Over the past year I have had the privilege of a bird’s-eye view of what God is doing through the witness of our congregations and the work of our ministry agencies. I can report that the Spirit is in fact alive and well and is far ahead of us in the mission into which God has invited us!
When I read the book of Acts I see the same patterns of the Spirit’s movement that I see today. I see the Spirit continually moving ahead of the church and inviting the church to follow.
We see this from the very beginning of the book of Acts. In Acts 2, the gift of the Spirit is accompanied by the ability to speak in the native languages of people from across the world. Three thousand people respond to Peter’s message. Would anyone who had known the profiles of the disciples as they are portrayed in the gospels have expected this? Would anyone have seen this in their life trajectories?
Acts goes on to include numerous other stories of the church running to catch up with the Spirit. In Acts 8, the Spirit leads Philip to a desert road where he has an encounter with an Ethiopian eunuch. The work of the Spirit was so evident to Philip that he baptized the eunuch on the spot!
Then there is the story of Peter and Cornelius. The Spirit pushed Peter way beyond his comfort level. Never in his life had Peter imagined eating in a Gentile house and even staying overnight! But when the Spirit fell palpably on Cornelius and his household, what else could he do?
There are so many other examples in Acts that I could cite. In Acts 16 Paul and his companions are convinced that God had sent them to Asia Minor to demonstrate and proclaim the gospel. Yet door after door closed on them. Then Paul had the vision of a man from Macedonia inviting them to come. They followed the Spirit to a place they had never intended to go and to a person who had never been on their agenda—a businesswoman named Lydia. Lydia and her household became the seed of the church in Europe.
I see the Spirit working the same way in the Christian Reformed Church today. Let me give a couple of examples from Resonate Global Mission.
Resonate recently solicited innovation experiment proposals from CRCNA congregations and CRCNA-related ministry partners. Those seeking seed funding were asked to undertake a small experiment in discerning where the Spirit was at work in their neighborhood and then to take simple steps to join in that work. To our surprise, we received more than 130 proposals. We wish we could have funded all of them! They were all tangible evidence of the Spirit moving ahead of us in our congregations.
There is something else I have noticed lately. Not only is much of the growth of the CRCNA in our Korean, Latino, and Southeast Asian congregations and church plants, but many of these congregations are now leading the way in reaching back to their countries of origin and planting churches. Frankly, this challenges many of our paradigms as a denomination and even the historic missions models at Resonate. But, as in the early church, the Spirit is running ahead of us and inviting us to follow.
In this issue you will find several other stories of where the Spirit is running ahead of us and inviting us to follow. What do you see the Spirit doing in your neighborhood and in your relationships?