In Romans 11:13 Paul describes himself as “the apostle to the Gentiles.” This isn’t the main point of the chapter, but it reveals that Paul possessed a clear understanding of his ministry and calling from God.
God didn’t call Paul to stand by the temple gates in Jerusalem and hand out Jesus tracts to those coming to worship. Although Paul healed people at times, God didn’t call Paul to establish a healing ministry at Jesus empty tomb. Paul’s mission didn’t exclude Jews, but he was called to ensure that his mission, and God’s kingdom, always included gentiles.
I suspect that many Christians lack a sense of calling and purpose in their Christian walk. Our Christian mission has a global, nondiscriminatory element to it. Jesus himself taught us “Go into all the world and make disciples” and “A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” Which makes the specificity of Paul’s calling all the more interesting.
Sometimes God continues to call people to serve and share the Gospel with particular foreign nations. I have friends in a variety of African, South American and Asian nations endeavouring to introduce people to Jesus. At first glance, this international mission work seems like the closest approximation of Paul’s calling.
I believe that God also calls each christian to narrow their beam of light. In that sense we’re more like a rotating lighthouse that shines it’s light in different directions at different times. We may have a stationary light at the top of the lighthouse that people can see from all directions, but the strong light focuses its beam in one location at a time.
The question really isn’t whether we have “gentiles” in our lives. Rather, the question comes down to whether or not we’re willing to accept our proximity to them as our God-given calling.
The word “apostle” comes from the Greek word for messenger. In this sense we can all describe ourselves as the “apostle / messenger to the ____________”. Who might God be calling you to shine His light upon?
- Children’s friends
- Teenage mothers
- People in recovery
- Special needs families
- A local elementary school
- College students
- White collar professionals
- First responders
When I was in university studying accounting, I had a commercial law professor, Dr. James Wong. He passed away several years ago, but he remains a great example to me of someone who let his light shine. Here are three examples I know of.
- Students: I first met Dr Wong outside the classroom when I chose to attend a “Staff & Students” Bible study I saw advertised. Dr Wong was the only staff member and there weren’t many students, but it became a source of encouragement for me. The group primarily consisted of students from Hong Kong and southeast Asia. Dr Wong and his wife, Sharon, served these students not just through a Bible study but in helping them adjust to life on a Tasmanian university campus. He was an apostle to these students.
- Professional colleagues: Dr Wong felt that churches often struggled to connect with white collar professionals. As a lawyer himself, he felt a strong desire to share the Gospel with this community. To accomplish this end he self-published a book of testimonies from various successful Christian lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers and others. It never became a best seller, but it was how he carried out his calling to be an apostle to the professional community.
- Northern Tasmania: Dr Wong and Sharon weren’t from Tasmania, but they lived there for many years. They gave themselves the goal of delivering gospel tracts to every home in Launceston. When they accomplished that they continued to expand their efforts. Over the years they had traveled as far as 100kms from home to fulfill their mission of sharing the Gospel with as many of their neighbours as possible. We might question the effectiveness of tracts in letterboxes, but not their commitment to letting God’s light shine through them to a specific region of “gentiles”.
Who are your “gentiles”? Who are you seeking?
I find the Apostles’ apparent reticence to leave Jerusalem after the ascension of Jesus perplexing. I don’t know if they were disobeying God, just misunderstanding Him, or carrying out their role just as He intended. In this post I want to lay out one perspective that makes me wonder if they weren’t disobeying God. It also seems that racial issues have a lot to do with it.
- Read Acts 1:1-9 here and Acts 11:19-30 here.
- You can listen to the related sermon here.
- This post draws heavily on chapter two of the book Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church.
In Luke 24:45-49 the resurrected Jesus tells the apostles “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem…. stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Then Luke begins the book of Acts by again noting the instructions “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised…. you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” But the apostles seem to stay in Jerusalem long after the Holy Spirit arrives. What’s going on?
The Holy Spirit arrives with power in Acts chapter 2. Peter preaches a great sermon and the first mega-church is born. (2:41)
The story (and the apostles) then stays in Jerusalem until Acts 8:1.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. (tNIV, emphasis added)
The Gospel has begun to spread. The movement is on. It started in Jerusalem and now it seeps into Judea and Samaria. But the Apostles stay put! Eventually, in 8:14 after the Samaritans begin accepting the Gospel the apostles Peter and John travel to Samaria where they stay and preach before returning to Jerusalem.
