Conversations: "Go into a broken world"
Continuing the missional drumbeat that's been a refrain throughout the RCA's 10-year goal, Our Call, guest preacher Efrem Smith on Saturday night emphasized the importance of moving outside the church's walls to bring justice to the painful realities of a fallen world.
"God desires to give the church power and authority to bear his name and to advance his kingdom," Smith said to more than 500 gathered in Orlando, Florida, from across the RCA. "But how can the church be missional in today's context of diversity, dysfunction, chaos, and destruction?"
Exploring the context and themes of Matthew 9-10, Smith made several references to Martin Luther King's "beloved community" that depended on the self-giving "agape love of Jesus, because only that power can redeem and transform, and cause enemies to be friends."
Those who gathered are taking part this weekend in Conversations: Seeking God's Future for the RCA. The event has brought together pastors, elders and deacons, lay leaders, and other congregants of all ages to discern God's future direction for the Reformed Church.
Smith, superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church, provides leadership to about 160 churches and ministry initiatives in California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah.
"If we are going to be missional church, we need a missional urgency. We can no longer sit in privatized institutions but must go into a broken world and reach out to those who are lost," Smith said. "Our way out of the crisis in the church is simply a sense of urgency."
Smith also emphasized the role of "missional kingdom authority and responsibility," and concluded his 35-minute sermon with a somewhat humorous but stirring lesson on the bloodline of Jesus.
"Matthew 1 does not trump John 1," Smith clarified, noting the genealogy of Jesus that opens Matthew's Gospel is not on a par theologically with John's poetic prologue on the eternity and essence of Jesus' divinity. Smith then explained how ancestors such as Abraham and Tamar, among others, were grafted into Jesus' bloodline and represent a multicultural, multiethnic family tree.
"Jesus walked the earth as a multiethnic, multicultural person who died for the sins of all humanity," Smith proclaimed in a raised, animated voice. "Then he rose out of the grave on a cross tipped sideways and became a bridge over troubled waters—and now the church is called to be the bridge between black and white, between Jew and gentile, between rich and poor.
"If you want to be missional, find your place as a bridge over troubled water."