by Byron Pellecer, WDC Associate Conference Minister
Throughout time, I realized that the Church is a guest in the community that it seeks to reach. It is also challenged to know this community and its reality to proclaim in a compassionate way the kingdom of God and divine grace – to witness Christ, that is.
Whether I am working on church planting, church revitalization or church growth, the fact that the Church is a guest in its community does not change.
As I read the book of Acts, I notice how the Jesus’ movement was concentrated mainly in Jerusalem. But as the early believers experienced and received the Holy Spirit’s power, the movement began to expand across the land. So far, they were confined to the so-called holy land but after this supernatural intervention they experienced revitalization, growth, and multiplication.
As the Early Community of believers continued experiencing the leadership and empowerment of the Holy Spirit they were challenged by circumstances and context such as persecution to engage in a continuous dialogue not only among themselves but with their respective community.
On the one hand, the monocultural Early Community found itself tested with a multicultural reality as well. The Jesus movement was no longer concentrated in Jerusalem, it became the movement of the Spirit throughout the land. They were called and empowered to be witness to all people.
On the other hand, the Early Community of the Spirit was portrayed as a faith group with power to transform individuals and societies to make them loving and upstanding citizens. This movement was a transformational and revolutionary group at its core. It challenged the status quo, especially the existing social and political issues. The slogan and the driving force of this peaceful and prophetic revolutionary movement was Jesus is LORD of all, not Caesar.
Acts suggests a commissioning and witnessing approach to nonbelievers and the creation of a new Spirit filled community – a new humanity, that is. It is not only about saving souls, it is about transformation and wholeness. It is not one or the other either, it is the whole ‘package.’
Nowadays, I continue to wrestle with this question: What does a Spirit filled community looks like? Perhaps, a Spirit filled community is to confront groups, individuals and systems that create separations and divisions in our civilized society with Jesus’ life and teachings.
For example, today we confront Texas law SB 4 and other types of xenophobia, racial profiling, and discrimination. In contrast, a Spirit-filled community is a loving and welcoming community.
A Spirit filled community is a Jesus community because this Jesus is the one who died, was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and was crowned as a king above all Caesars, including the contemporary ones. This Spirit filled community has been sent out to proclaim the same revolutionary and transforming gospel without violence of any kind and under the lordship of Jesus. They risked everything for the sake of the kingdom of God!
Friends, let us be reminded that the Church is commissioned to speak to the reality of its community and to allow that community to speak back. It is through the Church that God also speaks and hears back from the community. We have been invited to enter, live, and share God’s kingdom.