A Reflection of and Response to the ACNA Provincial Assembly of 2017
By Lori Moore
Many Christians are asking what does God’s call to mission look like for the church today? Where should we focus our efforts, how should we go about fulfilling the mandate of the Lord Jesus Christ to go and make disciples, and what strategies are needed?
In gospel word and deed through real-life stories of redemption, reconciliation, and revival, leaders of the ACNA Provincial Assembly issued God’s call to mission right where we are.
The Call to Open Our Eyes
In the opening message, the most Reverend Dr. Foley Beach invited us to consider the confusion of the church within and the culture without that needs the good news of Jesus Christ. Indeed “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” so we must pray to the Lord of the Harvest for harvest hands (Luke 10:2). First, we need to see beyond ourselves to see the harvest, those people in need all around us. Today, there is so much to see, for the whole world is in our homes.
Who are you and who am I seeing in need of the gospel right now?
And yet, while there is much to see, we have a problem. We don’t always want to open our eyes. We don’t want to be bothered. It’s easier to keep our eyes closed to those around us. We have enough to do to keep ourselves, our families, and our jobs going. Thus, you and I need the Lord to do a work in us right where we are. In order for the Lord to provide and send out more laborers, Beach says we need more “agonizers in prayer.” Prayer that agonizes over the lost and intercedes for God’s people to wake up and respond is the key that will move us to open our doors.
In response to agonizing prayer, the Father calls His people to open our eyes to mission right where we are.
The Call to Open Our Doors
Once we open our eyes to see the harvest, the gospel of Christ challenges us to open our doors, even to those who are different than we are. One people group who has not dared to darken the door of the church are millennials. According to a Barna study, even among Christian millennials who grew up in the church, 59% no longer attend while the majority (70% and above) see Christians as judgmental, anti-homosexual, and insensitive to others.
According to the Fellows Initiative seminar, Barna offers a more focused study on what makes the 25% of millennials who are actively engaged in church remain in church:
- Close Connections—Millennials who became a part of a community formed through hospitality and mentoring are more likely to stay in church. For example, a close connection with an adult inside the church encouraged 59% to remain active in the church as opposed to the 31% who are no longer active. Further, 68 % of those who believe Jesus speaks to them personally in a real and relevant way are more likely to remain active.
- Cultural Engagement—Learning how Christians contribute positively to society (through their vocations, helping the poor, and serving others) enables a millennial to connect with God’s larger purpose for their lives, thus encouraging an increase of 46% participation in the life of the church.
- Vocational Discipleship—A millennial who learns how to view his or her spiritual gifts and passions as part of God’s calling is three times more likely to stay engaged. Of these millennials, they are four times more likely to have been taught how the Bible applies to their career and work.
In summary, we can open the doors of the church closed to what we are against by emphasizing and embodying what we as Christians are for. Whom do you or I see who is different that God is calling us to open the door to and invest in? (Perhaps, you see a foreign international or a young college student? A colleague or employee just getting started in a career in need of mentoring? Or someone in your neighborhood who is alone?).
By opening the doors of our homes to those who are different, serving them a meal, and sharing in conversation at our tables, we are also opening the doors of the church.
The Call to Open Our Hearts
As we open the doors of our homes and our churches, we need to ask ourselves what will those we invite see? What are we inviting them into? Consider Paul’s words to the church at Corinth plagued by inner division, dissension, and disputes, “open wide your hearts” (1 Corinthians 6:13). To be the kind of Christians who are known by our love for one another, the Spirit of God compels us to open wide our hearts to receive His presence as the originator, initiator, and sustainer of true hospitable community. We must open our hearts to what God is doing in and through our relationships, no matter how uncomfortable because that’s where His mission to the world begins.
Thus, from our global family of confessing Anglicans, we have much to learn about how to go about God’s mission right where we are. For example, you and I must follow the example of Rev. Canon William Beasley and Bishop Stewart Ruch who forgave and reconciled over their own disagreements to reach the city of Chicago through a radical, reciprocal, mission movement toward an African American church in one of the deadliest, gang neighborhoods. In addition, would we open our hearts to other forms of worship to reach those of other cultures —why not pair the scripture reading with Brazilian salsa dancers stepping, spinning, and moving to a fast tempo rhumba? Through unexpected callings, some disappointed dreams, and unconventional partnerships, an Anglican priest, and a parachurch lay leader are witnessing miraculous growth in their campus ministries.
Would you or I as individuals open our hearts to something new, unexpected, and unconventional God may want to do?
The Call to Be Ready
Our caravan returned to Charleston encouraged, affirmed, and ready to open our eyes, doors, and hearts to the mission God would bring to our doorstep. As someone who has recently stepped out of a beloved area of service to begin the arduous, often confounding, and disappointing process of discerning where God is leading next, I was paying close attention–praying about the harvest field He wanted to show me.
In the midst of seeking some potential ministry opportunities right where I am, I became disillusioned once again by what appeared to be yet another door closing. “Lord,” I cried, “I just don’t understand what you are doing!” Here, the Lord answered with the basics of faith— that to walk by faith does not mean to understand but rather to trust. Afterall, He is able to open another door where one closes.
Armed with His assurance, I stepped out in wide-eyed expectation to complete the normal routine of errands when I ran into some missionaries I know at the West Ashley Target. After, inviting them over for brunch, we learned more about the work God is doing in China. Thus, through an everyday routine and God-orchestrated encounter, not far from my home, the Lord has opened the door to a vocational mission opportunity in China for 9 weeks teaching at the Shenyang International School–a harvest field I would have never considered had I not opened my eyes, heart, and door that day.
So in answer to the question of how the church today should go about God’s call to mission, the strategy is simple: Pray, Open, and Obey.
What opportunity awaits you on your doorstep? Will you open your eyes, your door, and your heart to the mission God has for you?