Chapters 9-11 revolve around God convincing the apostle Peter that it was okay to baptise Gentiles. God convinces him by gifting Cornelius and his household with the Holy Spirit: A sign Peter could not reject. Then Peter has to return to Jerusalem and convince the church there that God allowed Gentiles into his kingdom. The Jerusalem church still wanted to exclude Gentiles.
While the Jerusalem church and the apostles were struggling to come to terms with God’s admission of Gentiles into his kingdom, other Christians were busy spreading the Gospel to everyone. In 8:1 we learn that persecution scattered many of the Christians from Jerusalem, but 8:4 notes “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” One of the places they went was to Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman Empire at the time. Acts 11:20 tells us that “Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.”
When the church in Jerusalem learned of the Gentile Christians in Antioch they sent Barnabas (not an Apostle) to investigate. Barnabas was excited about God’s work in Antioch, but instead of returning to Jerusalem he traveled further north to find Saul and brought him as partner in teaching the Gospel in Antioch.
Then over in Acts 13:1-3 the church in Antioch blesses Saul and Barnabas and sends them on a journey to spread the good news of Jesus throughout the Roman Empire.
At this point one might think that the racial and religious tensions between Jews and Gentiles would be resolved. One might also expect that after the Apostles in Jerusalem had accepted Peter’s experience with Cornelius and heard the reports of Barnabas and Saul that certainly the Jerusalem church had worked through this issue. But in Acts 15:1 we find Christians traveling from Jerusalem to Antioch and demanding that Gentile Christians submit to circumcision. Basically, they were teaching that Gentiles needed to become Jews before they could become Christians! Paul and Barnabas strongly disagreed with this teaching.
So everyone travels to Jerusalem for the Apostles to make a ruling. (Yes, they’re still there.) In 15:6-7 the elders and apostles meet to consider the question, then the text says, “After much discussion…“. This still wasn’t a straightforward issue for the church. Finally, the Apostles Peter and James give speeches stating that Gentiles were not required to be circumcised or to observe the Mosaic Law. Acts has 28 chapters and it takes until chapter 15 for Gentiles to be accepted in the Jerusalem church.
It appears that despite the instructions of Luke 24 and Acts 1 the Twelve struggled to accept first that God wanted Gentiles to receive the Gospel of Jesus and enter his kingdom. Second, they appear slow to recognise that Jesus’ command to go into all the world applied to them.
The Good News
I don’t intend to write all this just to criticise the Apostles. What’s fascinating about all this is realising who really helped kick start the church in carrying out the Great Commission. It wasn’t the Apostles or even missionaries sanctioned by the Jerusalem mother ship.
Some Jewish Christians from remote parts of the Roman Empire initiated the Gentile mission and the struggle against legalism and prejudice. Acts 11:20 doesn’t tell us their names, but notes that they came to Antioch from Cyrene (northern Africa) and Cyprus. Later the Cypriot Barnabas joined the work and he recruited Saul, a Roman citizen from Tarsus in Turkey. This diverse group of Godly men opened the doors of God’s kingdom to “all nations”.
This encourages me that I don’t need to be the lead minister at a big city mega-church for my ministry to have profound influence within the church and the world. I hope it likewise encourages you that God can use anyone to take giant strides for Him. The rag tag group of Christians in Antioch understood the mission of God in ways that the Jerusalem church never seems to wholeheartedly embrace. They just loved their neighbours enough that they couldn’t keep their life changing good news to themselves. Through this church, God changed the world.
God used persecution of the church to send Christians into the world preaching as they went (8:1). But the Apostles remained in Jerusalem. I wonder if God didn’t finally use the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD as the ultimate endorsement of the Gentile mission and to force the Apostles to leave Jerusalem and spread His Good News with the world.
I’d love for you to share your thoughts with me.
- Did the Twelve have good reasons to remain in Jerusalem?
- Is the Jew-Gentile conflict in the early church comparable with racial prejudices in our society and churches?
- KEY VERSE: I didn’t reference Gal. 2:9 in the discussion above. Does it change your perspective on this discussion?
Today’s post is the latest in a series of guest posts centered around my church’s annual theme of “Healthy Hearts”. This month’s contributor is Caleb Borchers. His full bio is at the bottom of the post, but here’s a brief intro…
I met Caleb in classes at Harding School of Theology. At the time Caleb and Fran were considering church planting in New Zealand so we had a love of the southern hemisphere in common. I also discovered that Caleb was a bigger rugby fan than I was, but more importantly he loved God above all. I have great respect for Caleb and Fran’s commitment to serve God in New England, an area many churches dismiss as “unreceptive” to the Gospel. The post below gives a great insight into the heart required to share faith when you find yourself in the minority.
