You may know this because it’s often used to motivate, but the same Chinese character that is translated “challenge” is the same character used for “opportunity.”  The people of God have always been beset with challenges in every age, but the people who gain God’s praise are those who embrace the opportunity and go “all in” for his glory.  The Scriptural narrative is rife with stories that prove St. Paul’s oft-quoted,  

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) 

Remember, only in some things does God work for the good of those who love him… NO!  In ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love him.  Can you imagine that?  A God who is that relentless, who has the power to redeem all things?  Yes, even during a pandemic, economic meltdown, and state governments who may have overreached a bit (whatever your opinion), the question we have to ask now is, “what is the opportunity, Lord?”  Well the answer is found in the verse directly following,  

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (v.29) 

How are we being invited to be more deeply conformed to the image of Jesus, right now?  How do we engage that?  Well, it doesn’t come by doing nothing, that’s for sure.  It doesn’t come by checking up on the news all day and becoming mad or cynical.  The media is so poisonous these days, robbing the church of our potency because we get ourselves emotionally wrapped up in other people’s stories and forming opinions about stuff we can’t fix, that we lose sight for how our lives and the lives of those around us are intersecting with God’s story – what he’s doing right now.  

For real, God sits enthroned above the circle of the earth and remains unintimidated by the governments and systems of this world.  All the political shuffling to him is like a childish game of red rover.   

If you say, “Yes” to the Father in this season of challenge, you will be conformed to the image of Jesus – you will look more like him right now, in this lifetime.  That means you will begin to live a more balanced rhythm of life consisting of UP in relationship with the Father, IN with fellow-disciples, and OUT to those in your sphere of influence.  Being conformed doesn’t mean “more patient,” or “better,” it means that you grow up to be like Jesus and do the works Jesus did. 

UP, IN, and OUT can seem challenging and downright impossible right now, especially when so much of our concepts about church center on a gathered Sunday morning, but living a balanced Jesus-shaped life is actually not impossible right now. This season of challenge is an opportunity to actually be the churchnot just gather as the church.  I believe that we are being weaned off of Sunday morning as the “catch-all” for UP IN and OUT, and we are being forced to grow up into missional believers who don’t rely on a Sunday event and the “professionals” for religious goods and services, but believers who become the embodiment of Jesus’ presence to those around us.  The Holy Spirit is offering us a rare opportunity to evaluate how we do church and the meaning or purpose of Sunday.  But this is for another time…  

Why Alpha?  Why now? 

You all know that Mthr. Amy and I have only been the pastors of All Saints for a little over a month and the first thing we do is begin something new and go on mission!?!  Why yes.  Here are some reasons: 

  1. In our many hours of getting to know the majority of you, this is what we’ve heard resoundingly: “we want to be led outward…into the community to reach people with the Gospel.”  If not a “charism” it icertainly a passion in this congregation to move outward, and that my friends is a work of the Holy Spirit in you. 
  2. Amy and I want missional engagement in the power of the Holy Spirit to be the hallmark of this community under our pastoral care and leadership, and because of that it must come first – we want you to know that we agree with Jesus when he said that he has chosen all of us to bear fruit, and fruit that will last.  We abide in him, enjoy intimacy with Him and community with one another in order that we might produce Kingdom fruit. 
  3. It is difficult to do a normal “OUT” in these days because of people’s various comfort levels.  An online option is the clear solution. 
  4. Alpha is the perfect blend of a desire for “outreach” and All Saints’ other charism, which we find to be hospitality.  Not just welcome, which is not a spiritual gift, but hospitality – a desire to share life and invite others “in” and a chance to belong.  This is what we all want. 
  5. There is nothing like going on mission together, yoked with the power of prayer, that builds real community and authentic relationships. We want this with you! 
  6. Along with you, we want to be conformed to the image of Jesus by engaging the UP, IN, OUT in every season of life and in every circumstance.  The Kingdom is always active, and never in trouble, and neither are we in trouble.   

Pray about your people of peace.  Who are they?  How will you invite them? How can you remove as many hurdles for them as possible so they can engage some of the most important questions of life?   

Let’s be conformed together to the life of Jesus inalpha course this season. 

Peace, 

Justin+