THE FOUNDATION OF A GOSPEL MOVEMENT
I used to hide during introductions. I’d linger at the name-tag table, or visit the restroom, in a well-timed attempt to escape the microphone as it passed from pastor to pastor. Subtle, but hiding. Dozens of leaders assembled, most decades my senior, and my goal was to remain as unnoticed as possible. Maybe two years out of high school, I was the intern girl in the back.
I had no business there. The meeting wasn’t really for me. But I volunteered and served the effort, so the monthly invitation was extended. I didn’t belong there, but I considered the invitation an honor.
Every month my side hugged the info table, my convenient comfort zone; but the viewpoint I found there, I’d trade for nothing.
Pastors and leaders in our valley set apart the third Thursday of every month. That sacred calendar space is reserved for connection and friendship, and seeking God in worship and prayer.
One by one, they trickle in. Then, just after our start time (true to Northwest style), the flood. In small meetings, 60; for large ones, up to 100. The buzz of connection, the rumble of laughter, and the sound of a happy reconvening of old friends, fills the lobby. Hugs and warm greetings make it hard to weave through the crowd, and harder to actually begin the meeting. “Love is in the house, and the house is packed;” the old song lyric describes it best.
Hiding behind the info table, I saw a genuine, “I know you, I like you, I’m for you” friendship.
We call our God, “Father,” and it has to make His heart swell: the whole family together, in one place, loving . . . and enjoying each other.
In this family of friends, relationships run deep. They pray for each other. Occasionally, you see the more exuberant charismatic calling down heaven’s fire and all the angel armies on behalf of his traditional, teacher-friend. But most of the time, victories, sorrows, and other matters of the heart are simply entrusted to proven friends. I’m not privy to most of those prayers, but I know of pastors who’ve chosen to keep going after an honest confession and faith-filled, burden-sharing prayer with a friend.
This place of prayer and authenticity weaves hearts together in heaven-rooted friendship, and sources the love required to see it through.
As the meeting begins, each leader stands to say their name and ministry (cue my retreat to the bathroom). The Baptist pastor stands to say his name. The Nazarene pastor shares his and cracks a joke. The charismatic hands the mic to the conservative, with a compliment and some wit. Then the new pastor of a small church gets the mic, along with a glimpse of the community she just entered. It can even get a little wild when there’s a lot of energy in the room. I guess that speaks to the fellowship they’ve cultivated: it’s living room comfortable, not networking formal.
The many names represent seasoned leaders. The unique ministries represent an array of callings and influence. Gifts of God-grace to our community, all in the same room. It’s a worthwhile celebration.
It’s a diverse bunch, but when worship starts, every eye turns to Jesus. He’s the reason we gather. Our diversity gets blurred in the mosaic of our unity. Every stream, expression of praise, and our varied history intertwine in a single offering of praise.
Here, all find common ground. Labels fall. Crowns of achievement are happily cast aside. All that separates fades away, and every boastful thing is laid low. When Jesus is exalted, no one is found comparing how their degree stacks up to their neighbors,’ or measuring the size of their church by another. Somehow, we have everything in common.
In a Gospel Movement, we celebrate diversity, but treasure our Oneness in Christ most.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called. . .” Ephesians 4:4
That’s when we turn to pray for our shared community. And when THAT happens, we pray powerful things – prayers that shape the history of our region. Sometimes I’ll catch myself thinking, “There’s no way God won’t answer that.” But more on that in another post.
Naturally, I didn’t belong in this mighty, humble assembly, but I soaked it up anyway. Something kept drawing me in, and I always left wanting more. I guess when you’re standing on holy ground, in a place you didn’t earn, you press in and don’t shrink back.
In a Gospel Movement, God honors unity with blessing, and it’s tangible (Psalm 133).
Now, a few years later, I’ve learned to joke with the pastor who is too witty, smart and quick-to-reply for his own good. I consider leaders of some small and faithful churches dear friends. The pastors of the larger churches greet me with hugs every month, and I’ve come to expect eyes to light-up upon a ‘hello.’ Last week, a pastor shared humbly how the Lord may be calling him to something new. I’ve found this peculiar, yet comfortable sense of belonging in the love and friendship spiritual leaders have cultivated for years.
BACK TO YOU
Before you stop at “that’s a nice story, and sounds like you have a cool job,” I’ll connect the dots. This story has everything to do with you.
What I’ve found is not unique to me. It’s what pastors and leaders share among themselves in our valley, and I partake. It’s a reflection of the fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit among the spiritual leaders of our community, and I share in the goodness.
Growing up in a gospel movement, I found I belong. More so, it’s where we belong: one with God, and united with His people. We were never designed to be confined to the walls of single, solitary church buildings. We belong in this family; to the whole church. God designed it this way.
With our unity, comes a promise. When the community around us sees this love and every member of the family doing their part – they’ll be drawn. They’ll see they belong in the family too. Jesus said as much.
“I pray they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them…” – Jesus’ prayer | John 17:20-23
It is love that authenticates our message. It is comradery that proves us genuine. This is the goal itself. Devoid of family-style love, our acts of service are hollow and out of tune. This is the foundation of a gospel movement.
This love, friendship and common purpose is not limited to pastors and leaders, or me because I manned the info table. This is the unity of Spirit that Jesus provided for all who follow Him. See it, expect it, pursue it, find your place, contribute to it.
It’s the sweetest joy.
P.S. I don’t hide anymore. I still feel kinda awkward behind a microphone, but I’m not sure I’ll ever grow out of that one.
P.S.S. I found a picture of me and the info table!! (some friends too) Enjoy!