategy, but I think we can only accomplish God’s plan for our church through an unwavering commitment to prayer. How can you begin to activate your prayer life?
Now back to looking for snakes.