“The mouth speaks what the heart is full of”
Have you ever bought a new product of some kind and been smitten with it? Do you find yourself showing off that new cell phone a little too much? Or do you find yourself wearing that same new shirt at every social event you attend? Would your friends say that you just will not shut up about your new minivan? Sometimes we just get excited about the latest, coolest toy that we have purchased.
I will confess that I am often guilty of this sort of enthusiasm when it comes to my technological love: Macs. I’m generally enthralled with all things Apple. My MacBook has served me well for four years now, and I hope to get a few more years out of it. I have an iPhone and find it enables a lot of my ministry, particularly when I am on the road. My wife has an iPad she received as a Christmas Gift a few years back. I like to steal it. And if you give me the opportunity, I will tell you why I think these products are superior to other electronics. In my more cynical moments I will tell you why your computer freezes and is riddled with viruses, and mine never is. I’ll tell you why my tech runs faster and smoother than yours. Generally, I’ll be completely obnoxious.
The truth is, when our hearts are full of excitement and joy they naturally overflow in our words and actions. Jesus made this clear in a discussion he had with the teachers of the law. In Matthew 12:34 he says “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of” or as some of us remember from the KJV, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Many of us have something on the tip of our tongues. I’ve discussed the latest consumer products, but maybe it’s the new TV show you love or book you’ve read. Maybe it’s the new baby you’ve had. Maybe it’s the political issue you think you should champion. Whatever it is, many of us have something that we are quick to speak about.
What does it say when the Good News isn’t close to the tip of our tongues? After all, it isn’t called the “Good News” for nothing. The Gospel should be this life altering message that shakes our foundations every morning. It should change our core and fill our hearts with hope. Yet the church spends millions of dollars and hours every year trying to get us educated enough or excited enough to share our faith. Many (most?) of us have so little experience in telling others about God’s work in the world. Even those of us who are capable evangelists tend to share a curriculum or tract more than the overflowing of our hearts.
My point here is not to create guilt. For far too much of my life I was caught in these cycles of guilt and guilt appeasement when it came to evangelism. I’d read a passage or hear a sermon about sharing faith and feel terrible that I hadn’t done so. So I’d try to find some sort of program or activity or class about the topic. At this point I’d feel the guilt subside. I mean, I took a class, what more do you want me to do? And so I would return to regular life and not think about it again until another conscience pricking moment. I am suspicious that I am not alone in this experience. Is this a helpful way for us to go about dealing with Jesus call to us in the Great Commission? I don’t think so.
Instead, I think we have to really look at heart transformation. We don’t have an evangelism problem in the church today, we have a heart problem. If the Good News was the “abundance of our hearts” it would also be on our tongues. Here are a couple of ways I think this problem manifests itself and ways to deal with those problems:
– We don’t really feel saved from anything. In his great book on evangelism “Just Walk Across the Room”, Bill Hybels suggests that everyone should have a simple before and after story of their life. This is who I was before Christ, and after Christ I am now this way. God has transformed my life. Hybels, who grew up in church, recognizes this activity is hard for those that grew up in church. That doesn’t make it any less necessary. We believe that everyone, even people that grew up around religion, have to convert. They have to put on Christ at baptism. And that baptism means something. What does it mean for you? How was your life changed? What has God given you by extending his grace? Can you formulate a simple explanation of how God has transformed you since you came to him in baptism? If we cannot put this into words, what can we really offer to others?
– We assume others are too lost. That isn’t a terribly biblical way to talk about things, is it? But we do it all the time. We do not talk to a co-worker or neighbor or fellow parent because “they wouldn’t be interested.” “They would never come to church.” “They would never study the Bible.” We have two problems here. The first is that we are saying “no” for someone else. How do we know unless we ask? Why are we an authority on how someone else thinks? The second one is the subtle arrogance we display in these comments. In effect we say, “I’m a good/smart/righteous/humble/etc enough person that I will listen to God’s call, but my neighbor is too pagan/evil/stupid/arrogant/etc to take up faith.”
A far more theologically accurate thought is, “If God could save me, surely he could save my neighbor!” If we, like Paul, accept that we are amongst the chief of sinners, then no one should be considered too far gone for God to reach.
