We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. - 1 Thessalonians 1:2-7
The nature of the early church is found in the church still today, in so many ways revealing the faith, love and hope that hold us together in our Lord Jesus Christ. Work and labor and steadfastness of the people of God, especially in the Church’s leaders, are timeless marks of the Holy Spirit alive and well and upon us in a Pentecost season that doesn’t come to an end. Paul wrote well of the early followers of Jesus beginning this movement called Christianity, in a generations-long cycle of being mentored and mentoring in the ways of Jesus.
Last week, I was privileged to be at two significant events that are for me wonderful moments of witnessing and participating in this sharing of the Gospel among Christian leaders new and seasoned of all ages and experiences. The first was at what we lovingly call RIM retreat. This is a process and time set apart for leaders and mentors and candidates in our Rio Texas Annual Conference that is a significant step for pastors seeking to be ordained as elders or deacons. Our own Pastor Thomas is a candidate for elder’s orders. I am co-convening the group, with Pastor Sheri as our Spiritual Director and Deacon Dave as a mentor for another candidate. The group of candidates is developing a mission project, which they presented formally this month. Each is individually creating and leading projects for making disciples. Those of us with more years under our belts have been inspired by and benefitting from their ideas, creativity, and ministries just as much as we are (hopefully!) being of help to them.
The other moment of significant witness for me was at our recent staff celebration of Cecilia and Pat, who are retiring, and Sheri, who has been appointed to a different local church. These women have served faithfully and beautifully within this congregation, first learning then becoming teachers to all of us. They were feted by those who have come after them, younger leaders who are mentored in the faith and mentoring others in the faith as well. It was a moving time together to see Bethany’s staff leadership highlighting how well this team works and plays together with joy.
This rhythm of receiving the word and being an example to others has sustained the church through the Spirit for centuries and will continue to flow through our various parts of the body of Christ. Who are you imitating? Who is watching you to imitate your words and works? Do you witness imitations of Christ in and through your life? God has chosen you for this very thing!
Blessings on the Journey,