Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God. Trust also in me.
In all of our anxious talk about the future of the church, we sometimes forget that we’ve been here before. When Jesus gathered his little start-up community for a meal in a rented upstairs space, he shared with them some good news and some bad news.
The good news? He was about to show them the full extent of his love.
The bad news? A member of their company was on his way out to betray Jesus. Another was about to deny knowing Jesus at all.
The anxiety level is high, they’ve just lost a church member. Another key leader’s loyalty is in question and their founder is about to die.
And Jesus speaks calm into the tension. His words cut right to the heart.
In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
Jesus and Home
It’s important to note that Jesus’s use of domestic language here underscores something much deeper. The place Jesus is preparing for us is not about location. It’s about relationship. Jesus isn’t simply showing his followers the way, Jesus is the way. He is the way to the place where we can dwell in the presence of God forever.
If you were to use John 14 as a guide to discern what separates those with the disposition to start fresh expressions of church from those who don’t, we might simply say this: The ones best equipped to start something new are the ones who have their house in order.
The people the church is the most anxious to reach can tell if we don’t. They’re not looking for people who have it all together, but they are looking for wisdom. They’re looking for people who are at peace with themselves and who have room in their life for another relationship.
Wisdom is what Jesus has in mind when he calls himself the way. In a church culture fixated on statistics and strategies, the way forward demands wisdom.
Finding the true life in God means spending time in God’s presence.
Author Gary Thomas and others have noted the necessity of discovering our Sacred Pathways—the ways where we are most at home with God. Some of us are best at home with God by being quiet or reading scripture. Others of us experience God in nature or through music or by learning to become a caregiver for an elderly relative.
At the Fresh Expressions National Gathering, pastor and theologian David Fitch encouraged the audience to “tend to the presence of Christ in the everyday.” If we tend to his presence in the everyday, we soon become at home with God. We become attuned to God’s love. As this happens, others will be led our way and we’ll be led to them too.
Before You Can Win an Olympic Medal
One of the great stories of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is the story of Adam and Kimiko Soldati. Soldati is the diving coach at Purdue University and he coaches Olympic medalists David Boudia and Steele Johnson.
David Boudia began competing in the Olympics in 2008. When he came home from Beijing without a medal, he began to wonder about his purpose in life. He began doing lots of ‘silly things’ (his words) and some of those silly things led to a period of deep depression and thoughts of suicide.
One morning, David couldn’t get out of bed so he sent a text message to a friend on the diving team. His friend encouraged him to reach out to Soldati.
David says he didn’t know what a believer was or what that even meant. He says he just knew that his coach was approachable and loving and wise.
The Soldati’s invited David over to their home where they listened to David’s story. They asked him a lot of questions to find out how he got to be where he was.
At the root of it, David was seeking his identity in his sport. He was trying to be the master of his own flawless performance and he simply couldn’t do it anymore.
David didn’t immediately turn over his life ambitions to Jesus. It took a series of conversations over several weeks and months for that to occur. Eventually, he began to get his house in order because Adam and Kimiko Soldati had their house in order.
We do what we do not because it might somehow reverse the tide of church decline, but because people are looking for wisdom, truth and life.
If you want to start something new, get your house in order. Everything else flows from that.
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.