On Friday, January 18th, the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey’s Fresh Expressions Team embarked upon a new journey. The two-day retreat in Forest Hill, Maryland was an exciting and inspiring time of learning, fellowship, and worship. Comprised of 29 pastors and lay leaders from various churches throughout New Jersey – the diversity of age, cultural background, expertise within our group reflected the richness of the ABCNJ family. The retreat consisted of teachings centered on the theme of being missional in our ever-changing cultural landscape. Being missional refers to participating in the “missio dei.” We were reminded of the true definition of mission:
It is not that the church has a mission in the world, but the God of mission who has a church in the world. The God of mission roots mission in love- it is outlandish, radical- even scandalous love.
Mission, then, is to listen, observe, and discover what God is doing in our world and “joining in” with Him. It is to go beyond trendy evangelistic strategies, quick membership growth, or gimmicky programs, but to become a “mission shaped church” where God’s mission lies at the heartbeat of our faith community.
The members had opportunities to share how God was moving in their own hearts, church, and community, and expressed hopes and dreams to serve in fresh and innovative ways.
For me, the most poignant moment occurred during the corporate prayer time. Many of our ABCNJ teammates lifted prayers on behalf of our un-churched and de-churched friends and neighbors, and for our commitment to the mission of God for our region. It was truly a spirit-filled gathering and a hopeful beginning for our Fresh Expressions journey.
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