The following is a reflection on a narrative that may become a church’s narrative as described yesterday on the blog. To begin, I suggest reading through Mark 16:1-8.
Resurrection creates fear for the disheartened.
I was wrong. I hate to admit it, but I was wrong. I thought the women had it backwards. Their encounter with the young man dressed in white had left them speechless and terrified. This initial encounter with the divine, the empty tomb, and the truth of resurrection left the women in a much better station that I am when I encounter the divine. We can come to take resurrection for granted. We can become, as A.W. Tozer said, a little bored with God and the things of God. So, I was wrong. The women had it right.
Yet the women’s reaction to the divine was not their final reaction. We know that they said something because the gospel of Mark was written! Their reaction was just the beginning. The terror they experienced reminds me of the fear of the LORD, the recommended beginning of wisdom. Resurrection let the women know that something beyond them was at work.
Why did the women say something eventually? Because they feared the LORD more than they feared the world. Confession and witness was dangerous. Our temptation is to fear the world more than we fear God. Yet if resurrection is true, then the greatest power at the world’s disposal, death, is superseded by the power of God to raise the dead. The women spoke, when they did, because the fear of the LORD surpassed the fear of the world. Resurrection creates fear for the disheartened.
Resurrection suggests faith in the disciples.
We are told that the greatest predictor of the future is the past. I even heard it from Dr. Phil. If Jesus had followed this same principle, then the message from the man in white would never have been delivered. The disciples had just scattered—for fear of the world, they had deserted the Lord. But now Jesus is passing on the instruction to meet him in Galilee? Why would Jesus believe that the disciples would now follow when they have just failed? Because resurrection. Jesus does not have faith in the disciples because they are remarkable people. He has faith in the disciples because Jesus has encountered the remarkable power of God in resurrection and knows what the power of God can do in them. Resurrection means faith in the disciples.
Resurrection affirms forgiveness for the failure.
Maybe you don’t have faith in yourself. I don’t blame you. I have had faith in myself and it has not worked out. The point is not believing in yourself; believing in yourself does not respond with fear of the divine. Believing in yourself minimizes the impact of the faith of Jesus Christ in us and short-circuits the power of God in your life. But maybe you don’t have faith in yourself in an ironic kind of way. Maybe you don’t have faith in yourself because you actually do have faith in yourself—you believe your own disbelief rather than accepting the faith of Christ in the power of God to be at work in you. Your disbelief is more important than Jesus’ experience and belief. Perhaps you have listened to your own authoritative voice because of a specific failure. You believe that the best prediction of your future is your behavior in your past. Yet there is a powerful counterexample because of resurrection. Did you notice how the man in white specified one person who was to hear the message? Check out Mark 14:66-72 for this story of failure. Peter disowned Jesus. That’s a story of failure. The resurrection meant Peter was forgiven. Resurrection means forgiveness for the failure. Even me. Even you.
Claiming this as a Church Plant Narrative
Can I give you a picture of the church? The church is the resurrection community with a fear of the LORD, in whom Jesus has faith because of the power of God, and whose sins are forgiven. This isn’t the only and certainly not the best summation of the church, but claiming these three cornerstones can set a strong foundation for a church identity: fear of the LORD, forgiveness of sin, and the faith of Jesus Christ. A church plant is able to set this identity deeply, right from the get go.
Consider how conflict gets resolved when forgiveness for the failure is valued. Imagine how mission advances and volunteers get recruited when Jesus’ faith in the disciples is emphasized. What would mission look like if there was a healthy fear of the LORD? How could these markers help set the identity of your church plant through this narrative?