– Our faith is of minimal importance to our life. The joy of knowing God is choked out by the joy or pain we have in our latest home improvement project or relationship or financial issue or whatever else is going on. We just have no space in our hearts for God. This is where spiritual disciplines like prayer and Scripture reading are important. They help clear out the space in our hearts, eliminating the junk.
A foundational text for our ministry in Rhode Island is the Parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14. In that parable Jesus deals with some of these issues. The original guests did not understand the value of their invitation. Their hearts were too full of other things like their marriages or fields. In the end, the table is full of people that no one would expect to see at the table. God’s messengers are told not to overlook anyone, they do not stop themselves from inviting anyone. The master simply must have his table full, and will continue to search high and low for people to come, sit, and feast.
Much of our family’s life and ministry, for several years now, has been focused on how to share faith with those who do not yet believe. This great responsibility has no silver bullets. I cannot give you a book that will fix all of your problems and struggles in evangelism. Every situation is different. What we have learned is that the core element in our culture is that non-believers have to see Christians living out an excited, committed, authentic faith. On our part, that means living with a transformed heart. It means seeking God, asking him to mold us. It means submitting to him in prayer and the Word. A heart that knows what God has done appreciates his grace and Good News cannot help but overflow into the words on our lips.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
Caleb Borchers is the lead church planter at The Feast, a new Church of Christ in Providence RI. Caleb, his wife Fran, and his two daughters have been in Rhode Island for three years now, completing an apprenticeship with the Blackstone Valley Church of Christ in Cumberland before moving into Providence to plant a church. The main focus of the Borchers’ apprenticeship and ministry has been how to communicate the good news of Jesus to 21st century people with little or no exposure to Christianity.
Caleb grew up in Detroit MI. He has a BA from Harding University and an MDiv from the Harding School of Theology. Caleb is a big sports fan and has been a contributor on several rugby and sports blogs. The Feast is part of the Kairos Church Planting network, a group of men and women striving to plant new churches, in new places, for new people. You can bless Kairos’ work to reach new people by joining the Kairos Prayer Network at www.kairosprayer.org.
Today’s post is the fifth in a series of guest posts centered around our church’s annual theme of “Healthy Hearts”. (See all the guest articles HERE.)
This month’s contributor is Dr. Gailyn Van Rheenen. Dr. Van Rheenen served with his family and co-workers as a church-planting missionary to East Africa for 14 years, 13 years among the Kipsigis people of Kenya. He later taught missions and evangelism at Abilene Christian University for over 17 years.
In 2004 Gailyn formed Mission Alive, a ministry that partners with churches to plant churches throughout North America. During the last four years Mission Alive has worked with church planters and their teams to plant fifteen churches and currently have seven other church plantings in process. In this role he serves as the chairman of the board of Mission Alive and as its executive director.
Dr. Van Rheenen has graciously shared an excerpt from his popular missions textbook, Missions: Biblical Foundation and Contemporary Strategies, that he’s recently revised. You can purchase the new edition HERE. A kindle edition is also available.
The Church: The Manifestation of the Kingdom of God
The church is not equated with the kingdom since God’s rule is from eternity to eternity and is exercised even over those who do not consciously submit to his reign. The church, however, must obey Jesus’ teaching concerning the kingdom of God and manifest its presence in the world today. Robert Webber says, “The church’s mission is to show the world what it looks like when a community of people lives under the reign of God” (2002, 133). Because the kingdom of God runs counter to the cultures of the kingdoms of this world, the church that is faithful to Christ will always be distinct from the dominant surrounding culture.
The church is God’s people called out from the world to be his witness in the world. As an institution, it appears fallible and weak, but paradoxically it has outlasted states, nations, and empires (Newbigin 1989, 221). The church reflects the eternal nature of the kingdom that cannot be destroyed (Dan. 2:44; 7:13–14). Its survival is rooted in being God’s people under his eternal sovereignty.
Often Christians fail to recognize the difference between the values and ethics of God’s kingdom and those of the world. The world so permeates the church that Christians no longer recognize biblical allusions to its separateness. How are disciples of Christ in the world but not of the world (John 17:14–16)? How can people of God live in the heavenlies while dwelling in the “earthlies” (Eph. 1:3; 2:6; 3:10–12)? What does Paul mean when he says that the believer’s “citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20)? Why do two Christian scholars define the church as “a colony, an island of one culture in the middle of another”? “In baptism,” they say, “our citizenship is transferred from one dominion to another” (Hauerwas and Willimon 1989, 12).
