They Will Be One - May 2016 Word & Deed
Heather and I were married three years before we became parents. When our first child was born, our family of two was radically changed. Memories of blissful, silent nights faded in the haze of sleep deprivation, while holidays and family gatherings became vividly momentous. Change accelerated as the number of Headley children increased, with each new arrival redefining what it meant to be part of our family. Church families also experience change when growth happens. In the New Testament book of Acts, we see the early church–the messianic Jewish community who claimed Jesus as Lord–struggle to adapt to rapid growth as uncircumcised gentiles received faith in Christ Jesus and were baptized. The covenant requirement of physical circumcision, which marked them as God’s covenant people, was replaced by a spiritual circumcision: a baptism of repentance (a changed heart and life). The gentiles’ inclusion into the church redefined what it meant to be part of God’s family. Our local church family recently experienced a similar sort of identity crisis. One year ago, on Pentecost Sunday, we began an experimental series of worship services. Two services, separately distinguished as “contemporary” and “traditional," were combined by altering the times, musical styles, gathering spaces and–perhaps most significantly–the people. The result of these dramatic changes was an essentially new “United Worship” gathering. While the resulting new challenges were abundant, the positives were overwhelming, including more effective leadership, administration, nursery support and strengthened relationships. Our church voted to embrace the change after three months. As new members join our church family and take leadership, the changes keep coming. Of course, our unity is not fundamentally dependent upon the style of worship or number of services. There are many valid ways to “do church,” and every church faces challenges in practicing unity. Rather, we are “united" in our identity in Christ, received from our gracious God through baptism by water and the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Triune God whose coming we remember on Pentecost this month.) Through this God-given unity in the Spirit, we are fulfilling Jesus’ prayer to the Father "that they will be one just as we are one.” (John 17:11). May it be so!
Yours in Christ, Matt Headley
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