There’s a curious tension at play when my church plant gathers for Sabbath feasting.
Double Expectation: the Congregation
Folks gather for food and fellowship with a certain lightheartedness, even nonchalance—the kind of relaxed untuckedness that is present when family reconvenes for supper after a long day of attending to their vocations. There’s most often enough food at the pot luck by the time we give thanks, but we often find ourselves not-so-fervently asking for a loaves-and-fishes miracle. Usually someone shows up right after “Amen” with a mountainous pot of stew or a geyser of a casserole.
And yet most folks also gather expecting that they’ll leave changed, especially because they expect Jesus to show up in word and in sacrament. We all love food, but we all know that what we’re really after is soul food, some of which is gotten in the first act of the breaking of bread, but the meat and potatoes of which is set forth after the pot luck is set aside like an appetizer plate.
Double Expectation: the Church Planter
The same goes for your posture and expectation as the church planter. You’ll drive yourself mad if the mood you’re trying to curate cuts against the natural rhythms and expectations of your gathered feasting community. And so you need a healthy dose of go-with-the-flow as you go into your Sunday gathering. Dare I say it? You may even need to work on your nonchalance. This is family, after all.
But at the same time, you can’t afford not to expect glory.
The story goes that a pastor complained to Charles Spurgeon that he didn’t understand why people were not giving their lives to Christ when the fellow preached the word. Spurgeon said, “You don’t expect people to be converted when you preach, do you?” The fellow sheepishly shook his head, indicated the negative. Spurgeon suggested that this was precisely the problem.
Moses had a fading-glory ministry (2 Cor 3), a ministry of death, as he brought the law to bear on hard-hearted desert sojourners. But Paul says it was still a pretty dang impressive glory. People were rather stoked, at least for short intervals, considering it was “a ministry of condemnation”.
But we’re told that our ministry of the Spirit, and of righteousness in Christ, far exceeds Moses’ ministry, not least because its glory is permanent and unfading. The effects of our ministry are the opposite of the fleeting thrills of Moses’ congregation. When we minister the gospel in word and sacrament, under the the Lord that is the Spirit, there is a cumulative effect that transforms us from one degree of glory to another, the more we behold this never-fading glory in Jesus, clothed in his gospel.
And there is freedom.
Are You Expecting?
All of this means that we, as church planters, may be as nonchalant as a grandfather coming home from work to eat with his extended family. But we had also better be, as Paul says he and his church planting cronies were, very bold. Bold because of the hope and expectation of glory.
Church planters: expect glory.
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