Faith Forward

Jesus, having returned from the 40 days of temptation in the desert and beginning his public ministry, enters a synagogue and is handed a scroll of the prophecies of Isaiah. He unrolls the scroll and reads these powerful words, which is part of Isaiah’s prophecy about himself.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19, quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2)

What are the chances of Jesus just happening to turn to that passage? We can surmise that Jesus was intentional about reading that passage on that day to introduce his ministry. He was the one who inspired Isaiah to write it, and he knew what the passage meant

I have long referred to this passage as Jesus’ mission statement. Here Jesus makes a resounding proclamation of the shape and form of his ministry. Throughout his ministry Jesus befriended the poor, healed the sick, touched the unclean, defended the lowly, forgave sinners, controlled the weather, exorcised demons, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, and proclaimed the kingdom. The apostle John referred to these as “signs” that Jesus was who he claimed to be. In particular, John focused on seven signs or epiphanies that help us understand that Jesus is divine; he is the Son of God.

This is what Epiphany is all about—Jesus is the light of the world. Through this season, Epiphany keeps us focused on him, which reminds us that we are not the light of the world in and of ourselves. We are the light of Christ. When Jesus calls us the light of the world, it is because he is in us through the Spirit. We are messengers of the true light. We proclaim Jesus; we are messengers of the light. Because we know the light, we share his love and his life with others so that they can see him as the light. This is sharing our faith; this is moving faith forward; this is discipleship.

In his book, Living the Christian Year, Bobby Gross suggests that one of the best ways for “inhabiting Epiphany” is to “immerse yourself once more in the story of Jesus.” Read about how he fulfilled Isaiah 61. Read through the seven signs that John shares. Think about the impact Jesus had in a world full of darkness—bringing light and joy into people’s lives.

And then ask, how do we participate with Jesus? How do we bring our faith forward? How do we help others be disciples (followers) of Jesus? Here are some ideas:

  • First, ask God to help you see others as he sees them. See their true value; see their true identity.
  • Ask God to give you his compassion for those who are hurting, or who seem so far removed from a relationship with God.
  • Take the next few weeks and pray for your leaders, asking God to help them see the need to disciple others.
  • Read a book about starting a small group, or about sharing your faith. Check with your Regional Director for some ideas.
  • Gather your church leaders and start a small group discussing discipleship and how your group or congregation can be lights to those around your church location.
  • Ask God to help you see his invitations to enter conversations with others. Look for divine appointments. Expect them.

This year’s theme for Equipper is Faith Forward—developing healthy Faith Avenues for our congregations and Fellowship Groups. Included in the Faith Forward theme is a deeper dive into the Christian Calendar. The Faith Avenue, along with last years’ theme of the Hope Avenue, is one of the three key elements of ministry focus. The other is the Love Avenue, which we will focus on in 2022. This is part of our effort to join Jesus in his ongoing ministry, and our desire to be healthiest expression of church we can be.

May God bless you as the light of Jesus shines through you and your congregation.

Rick Shallenberger
Editor

PS.  For a more thorough discussion of our focus on Healthy Church, and our focus on developing and equipping leaders in Grace Communion International, check out A Giant Step Forward, a book written by Greg Williams, Rick Shallenberger and Tom Nebel.

3 thoughts on “Faith Forward”

  1. Thanks Rick! This is another critical article that explains what it takes to be a healthy church. If we participate in this faith avenue after having gone up the hope avenue then we will be inspired, uplifted, excited, more motivated and we will truly reveal the light, the living and loving Christ Jesus. Oh, that we would all embrace the value of small group participation. We love these Gospel driven articles!

  2. Faith is tested in the crucible of suffering. It is in the bearing of Christ‘s cross that we are purified and humbled. Stripped from the many shaky crutches and delusions that fill our daily lives, we are are able to better understand the heart of our Lord. It is his proven faith that gives us the comfort, encouragement and confidence we need to cope until Jesus‘ glorious return.

  3. Thank you Rick for your inspiration. Noted, Faith Forward my brother. My prayers are for you, home office and all congregations around the world. We will continue to pray for our leaders and be a reflective light of Christ Jesus to all the world.

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