Dear GCI Family and Friends,
Holy Week and Easter Sunday have come and gone. I trust your online services from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday to Easter morning were uplifting and shared with friends and family beyond our normal GCI membership. It is quite an ironic blessing to be under the “Stay at Home” orders and still be able to bolster our engagement with people outside the walls of our normal church meetings. Our amazing Triune God works in mysterious ways and he is so good to include us.
He is risen! We have celebrated. Now what?
Allow me to pick up with the New Testament passage from the postcard I sent to encourage our pastors last week:
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures… (I Corinthians 15:3-4 NRSVA)
So here is the “Now what?”
…and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe. (1 Corinthians 15:5-11 NRSVA)
For the 40 days from Easter Sunday until his ascension, the resurrected Jesus came and went with some regularity, interacting with individuals, small groups of people, and even a crowd as large as 500 people. He did marvelous works, including restoring Peter and helping “Doubting Thomas” to see and touch his scars, which was underscored by Thomas worshipping and proclaiming, “My Lord and my God.” The crescendo of Christ’s appearances was the giving of the Great Commission, in which he told the original disciples—and hence all followers for all ages—to go into the world with his guiding presence, to share the good news, teaching all things about him, and then to baptize through the name of Father, Son and Spirit.
Paul documents the risen Lord and several key aspects of his involvement over this 40-day period until Jesus ascended to return to the Father. Paul also extends beyond the 40 days to show how Jesus came to him. (Do you recall the “Road to Damascus” experience?) And by the grace of God, Jesus is still coming to humanity—and the “acts” of the church continue.
The “Now what?” for GCI is asking the question, how do we maintain relationship with those he is drawing to himself in March and April 2020 in the middle of a historic pandemic? It is great for us to be encouraged by seeing swelled numbers of viewers in our online services, but what about follow-up? What ways and means are we deepening relationships with these viewers? What practical ways are we extending the love of Jesus? Are we providing means for them to connect with the local congregation? Are we thinking of follow-up after the pandemic has passed? Are we planning ahead for ways to connect with those in our neighborhoods? Do we provide a link to a Facebook page, an invitation to write a message, a means for them to reach out and connect or to be prayed for? We want to use wisdom and discernment in the ways we connect, instead of posting our private phone numbers —perhaps we can reach out through private groups and messaging applications. There are many safe, useful platforms.
The Lord is providing opportunities during the stay-in-place and social-distancing orders we might not have considered. We have included several examples of what GCI congregations are doing. In addition, our Media Team recently started a special Facebook group called the “GCI Creative Community.” This is a great place to share your best ideas and then single-out ideas from others that can also benefit your circumstance.
The Hope Avenue of our GCI ministry has been reworked in a major way with our demand for online services. And now the Love Avenue is being challenged and molded into its emerging form as well.
May the risen Lord have his way with the church!