On Sunday I preached my first sermon as associate pastor at Red Bluff Vineyard! It was awesome and I loved every second of it! Although I spent 45 minutes preaching! (so sorry people), I wanted to follow up on some things I wish I got to expand a little bit on. So here it is!
I mentioned how I grew up in the church, and after becoming the 50 millionth millennial to become disenchanted with the church and going away from it for a couple of years, I eventually plugged myself back in to a local church and grinded it out for a couple of years. What I didn’t have during this time was a come to Jesus moment, or a clear voice from God that changed everything. Instead I began to commit myself to practices that started forming me for the Kingdom of God, no matter how brutal it was for me.
Beginning to trust the church again did not come easy for me, but God began to slowly birth a new hope inside of me, one that I vaguely had a concept of, but at the time did not recognize. I would cry out to God for direction and clarity. I wanted meaning and purpose. I wanted significance to my life. Again, me along with just about every other millennial. Frustration and fear of missing out and what I was meant to do with my life kept me from actually living my life. This caused extreme anxiety, which I recently found out was extremely common for people my age. In fact, one study found over 70% of millennials suffered from extreme anxiety.
After eventually choosing to do my masters in theology out of a mixture of necessity and desire, I began another journey that had many ups and downs. This was joined with another venture of being a part of church plant team that my parents headed up in Houston. I was 24 and had now lived in Houston for the better part of 2 years.
We planted a Vineyard church and were very intentional about incorporating liturgical practices every week such as communion, the sign of the peace, saying the Lord’s prayer together and occasionally the creed. I volunteered to lead the youth group and serve in the worship band. Arranging my life around serving in the local church where I was accountable to people, where I was depended upon week in and week out became extremely formative in my walk with God. Not only that but I was also mentoring youth, who were counting on me to help guide them towards Jesus.
I never had a burning desire to be apart of any of those initially. In fact, I took a long time to decide whether I wanted to be a part of the plant. During this time, I found that I was supremely uncomfortable in many scenarios’. I would cringe a lot when we got stuff wrong, and everything in me was fighting against the urge to take control of everything I could. But, something weird began to happen. I began to truly love the people around me. Not a weak, Oh my gosh love. But a love born only from God.
Even though I was able to detach a lot of the time, and I would later find out how depressed I was, it was being physically present to those around me that began to significantly mold and shape me. What became truly transformational for me, was being able to partake in communion week in and week out whilst doing life with a bunch of people committed to one mission: God’s. I know how good God is, because I will never be able to thank him enough for the people he surrounded me with during those two years. People who loved Him and modeled community for me. I learnt so much during this time. What started to happen to me without realizing it, was that I started to inhabit a coherent narrative. A narrative focused on being part of God’s.
I recently read Robert Jenson’s critique of post-modernity, which helped make sense of the life I had been living and began to live. He gives an account of how we are living in a world in wake of modernity’s attempt to divorce humanity’s story from God’s whilst still trying to create a universal narrative with coherence. He titled the article, how the world lost its story. “Modernity was defined by the attempt to live in a universal story without a universal storyteller” He states. Millennial’s scramble to create a coherent narrative in the world today will always fall by the waste side, especially those of us brought up to believe in a deistic type god who occasionally showed up when the lights and lasers were on so that we could speak in tongues and fall down. In fact, we’re at more of a disadvantage, because we were told this to be the God of the bible.
It is no wonder so many millennials are flocking to high church traditions. At least they’re not afraid of their story. Well most of them at least. But this does pose a good question. Especially to churches committed to being communities who are culturally relevant. How are we to be the church living with Kingdom mindsets without divorcing itself from the “world.” Jenson states the following.
“It is the whole vision of an Eschaton that is now missing outside the church. The assembly of believers must therefore itself be the event in which we may behold what is to come. Nor is this necessity new in the life of the church. For what purpose, after all, do we think John the Seer recorded his visions? If, in the post-modern world, a congregation or whatever wants to be “relevant,” its assemblies must be unabashedly events of shared apocalyptic vision. “Going to church” must be a journey to the place where we will behold our destiny, where we will see what is to come of us. Modernity’s version of Christianity—that is, Protestantism—has been shy of vision and apocalypse alike. Just so, its day is over. As before, I can see two aspects of the new mandate.” (source)
In the Vineyard, we are committed to being a culturally relevant movement. And as a community we can do this by being intentional about how we re-enact the vision of the final banquet with God awaiting us in the fulfillment of the new kingdom. It is here that our hope lies, a hope which has been promised to us by Jesus. A promise we await and live into now. Our hope is not born out of moments, but events. Events lived out as community where we re-enact the future together. Again Jenson notes,
“Because Jesus lives to triumph, there will be the real Community, with its real Banquet in its real City amid its real Splendor, as no penultimate community or banquet or city or splendor is really just and loving or tasty or civilized or golden. The church has to rehearse that sentence in all her assemblings, explicitly and in detail.”
This is the hope that forms our love for one another, as Colossians 1:5 states. Our love for one another does not happen without our ability as a community to be formed by this narrative focused on the final eschaton. Our gatherings “must be a journey to the place where we will behold our destiny, where we will see what is to come of us.” It is here where we become a people who see a vision beyond the church. We see a vision for the kingdom. We see and hear God and his plans to bring life to the cities we live in. God’s love for his world overflows through our love for one another founded in our hope in Jesus’ promise.