Beloved people of God, Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, indeed! Easter is the celebration of the gift of new life! Death has been defeated! God is doing something new and marvelous!
As we continue our celebration of the resurrection during this Easter season, I hope you also share in the excitement about what God is doing amongst us. The conversations we have had about the Anchor Church Adoption Process are exciting. This is about the promise of new life and the reality that God is doing something new and marvelous in our communities.
The fact is, these are difficult days for the church, also days of real opportunity. The trends are scary. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 50% of Americans where church members in 2019, which is down from 70% in 1999. Unfortunately, being involved in church life for many has meant dealing with a declining number of active members, decreasing involvement by those who do attend, a shrinking or perhaps disappearing Sunday School, disappearing youth ministries and entirely too much infighting within denominations and congregations. This has resulted in many congregations left in isolation, struggling to survive.
But God is doing something new in our midst! We have seen a handful of models that work. Mission starts and restarts that are yoked with larger, vibrant congregations have a much higher success rate of a thriving ministry. This is what the adoption process is all about and it has very biblical roots.
God offers us another way of living—faith as inspiration for living. St. Paul writes in Romans 8:15: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” Instead of being slaves to approval, acquisition, authority and autonomy, we are invited to purposive living. In verse 10 we read: “But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” What does that mean? When the Bible speaks of righteousness it means a life set apart for God’s holy work in this world. The life of purpose God would have you and me discover is tied to the eternal purpose of God…not our circumstances, not the pandemic, nor the state of a dying church. We are freed from slavery for God’s purpose. The gift of Christ in us is confirmed as the Holy Spirit leads us with the gift of spiritual perspective. We read in verse 14: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” When we claim our identity as a daughter or son of God, we see the world differently. And if we see the world differently, we live differently. God has created you and me and this marvelous planet with destiny in our DNA. The destiny God has given us is not for fear, but confident faith. Our destiny is not to behave as if even the most overwhelming of challenges will determine the future. Instead, we know that, even when the odds are 1000 to 1—if that 1 is God, the odds are stacked in our favor!
Further, Ephesians defines our relationship with God in permanent terms. It says that we have all been adopted. (v. 5) God’s unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. The citizens of Ephesus understood the significance of adoption, because it was common in their society. Adoption wasn't just a case of childless parents choosing to provide a home for a parentless child. That was only one aspect of it. Adoptions also frequently occurred for business or political reasons, and it wasn't at all uncommon for one grown man to adopt another grown man to ensure that his wealth and power were passed on in the way that he intended it to be. For example, this occurred when the Roman emperor Julius Caesar adopting Augustus (Octavian), whom he wanted to be his successor. Augustus went on to help Rome grow.
Adoptions were irrevocable. In fact, a man could disown his birth son, but could not disown his adopted son. It was a permanent relationship. Paul said, "You've been adopted into the family of God. Get comfortable; you're here to stay."
Both St. Stephen and Kountze Memorial will be holding congregational meetings regarding the adoption process on Sunday, May 16, 2021. It is my hope and prayer that as we prayerfully discern the opportunity for St. Stephen to adopt Kountze Memorial, we will experience the wonderful gift of the resurrection, new life and live into the promise of relationship grounded in God’s mission.
In God’s Grip,