6/13/14

ROOTS, BRANCHES, SHADE - FRUIT OF IT'S OWN

Be lovingly present and emotionally available.
Be spiritually supportive.
Sometimes, that is all you can offer,
and sometimes, that is all that is needed.

This is both easy and hard.

As a pastor feeling pressure to grow the church, reach out, solve problems, mobilize people, and produce results, there is an easy trap to fall into. You look only for the fruit born of your own industry.  It requires hard and fast planting, cultivating, and harvesting, as if spiritual growth has been infused with the values of Big AgriBusiness.

Every once in a while, though, the Spirit humbles me, and reminds us as a congregation, that being rooted somewhere, having branches to rest upon, and shade to offer, is a kind of fruit all it's own.

There was a woman who worshiped with Emmaus Road for about a year, who has recently moved out of state. While she was with us, she drove considerable distance on Sundays because she enjoyed the vibe at our worship gatherings, and had been personally introduced to us by a mutual friend.  She had not recently been with another church, and was happy to have discovered this one.

She had also been thrown into an unexpected crises during this year, a crises which stretched out over several months and is only now partially resolved. During this time, I occasionally listened to her as she related what was going on, often through tears. I stayed in touch via text messages, and the church prayed for her as she shared requests with the larger group. We invited her to gatherings and events beyond Sunday, which she could attend once in a while. But other than that, there was not a great deal of connecting, and no tangible assistance was shared.

On her last Sunday with us, though, she shared how important our presence had been to her over this year. Our prayers and our consistency, celebrating the hope of Christ and the power, strength, and comfort of the Spirit, and making room to be there at a personal level, to listen and spiritually support - that is what we could offer, and that is what she needed.

Being rooted somewhere, to be found available, to provide some shade and structure of hope - this is a sign of the Kingdom. This is a little of what Jesus was saying in Matthew 13:32.


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The Emmaus Road Story

In the winter of 1997, we began as a small team of about 10 people, committed to gathering and growing a church that would connect with others like ourselves; people interested in connecting with God, in the person and work of Jesus Christ, but disconnected from the activity of many mainstream congregations. With the financial support of a larger church organization, our pastor was able to work full time with the team in planning, leadership development, and meeting people in the community.

Our first meetings were open discussion forums. We talked about prayer, scripture, spiritual discipline and the issues with which we all struggle. As friends talked to friends, the first group expanded and we multiplied into two.

Inspired by the journey process as a metaphor for spiritual growth, we searched for a name which would reflect that idea. In the resurrection narrative of Luke 24, we found our name "on the road to Emmaus."

After our first worship event on Good Friday of 1997, both groups began to gather together for worship once a month. In various coffee shops and rental spaces, we gradually increased our worship times to twice a month, and in September of 1998 we decided to gather every Sunday. Since the beginning, numerical growth has been gradual but steady, most often through the personal contact of friends talking to friends.

Today, several small groups continue to meet for open discussions on prayer, scripture, and the process of encountering God in daily life; we all gather for worship each week.