Telling a Story [4/23/18]
Last week, Daniel and I drove down to Oakland to meet with two other pastors. Kyle has been leading a church planting project called Oakland Communion that has gathered a group of urban professionals interested in Jesus, justice and real community. Many of them are new to Oakland and there for professional reasons. Bernard pastors The Way in Oakland. He is a native Oaklander, a second-generation preacher and deeply connected to the community.
Kyle, a Midwestern, reformed church white guy, and Bernard, a west coast African-American Baptist are both closing their churches to reopen together as one. They invited Daniel and me to breakfast because they heard through a friend that we were leading a project to bring two churches of different ethnic and theological traditions together as one worshiping community.
The two hours we spent together over chicken and waffles in that Oakland café were a sweet, sweet time. Daniel and I had searched far and wide during the months we were preparing to bring Living Grace and City of Grace together, looking for someone who had “done it” like we were imagining, but we never really found anything close. It was fun now to try to be an encouragement to these pastors, but also just to know that God is doing something in the hearts of others like us who feel the conviction that one of the most powerful things that the gospel has to offer is the power of reconciliation. The gospel has the ability to bring us together unlike anything else on earth.
We talked with excitement about our hope that Grace Sacramento and Tapestry Church in Oakland would each become living parables of the reconciling power of the gospel. With what Ephesians 2 tells us, the gospel breaks down the dividing wall between us and brings us together in Christ because of our mutual need, together as sinners, for Jesus. As our time together drew to a close, we prayed together and I noticed for the first time that we were the only table in the restaurant where a black guy, an Asian guy and two white guys were hanging out together. We were already telling a story for anyone who was watching and wondering.
Here are a few thoughts from Kyle’s letter to their congregation and a few things to read if you are interested in digging a little bit deeper.
Why start a new church together?
We believe that through our unity, God will empower us to:
Transform the City - As a church that represents every segment of Oakland, our awareness of and commitment to every need for justice in the city will be dramatically increased and we will effectively participate in making Oakland a place for all people. On a spiritual level, the good news about Jesus is most impactful in relationship, and we will be able to reach people together that we never could apart.
Transform the Church - In Revelation 7:9, the apostle John shares a vision of God’s world as it should and will be—a vision of people from every tribe, nation, and language worshipping their Creator as one people. Much of the New Testament is dedicated to calling the church to live that future reality now. What if this caught on? What if other churches around the Bay Area, the country and the world started coming together?
Transform our selves - The Apostle Paul, speaking to a racially and culturally diverse Ephesian church, tells them in Ephesians 4:1-3 that they must live a life worthy of the calling they have received to be just that kind of church. If we want to live a life worthy of a calling that high, we need a calling worthy of living that kind of life. One thing is absolutely certain, participating in this united church will transform us into different people, with more honesty, compassion, humility, and grace than we ever thought possible.
I'm grateful that Grace is writing a gospel story.
Additional Reading List:
Roadmap to Reconciliation by Brenda Salter McNeil
Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith
Disunity in Christ by Christena Cleveland
The Next Worship by Sandra Maria Van Opstal
United by Faith by DeYoung, Emerson, Yancey and Kim