BY CHRIS ROUTEN
On Sunday morning, February 5th, Resonate Church commissioned a team of 18 people being sent from Resonate CWU to plant its seventh site at Western Oregon University.
COMMISSIONING SUNDAY IN LIGHT OF THE PRESENT
Yesterday Resonate U of O became old news. And I loved it. As I sat in the front row of Straub 156, I was overwhelmed with excitement. So giddy! On the edge of my seat! Butterflies in my stomach! Giggling at every joke Colin cracked under his breath! Clapping when nobody else in the room was. I watched the live stream intently and barely blinked for 40 minutes. You’ve seen that guy at an event…the one who’s way too into it and over-excited. On Sunday morning, I was that guy.
Because one year ago, it was our team being commissioned at 11:00am on Super Bowl Sunday. Our Resonate family gave thousands of dollars and thousands of prayers so that 12 people could move to Eugene to plant Resonate U of O. Seeing it happen again a year later with a new group of people was surreal.
Here’s what Commissioning Sunday is like for the team being sent out: it’s kind of like 1200 people made a human tunnel for you. You know how everybody linked arms overhead and made a tunnel for you after those elementary soccer games? It's kind of like that. Then you run through the tunnel, knowing only one thing for certain – that you’re terrified of what’s on the other side. The whole time you’re questioning, “Did I make a huge mistake? What did I sign up for? Keep praying, please keep praying.”
Our team landed in Eugene with a full head of steam, evangelistic optimism, and a vision to see the Lord redeem the U of O campus. But one conversation with a believer in the city had a halting affect on me. They told me, “You know this is where church planters come to die, right? This city eats them alive. What makes you think you’ll be any different?”
I didn’t have an answer to that. And it really scared me. The more I thought about it though, the more I recognized what they said was a true statement. Church planters do die. It's super morbid and also super accurate. Like, biologically, that will happen to me and my team. And to Colin and the WOU team. It’s both sobering and inevitable.
But it seems that that very truth, though scary, is a vital component for a healthy missiology.
COMMISSIONING SUNDAY IN LIGHT OF THE PAST
God has created humans with a life cycle. Be born, live, procreate, then die. In fact, all living things do it. And we love this human life cycle. We celebrate or commemorate every piece. Your parents had a baby shower for you, people celebrate your birthday, then everybody shows up at the hospital when your children are born, and when you pass away they’ll hold a funeral to commemorate your life. I’m not trying devalue our lives here – I'm just stating some facts. We see life cycles as a fundamental way to segment a person's biological existence.
Within this, the looming inevitability of death creates an urgency for humans to live a fulfilling life. It’s a good urgency. It drives people to travel the world, make friends, live generously towards others, etc.
This looming inevitability is also why we procreate. Without procreation, we'd be done after one generation. Without multiplying, humanity would physically die out.
The exact same is true for our churches. Could it be that this physical reality of impending death is an ingredient for mission?
You can read in the first chapter of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs what it was like to be a part of the early church in Rome. If you were the pastor of this church from 60-300 CE, you were probably killed. Nearly every pastor of this church was martyred for hundreds of years! One would die, then another would take his place. Shouldn’t it be difficult to hire somebody with martyrdom basically written into the job description? But when one pastor would go down, there was another one stepping up to continue doing what the last one no longer could. It's as if they realized the church had a life cycle. Without this step-up-multiplying, Christianity in Rome, and potentially the rest of the world, would have died out.
What the church in Rome saw is what Resonate must see. The fact that our lives on earth are not eternal drives us to multiply disciples. Our churches have life cycles, therefore we multiply churches. The sense that we can wait to do what God has designed and equipped us to do is unnatural. We can’t simply hold on a few years before making disciples, a few more before planting a church – until we raise our GPA’s, until we land a job, or until the kids grow up a little more. The mission is urgent because the world is dying and so are we.
The moment 21x21 became real (and personal) to me was when I was asked the question, “If Josh, Keith, Matthew, and Drew died in a plane crash, would we abandon the mission?”
I’m trying to imagine how the church in Rome would have answered that question.
Nah man. It’d simply be my turn to step up.
And so with tearful eyes I watched the Resonate CWU stage fill with young church planters who have said, "It’s my turn to step up.”
Monmouth, Oregon may be a place where church planters go to die. It actually may. And in light of that, I’m praying that the Resonate in Monmouth doesn’t become an end in itself – but a church planting HUB, a missionary sending platform, a venue for multiplication. That much like us, Resonate WOU becomes old news within a year because there’s another team in the bullpen ready to plant.
COMMISSIONING SUNDAY IN LIGHT OF FOREVER
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
And they cried out in a loud voice:
'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'”
John's vision in Revelation 7 is an uncountable crowd gathered before Christ’s throne. Chinese and Iraqis. Canadians and Maoris. The Cambodian next to the Senegali. And some WOU grads surround the throne in Revelation 7. And some Cougs, Ducks, Wildcats, Vandals, and some Eags. And also Grizzlies. And Broncos. And Bengals. And Huskies and Beavers. Do you see it?
One day– one glorious, long awaited, blessed day – we will stand before the throne of Jesus worshiping. On that day, we will behold the face of our King. Unveiled and unleashed in all His majesty. On that day, and onward forevermore, our Commissioning Sundays will be rendered unnecessary. YouTube live streams will be an ancient memory. We’ll laugh about how impossible we thought 21x21 was, as we gaze upon the Lord who holds galaxies together by His word. The voices from Resonate Church will be swallowed up by the congregation of believers spanning nationality and history. We’ll revel with complete contentment and self-abandoning worship in the presence of our Heavenly Father. We’ll spend millennia basking in the goodness of our Savior, next to the saints from Rome who were likewise pardoned by Christ’s blood. Commissioning Sundays will be outdated. “The Mission” will be accomplished. The nations will have been brought to Him just as He promised. This is our future, church. One day.
But that day is not today. As it approaches with gleeful mystery, it ignites a flame of urgency that drives us to the next city, begging God for the souls of those people.
Somebody, please make Resonate WOU old news.
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