Nov. 3, 2021.
Do any of us really know how Christian spirituality grows in the human heart? There is something very mysterious about the way Jesus climbs into our souls. And there is something equally mysterious about how Jesus builds his churches too.
#JesusStories: In Mark 4: 26ff, Jesus explained how the Kingdom of Heaven imbeds itself upon the earth. True to form, Jesus used a parable in which a farmer planted some seed, then he went about his schedule without thinking much about that seed. The line from this parable that catches my attention the most is, “The seeds keep sprouting and growing, and the farmer doesn’t understand how.” There is a mysterious nature to salvation. Though the modernist’s era tried hard to reduce the gospel down to a set of scientific principles, it just wouldn’t fit. In fact, modernism was not as friendly to the gospel as some supposed; we should be comfortable to move on from the Western culture of the last 500 years. If the post-modern era turns out to be more welcoming of the mysterious as advertised, that would be great for Christianity. Truthfully, the gospel has worked quite unexplainably in my life. A scripture, a song, a prayer, and suddenly a new bold faith emerges from my soul. The same is true for the churches I’ve led. There have been times when the group seems stuck in the status quo, and then suddenly a fiery courage emerges from my leaders and people. These things are a mystery.
I remember some years ago leading a man to Jesus from a life of drug abuse. He did really well for a few months, and then he started hanging around old friends and slipped back into the drug life. As a young pastor, I was brokenhearted. One of the board members tried to console me by saying, “the last chapter has not been written on this mans life yet.” I acted like those words were helpful, but they weren’t. A couple years later we moved to another pastoral assignment a few hundred miles away. When we returned to that former church for a funeral some years later, standing in the sound booth was the man I thought we had lost to the drug culture. He was free, he was smiling, he was the sound tech, and I was stunned. The voice of Jesus never stopped talking to him.
I have watched this pattern repeat itself over and over again at our Dinner Churches. At times things look fruitless, as though many guests are absolutely disinterested in our Jesus as they eat our food. Still others slip back and forth in their addictions with no capacity to resist. And then suddenly, a desire for prayer arises and new faith births before our very eyes. This is a mystery; this is the kingdom. To all Dinner Church leaders, it might appear that nothing spiritual is happening, but no! The invisible gospel is at work. And one day, it will burst forth into a most impressive harvest.
#DinnerChurchQuotes: The church is described as salt and light, a bride, a family, a flock, a field of wheat, a mustard seed, branches connected to a vine, leaven, a body, and a building. But for decades the church in America has been treated like a business. (Neil Cole)
#PracticalStuff: How long has it been since you’ve reminded your core team and volunteers that the most important role at Dinner Church is not cooking, unloading the truck, setting up the chairs, doing the music, etc. The most important role is turning strangers into friends…and then triangulating our new friends with our best friend. We talk about this almost every week with our teams. It is time for you to remind your people?
Blessings & Boldness,
Dr. Verlon and Melodee Fosner have led a multi-site Assemblies of God Dinner Church in Seattle, Washington since 1999 (www.CommunityDinners.com). In this decade when more churches in the U.S. are declining than thriving, and when ninety-six churches a week are closing, Verlon and Melodee sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 97-year old Seattle congregation. It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones in need of a different path. They joined the FX team in 2016 and founded the Dinner Church Collective. And then in 2019 founded the Dinner Church School of Leadership. There is a lot to be gained when church leaders begin to see open doors in the American landscape that they had previously overlooked. Therein lies the journey for those who will forge a new future for the American Church.