You will receive power and you will be my witnesses. That’s what the resurrected Jesus said would happen after he ascended back to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit. A verified Instagram account, state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and a celebrity pastor are not substitutes for the Spirit, power, and witness. The church need not look outside of itself for the solutions to an ever-complicated post-everything world. We’ve already been given all that we need to see the kingdom come in our cities, counties, and communities. The question is, how will the transformative power and witness that accompany the Spirit be released through God’s people tomorrow?
I live in a place where tomorrow has already arrived. And I can tell you from experience, what is working today (however one might define “working”) will not work tomorrow. As a strategy, attracting a large group of people to one room, one day a week (or multiple medium-sized rooms) to hear about Jesus, is over. I don’t mean that people no longer attend church on Sunday morning or Sunday evening. But a great gathering is not an effective long-term strategy for kingdom-growth. While everyone else seems to be doubling down and polishing up on what has worked, in the church I lead, I’m trying to sort out what will work.
I have been living in this tension for quite some time. I have a sense that the future of the church and its mission looks more like what happened just after the ascension than it does just after the reformation. I know I’m not alone in this thinking. Drawing from the Christian tradition, it’s been the work and writings of missionaries that I’ve found most helpful. Missionaries don’t assume anything. They listen. They learn. They go. How do we train the men and women who constitute Trinity Grace Church Westside to live as missionaries? That question is the synthesis of all my worrying, praying, and thinking has come down to. That’s when I discovered Forge America and began to learn about how they are working to mobilize the people of God to participate in the everyday mission of God.
In the Fall of 2018, we launched our first Forge Missionary Residency with the hope that the architect, physician, business executive, stage designer, furniture maker, sound engineer, educator, homemaker would, along with other participants, gain clarity around the why, what, and how of living as witnesses in the power of the Spirit. The kingdom-effectiveness of the future of the church isn’t about when we are gathered. It’s about when we are scattered to the offices, clinics, conference rooms, theaters, shops, studios, classrooms, and homes to which we have been sent.
The Forge Residency accomplished three things for us that we have struggled to do on our own. First, Forge helped our residents gain a high level of clarity regarding their call to live as the sent people of God. Second, the residency helped deconstruct old ways of understanding, freeing our people to imagine new and fresh ways of participating with Jesus in his mission to renew all things. Third, each participant was equipped to practically and tangibly bear witness to the reign of Jesus every day.
The space between where we are and where we are headed should be filled with conversation, preparation, and imagination about the kind of church that will effectively take the good news of Jesus and his kingdom into the future. I’m grateful for the invaluable contribution Forge America has made toward helping our church break free from what has been and fully embrace the tomorrow we are already living in.
Derek Worthington, Pastor
Trinity Grace Church Westside
New York, New York