Have you ever sat in the early morning hours and watched the horizon to the east waiting for sunrise? If you have, you know that it seems as if it will never come, even though it has every day of your life and you have no indication it will not that day. There is always an anxious anticipation just before dawn.
As you watch, the sky begins to glow, a light blue at first followed by a soft pink. Then, as if it popped up out of some deep blue water, the golden sphere emerges into the sky and the sun has risen yet again. Doubt is resolved into warm certainty and a new day begins full of hope and anticipation.
Many in the church today are waiting and hoping for a new day to dawn. There is an anxious anticipation about what God might do next in our world. We have confidence that God will show up because God has before and we have no indication otherwise. Yet, we watch for the first glow of a new light.
For the first five months of this year, a group of our family of faith has been waiting and watching for the dawning of God’s light for our congregation that will guide us into a new day. The Dawnings Team has prayed and read Scripture together. We have dreamed and worried together. We have sought God and listened together. Our experience with Dawnings provided us an awakening to hope of discernment and a reminder that spiritual practices done together intentionally and consistently can create a profound and deep communion with one another and the God that leads us. Ultimately, instead of recommending any new initiatives in ministry, additional programs to add to a busy calendar or yet another restructuring of our organization; the team issued an invitation to the congregation to join them in a journey into discernment and deeper communion. Here is the team’s recommendation to the church.
After weeks of prayer, engagement with Scripture and holy conversation, the Dawnings Team expressed a desire that our congregation go deeper in seeking God together by renewing our commitment to spiritual practices both in our individual lives as disciples of Jesus and in our life-together as an expression of the Kingdom of God. These practices should pervade every element of church life including worship, bible study, team meetings and other gatherings; and, they should be foundational to the formation of each one of us in our homes, workplaces and neighborhoods. These practices include:
Practices of prayer.
Practices of engaging Scripture.
Practices of holy conversation.
Practices of hospitality.
Practices of compassion.
Practices of testimony.
Practices of worship.
Practices of service.
The Dawnings Team invites our family of faith to join us on a journey of further discernment by making these practices the core of the living of our shared faith.
This recommendation is just the beginning of the journey. We recognize that going deeper will require us to learn new ways of listening to God and one another. Actually, it calls us to be intentional about engaging in some really old ways we had forgotten. The fact is these practices are the journey; these ways are the life of apprenticeship to Christ as led by the Spirit.
Our shared commitment is already bearing fruit in our life together. Our congregation has a renewed vitality for the work God has already given us as well as a fresh anticipation for what God is now shaping us to be. The stories are already more than can be told here of our members sensing the movement of God’s Spirit in their lives and in their neighborhoods. For Second Avenue, Dawnings has pointed us toward the warm glow of a new day.
by Monty Stallins, Second Avenue Baptist Church, Rome, Georgia