Paul writes in Romans 15:20-21: It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” (Isaiah 52:15)
Circle of Hope is in one of its most profound seasons in the year, in a year that is turning out to be somewhat profound. “Occupy-everything” is catching on to something we have been practicing from our first day as a church. The youth of the nation, joined by the last of the hippies and the remnants of the union movement, are apparently, finally, unsure of the foundations that have been built for them to stand on. Some of them are occupying the central places in their cities and demanding that new, just structures are built. God bless them! And God bless us as we map out 2012 and practice our regular discipline of building fresh.
I am excited about the stimulation of the “occupy” movement, partly because I am not sure we can build fresh very well anymore. We need the stimulation. Circle of Hope has the age-old problem of, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Why build what is next if you haven’t mastered what is, yet? Why put yourself out to imagine the future if you haven’t plumbed the depths of the past, yet? In relation to Paul, why go someplace new when you could settle down where you are and write brilliant books about Christianity for people who want to read them instead of killing yourself on mission to people who don’t know Jesus? Why continue to do hard things?
It is a lot of effort to put all our “cards on the table,” include all the new people, remind ourselves of our ambitious direction, remember all the people in the other congregations, open our hearts and schedules to God and let ambition for the best we can do rule the day. We generally like who we are and what we do. We don’t ache to unsettle it all. A lot of us are quite integrated into one another’s lives by this time and wouldn’t change much if Jesus lead us or not. Some of us have become quite adept at applying the spiritual wealth we have amassed as a people and don’t even think about creating more. We lean toward being managers and not entrepreneurs.
We need to manage what we are doing, of course. Occupy Philly is going to turn into something useful if all those teams they are starting to build manage the process well. Circle of Hope is no different in that respect. If our cell leaders and leadership teams are not managing things well, we will grind to a halt. Some days we do almost get to halt. But if the leaders, and the rest of us, can’t access the entrepreneurial drive to create what is not yet, there is nothing much worth managing, is there?
If you are a follower of Jesus, in Philly, in Circle of Hope, or not, there is an implication built in to “following.” What Paul thinks following means is moving with Jesus as the Lord seeks out everyone else who will follow him. It means having a vision that extends as far as the Holy Spirit can see. It means taking the present utterly seriously and painstakingly working with what is — but it also means having one’s mind and heart set on what is yet to come. Jesus is ambitious.
We are ambitious too. Just this week we started a new social circle for teens; we met
people at the AM PM by advertising on the South Philly list serve; our Public Meetings were full of new friends; we’re on teams for Occupy Philly. I’m sure there is more. There needs to be more. I don’t think there can be too many hands for Jesus to use. I think all our hearts, united in his cause, are valuable. I think we are a profound people with an amazing future, and what we are into as we map, whether it seems necessary or even possible to do, is one of the most ambitious things we can do. And Jesus is ambitious.