This week I spent some time with 400 of my closest friends at the NEXTChurch Gathering in Minneapolis. It was a wonderful time to see colleagues, catch up with old classmates, and be in a space where people were talking about what's next for the PCUSA.
It was two and a half days of amazing preaching, transformative worship, creative ideas, informative workshops, and great conversation. In one of those conversations with my good friend John Vest something struck me like a thunderbolt.
The disciples didn't recognize Jesus after the resurrection.
In the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John the resurrected Christ appears to his disciples and in each case they don't recognize him, until he shows them his scars (John 20:24-29), breaks bread with them (Luke 24:13-35), speaks a word of peace (Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-23), calls them by name (John 20:11-18), or tells them where to fish (John 21:1-14). This got me to thinking about what the "NEXTChurch" will look like.
We speak of revitalization and we heard wonderful, hopeful stories of how churches are rethinking ministry, but I wonder if a lot of it is doing the same things differently. I wonder if we are trying to live into a space, a church, that we recognize?
I don't have an answer for what's next, but I think it will be something that seems unrecognizable to us, especially those of us who have grown up only knowing this church. It will only be when we slow down and listen for Christ to call our name, to speak a word of peace to us, or guide our actions will we be able to recognize the Risen Christ and realize he has been with us the whole time.
"And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." -Matthew 28:20b
Image Courtesy of NEXTChurch