Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

Austerity and Abundance

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Luke 9:1-17) transports me back ten years or so to the emergence of a new church, Ecclesia Baptist in Fairview. Like many start-up Baptist churches, we were a product of the “multiply by dividing” principle, with the core group comprised largely of people who had been wounded and disappointed by the mother church. All that’s another story. To the beginning of Ecclesia: it was a heady time. There was a palpable sense of empowerment, a sense that the Holy Spirit was ready to do a new thing. Part of what made it work was the sheer simplicity of it all, a group of 75 or so folks meeting in a volunteer fire department, with the kids hanging out in one of the member’s camper. We were traveling light, with an austere budget more than compensated for by an abundance of trust. We trusted each other across all sorts of dividing lines: theological, racial, economic. The worship was engaging, the ministries were authentic, the fellowship was joyful. We could regularly sing with the Psalmist, my cup runneth over.

The emergence of the disciples’ ministry was something of a multiply by dividing proposition, although not of the disgruntled Baptist variety. Jesus divided his followers into twos, and sent them forth, empowered by the Holy Spirit to do amazing and wondrous works in the world. They were preaching the good news and healing all sorts of diseases. And they were traveling light. Jesus made sure of that. With the parable of the sower still ringing in their ears, especially the part about how the riches and comforts of the world would choke the life out of God’s creative Word, they went out with just the barest of necessities; not even a change of clothes made it into their knapsack. Their austerity was, like Ecclesia’s, more than compensated for by an abundance of trust. They trusted themselves to the good will and hospitality of the communities they entered. If a household in any of these neighborhoods broke trust and withheld hospitality, the disciples were to continue traveling light, shaking the dust off, a sign that they weren’t going to be carrying the baggage of resentment and disappointment with them on their continuing journey. When they all got back, they eagerly told Jesus story after story of their miraculous adventures. Then, something happened to that simplicity. Suddenly, instead of going two by two, house to house, they were surrounded by 5,000 hungry families. For some reason, the disciples forgot about the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, but Jesus hadn’t forgotten. He more than compensated for their anxieties and fears with his own blessed abundance of trust. When all was said and done, they could say they had at least one day when the traveling wasn’t light – there were twelve baskets of food left over once the crowd of folks had eaten their fill.

Not too long after Ecclesia’s founding, we moved out of the volunteer fire hall, purchasing property of our own, a rough and rowdy old honky-tonk bar that had gone out of business. Since that time, we’ve suffered tragic loss and we’ve maintained the “multiply by dividing” tradition of Baptist life, with a good chunk of our regulars eventually feeling wounded and disappointed in the mother church, and leaving to form their own. So, we now occasionally have experiences like this past Sunday, when we had our semi-regularly scheduled business meeting. The spread sheet and the list of property maintenance issues to be resolved produces a fair amount of anxiety. It’s so easy to get captivated by the numbers, to allow the cares of the world to choke out the creative Word. It’s so easy to be like the twelve disciples, to forget our emergent experience, the abundance of trust that came from being empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a presence of good news and healing in our community. It’s a good thing this coming Sunday is communion Sunday, a time for us to break bread together, to remember and renew our trust, and at the end of the day to be able to sing again with the Psalmist, my cup runneth over.

How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc.

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Comments

  • May 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    This reminds me of my church, Community Church of Providence (RI). Formerly named Central Baptist Church on the affluent East Side of Providence. The church’s membership dropped from some 500 to about 60. I know these numbers are not correct, but it gives one an idea of what has happened.
    The church building has a huge sanctuary with elegant stained glass windows, including a Tiffany window of a beautiful scene of nature with mountains, a waterfall and stream. Yet, the people who attend sit far apart from each other. The only place where folks come together is at coffee hour which is mainly a social event.
    There is a small Sunday School with one teacher whose husband assists. The adult education is limited to a small Bible class taught by a former private school headmaster, who is a wonderful teacher.
    The church, even with its endowment, is running a deficit budget. A $40,000 grant has been given to the church. Now the church is trying to find the best way to use that money to improve and update its ministry.
    For many years the church has sent a ministry team to LaRomana (Dominican Republic) to help build a hospital for Haitian women and others who had not been receiving adequate medical care. Many of the Haitians work in the sugarcane fields. You can imagine their working and housing conditions. This reminds me of the work of Ecclesia in Cuba.
    Presently the church is considering partnership with the BPFNA. Last year with the help of the Baptist Peacemakers of RI and the church, a young man from Liberia was sent to Peace Camp. This year a long time member of the church will be going.
    We pray for new members. We pray for ways to attract young people. Any ideas from Ecclesia and you, Stan, will be appreciated.

    Comment by Janet Davies

  • May 22, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Janet,

    try what Paul told Timothy, Preach the word! The inerrant, infalliable word of God and pray! That is biblical church growth strategy.

    Comment by jim

  • May 23, 2013 at 4:59 am

    Thanks Stan. A great reminder.

    Comment by Bro Jerry


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