Celebrating the past but embracing a missional future, the Wednesday night General Assembly service focused on church planting. With guest music from Jason Crabb, the worship experience featured Michael Knight, the director of the National Office of Church Planting, who highlighted the stories of planters from diverse contexts on the "mission field" of North America. As a litany of church planters came across the stage, the diversity of age, culture and location was pronounced.
Raised up from around the Church of God, each with particular callings to particular places, the idea of place was significant throughout the night. "God has places," declared Bishop Sean Teal in a rousing message.
Teal's own strategic place has been Chattanooga, Tenn., where the Church of God ordained bishop has a ministry of global influence through a thriving local church, frequent TV appearances and the Church Supernatural Prayer Network.
Teal's message pointedly addressed much of the Church of God's current struggle to commemorate its past while attempting to capture something of the pioneer spirit so characteristic of early Pentecostalism for the future.
Teal especially challenged ministers to go beyond the routine tasks of vocational obligation and recapture "ministry as a bread-breaking exercise," where the Word of God is preached from a place of lived experience. He called the Church to recognize the ways that God gives us "redirection through rejection." Drawing on the rejection of Jesus through the cross as the precursor for resurrection, Teal explained that "Rejection is not personal, it's spiritual. You can't take rejection personally, must take it spiritually. It's used by God to put you where you should have been in the first place!"
It was a timely message for a church in transition, a denomination that must follow the Spirit the only way He can be followed — on the move. Forward movement may involve leaving some things behind: "If God is through with it, you need to be through with it too ... If God is moving on, then you need to be moving on and move with those who are moving with God." Following the undomesticated Spirit of God comes at great price, as God's chosen method is to "sacrifice your way to the next level."
North American church planters find themselves embedded deeply within the larger story of people of the untamed Spirit, men and women who know what it is to sacrifice for the sake of following God to new places.