“We owe the Gospel to others. This is the debt we owe.”
These hard-hitting words were delivered by Bishop Graham Cray in a sermon at the First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia. You can listen to the sermon here.
In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul writes of his service to the gospel with his whole heart. Here, the word service is inextricably linked to the word for worship. Our service to the gospel of God is directly tied to our worship of God. Our worship of God is, of course, also linked to our communion with God. Cray quotes former Archbishop William Temple to make this point: “Many people believe that a person’s conduct and behavior is the most important thing and that prayer helps it. But in reality, prayer is the most important thing and conduct helps it.”
The work of Fresh Expressions will take root among people and places in partnership with the mission of God. Mission is not a program of the church. It is God’s gift to the Church. And it’s a gift we offer to the world out of a grateful heart.
The Apostle Paul enlisted in this sort of partnership with God. And while it caused a great many struggles, it also caused a great many adventures as Paul went out in search of places to explore and people to serve.
Fresh Expressions of church often begin with prayerful exploration about where and to whom we owe the gift of the gospel. This requires a slow and thoughtful course. It means walking instead of driving through a neighborhood and taking notice of the sidewalks and alleys and people we meet along the way.
The work of Fresh Expressions is also worked out in partnership with Christians from other denominations and networks eager to link up in partnership with the mission of God. In 1773, the founding pastor of the First Baptist Church of Alexandria was imprisoned by colonial authorities for preaching the Gospel without a license from the Church of England. He probably never imagined a burgeoning partnership between Baptists, Anglicans and 20 other groups.
Not only is the gift of the gospel a debt we owe to those who have no knowledge of the faith; it is a gift owed to everyone who believes.
Gannon Sims is Director of Communications and Networking for Fresh Expressions US. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia where he works to bring Fresh Expressions of church to the collegiate community at the University of Mary Washington.
Gannon is the Director of Ministry Formation for Fresh Expressions US and leads the Fresh Expressions efforts of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. He earned the Bachelor of Arts Degree from Baylor University and the Master of Divinity degree from Duke University. Prior to entering seminary, Gannon worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate and as a public affairs officer in the anti-human trafficking office at the U.S. State Department. He enjoys forging partnerships between followers of Jesus from different traditions and has served in various roles at several churches, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anglican. Gannon is married to Carey, who also is a graduate of Duke Divinity School. Together they work to bring fresh expressions of church to the collegiate community at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.