Something Fresh by Rev. Jonathan Brown

September 09, 2022

“Do not try to call them back to where they were, and do not try to call them to where you are, as beautiful that place might seem to you. You must have the courage to go with them to a place that neither you nor they have been before.”
− Vincent J. Donovan, “Christianity Rediscovered”

The first Sunday I preached at Foundry, we sang my favorite hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story.” It sums up what draws me to Christianity: the stories. I love the story of Jesus Christ. I love to tell it, ruminate on it, discuss it, and try and emulate it even if I often miss the mark. I see religion as a communal response to the story.

The Gospel stories lay the foundation for our beliefs about how to live. I am drawn to Mark and John, currently Mark’s sixth chapter, which reads:
“Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.“ 

Here, Jesus takes a two-pronged approach to building community. Jesus does draw people to himself, surrounding himself with students and friends. However, that is not his only approach. Here, he is sending the disciples out to be with people. He does not ask them to return with those they find, to uproot the people to whom he is sending them. He simply instructs them to be present with the communities they find.

As Methodists, we believe the grace of God is transforming the hearts of every single human, even those who do not recognize it. No matter where we go, God is present with the people we meet. As we return from our pandemic-caused dispersion, we often look around and ask, “Why isn’t Jane here?” “Why hasn’t John come back?” Maybe, like Jesus, we should take a second approach as we build community back, asking “Where is Jane?” and “How can I find John?”

Early in the current century, the British Methodist Church gave rise to the Fresh Expression movement, which focuses on this second prong, asking “How do we get out there to be with the people? How do we create church in new places?” The answer is to tap the passions and talents of church folk and send them into communities that celebrate those passions, forming new groups like Kayak Church, Skateboarding Church, and Tattoo Church.

So, in closing, I encourage you to ask yourself, “What talents and interests have I never thought about bringing to church? Can Christ use these to connect to a new community?” And let me know your answers. I’m sure you will get some.

God bless,

Pastor Jonathan
Associate Pastor and Director of Discipleship Ministries