Welcome to the madness … I mean, Vacation Bible School.
July marks the month we have Vacation Bible School at church. It was a time loaded with action-packed games, delicious snacks, cool crafts, super-fun music, and most importantly, learning about Jesus’ huge love for us. Every day the church was hopping with unbridled excitement. Today, as I sit at my computer penning this article my ears are still ringing with songs of an amazing desert journey with Jesus. The building seems eerily quiet and vacant without the desert décor. I keep wanting to, “Get my camel on!” If you would like to view daily pictures from VBS, visit the photo section on www.Facebook.com/RedeemerRolla (you don’t have to join Facebook to see the images).
One of the things firmly impressed upon me during this time was seeing God’s hand actively at work in not only the lives of the children attending VBS, but the teachers, teen leaders, volunteers, and families of those whose children came for this incredible week. I saw passionate volunteers and teachers selflessly pouring themselves into the lives of the children in their care, investing into a child’s eternity. I saw both people and families attending VBS whom I have not seen in quite some time. I heard story after story of how those who came learned about and experienced Jesus’ love for them. I was incredibly humbled to see families beginning to reconnect with a church they have not known for months, if not years.
As church, we are on a journey with individuals and families. The importance of relational touch-points into people’s lives in the community is unmistakably clear at a time like VBS. I can see it on the faces of moms, dads, and grandparents as they walk through the doors of VBS on the first day to drop their children or grandchildren off. The excitement for what was going on at Redeemer is clearly seen and felt.
God is good!
But why does this excitement last only momentarily? I think it is vitally important to be evaluating and revaluating whatever we do in order to see whether or not we are hitting the mark. In this light, still in the afterglow of a wonderful week of VBS, some initial questions come to mind: Are we limiting ourselves and the Gospel by relegating this type of experience to just one week during the summer? What if we bottled this type of experience and were able to offer something similar on Sunday mornings? Once the normal VBS week is over, what if we were to take VBS “on the road” a few Saturdays during the summer to where the people are at instead of expecting them to come to Redeemer? We could go to a local park, apartment complex, military base, or a neighborhood close to church and pull out some grills for an easy lunch. The smells of free barbecue will waft into the community, drawing families out to see what we are up to. Those that come will experience a free meal, but will gain something of immeasurable value: a spiritually filling and nourishing food, bathed in the love of Jesus. They would be immersed into a loving community of faith, learning about God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness in Jesus. How cool is that?
I am all for VBS and think it is a tremendous doorway to the sharing of the Gospel, but with the rise in cautiousness and antagonism of our community toward the institutionalized church, why not have a few hours of VBS fun some Saturday afternoon where we share Jesus’ love with a neighborhood over some barbecue, crafts, and games? Over time, if we are consistently and intentionally present within a particular community, these opportunities begin to create relationships of trust and builds bridges into homes so that as questions or needs arise they know of a place they can call. The church should not be seen as “the place we go” but rather “what we do” and “who we are.” After all, whose church is it? The apostle Peter reminds us:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
Here is another way of saying this: We are a royal priesthood, a living and breathing church, a missional outpost of fellow faith travelers, called to share the life-transforming love of Jesus we have personally experienced with those who do not know Him yet. In other words, we are called to “Gather, Grow, and Go!” Sound familiar? So whether this is through VBS, the places we work, go to school, shop, get our coffee, or work out, our God-given call is to be sharers of the mysteries of the Kingdom God has placed within each us. (Ephesians 3:1-13; 6:18-20; Colossians 1:25-27)
It all comes down to discipleship!
Where are you “gathering” as the Body of believers? Where are you “growing” in His Word? Where are you “going” to make disciples? As we live in these places – gathering, growing, going – God is at work through His Word and Sacraments to transform us by the renewing of our mind into something completely new, something wholly redeemed, a child entirely loved and forgiven from the inside out. (Romans 12:1-2) Out of these crossroads grows something beautiful, changed, and called … an intentional, ever-growing discipler of disciples.
The path God has placed us on is truly an amazing journey filled with Jesus, because He is the Path, the Life-giving Sustenance, and the Destination all wrapped into One.
It is time to “Get your camel on.” Are you ready?
Come on! Let’s go!