What happened after Pentecost gives us direction for mission and development.
By Cara Garrity, Development Coordinator
Last month we celebrated Pentecost, the account of which can be found in Acts 2:1-47. On the day of Pentecost, we see a work of the Holy Spirit that demonstrates the inclusive expansion of Jesus’ kingdom. Luke tells us that 3,000 were added to their number that day. Pentecost teaches us about the nature of Jesus’ mission and our participation in it. I believe that what happened next can teach us something perhaps as important about the development of Christ followers.
We see in Acts 2:42-47 that the inclusion of new believers was transformational – personally and collectively. The way of life changed for Christ-followers. Believers actively participated in a new way of life in community with one another as they followed Christ. And as we continue to read in Acts, we see that believers were not only transformed but mobilized. The first clear example we see is in Acts 6:1-7, where seven Greek followers were appointed to oversee the distribution of food to the Hellenistic widows. These believers were empowered to lead this function of early church community. In Acts 8:4, we see that the scattered believers preached the word wherever they went. They actively participated in the mission of Jesus.
For the early church, joining the community of believers was more than becoming a “butt in a seat” or another face in the crowd. Joining the community of believers meant entering the life of the church and to a discipleship that led to transformation, participation, and mission.
What does this mean for us today? We can learn from the early church that mission leads not only to inclusion and physical growth, but to transformation, active participation, and multiplication of mission. As we engage in Jesus’ mission through the Love Avenue, our goal must not be simple physical growth – or butts in seats. The church is not merely a social club. The goal is healing, restoration, transformation.
It’s easy to read about that first New Testament Pentecost and stop at the statement of growth – “three thousand were added to their number that day.” But that would be a mistake because what happened next matters, too. How would the story of the early church have developed differently if 3,000 were added to their number that day and then the apostles refused to appoint the seven to oversee the distribution of food to the Hellenistic widows? Or if there were not seven, or any, willing to step up and lead in that way?
What if 3,000 were added to their number that day and then showed up only once a week to hear the apostles speak? And when they were scattered, they found they didn’t know how to preach the word, or even had no desire to, because that was the apostles’ job, not theirs? What happened after the 3,000 were added matters. These are the matters of disciple-making and building the church that we reflect on during Ordinary Time.
Practically speaking, when new members and new believers connect into the life of our local church through the Love Avenue – what’s next? How can they meaningfully participate in the life of the church? How can they be discipled and developed in ministry participation according to their gifting and calling? What would it look like for us to engage, equip, and empower new members and new believers to join Jesus in ministry?
The early church shows us that participation in Jesus’ mission is integral to the life of a Christ follower. It is not something reserved for the major leagues, the professionals, or those who have been “in the game” for a certain amount of time. How can the rhythms and practices of our local church reflect this reality? Another way to ask the question is how do we engage in the Love Avenue with a lens of development? How can the integration of the Avenues help us in this endeavor?
Some were added to our number today. Hallelujah! What happens next?