Israel illustrates a nation’s struggle to be God’s distinctive people. God’s covenant with Israel set them aside as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” within God’s world (Ex. 19:5–6). Their designated purpose was to become God’s light to the nations (Isa. 42:6; 49:6) and God’s priests mediating his purposes. Unfortunately, Israel forgot that they were “chosen” and imitated the nations around them by going after their gods (Deut. 32:15–18). As a result, God sent them into captivity (2 Kings 17:7–23). The church, like Israel, is called to be a distinct, separate people, personally relating to the God who chose them.
|You cannot live in Northern California very long before you encounter the largest trees in the world, the Sierra Redwoods. These giants can live 2000 years, may weigh upwards of 500 tons, reach over 350 feet in height, and drink thousands of gallons of water to stay alive. Ironically, one would think that because these enormous trees have no tap root, they would topple over during a heavy storm. But they have a little secret which keeps them safe and healthy – they don’t grow off by themselves. Their root system is intertwined with the roots of all the surrounding Redwoods. It is literally an underground fellowship which anchors them to the earth. And if one does fall, it still has life to produce another redwood from its base!What a picture of the Church! The more we are connected to one another in love, wisdom, faith, and good works…the better we will thrive in the Kingdom of God. And if we do fall, the Body of Christ will continue to pump life into us so we can rise again, to the glory of God.|
Peter defines the church’s separateness from the world in words that call to mind God’s election of Israel. The church, God’s new Israel, was to be “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…” (1 Peter 2:9). Such separation from the world led Peter to describe Christians as “aliens and strangers in the world” (v. 11; cf. 1:1, 17). They have entered into Christ through a fundamental change of life, called a new birth, which gives them an eternal inheritance with God (1:3, 23). As strangers in a world not their own, they must be holy because their God is holy (v. 15), and they must not imitate the vain ways of their forefathers (vv. 13–19). Because they are God’s distinct people, they are able to suffer as Christians without shame, knowing that they are participating in the sufferings of Christ (4:12–16).
Unfortunately, the church often loses its identity as God’s distinct people. Vicedom has written that the greatest problem with Christians is that “they do not know that they are Christians” (1965, 80). The church, however, rather than permeating the world with the eternal message, is being permeated by the world. Philip Kenneson believes that the church in the United States, although numerically strong, is seriously ill. He says,
It is quite possible for the church to be both growing and yet not bearing the fruit of the Spirit. What is happening in many cases is that the church is simply cultivating at the center of its life the seeds that the dominant culture has sown in its midst. . . . Stated another way, the church that is being cultivated in the United States looks suspiciously like the dominant culture rather than being an alternative to it. (1999, 11, 12)
In light of Kenneson’s statements, Christians must discern whether the church reflects the purposes and mind of God.
Peter describes the church as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). The last part of this verse is contingent on the first part. The church as “God’s chosen possession,” calls sinners to holiness in God. However, a church without a distinctive nature, partaking of the world, calls people into a fraternity with Christian trappings. This group, because it is not sufficiently connected to the vine, is unable to bear the fruit of God’s Spirit.
How do Christians testify to those in the world while not being of the world? The Quaker missionary Thomas Kelly wrote,
He plucks the world out of our hearts, loosening the chains of attachment. And He hurls the world into our hearts, where we and He together carry it in infinitely tender love. (1996, 20)
- How does your church intentionally distinguish itself from its surrounding culture?
- Do you believe that the church is being permeated by the world? What does that look like?
- How does focusing on a healthy heart avoid the diseases of the world while engaging the world?
- Read my full article in Intersections August 2011 here.
- Access the Intersections catalogue here. (An excellent journal originating within Australian Churches of Christ. It provides a great snapshot of daily life in the Restoration Movement there.)
A couple of months ago I wrote an article for an Australian Church of Christ journal. In it I discussed a possible church planting strategy for growing God’s kingdom in Australia. The spread of Churches of Christ in Australia will require the planting of more churches: either by existing churches or from US sponsored church planting teams. Since very few Australian Churches of Christ make it past the 100 barrier, it seems futile for those churches to plan to plant churches when they reach attendance of 150.
Instead, I proposed a need for churches to consider planting new congregations when they reach about 50 regular attenders. I know that this small size can be discouraging, but if the new congregation is geographically close then the goal is to establish a network of congregations, not just send 20 people away and never hear from them again. The two churches would continue to find ways to cooperate and encourage each other through joint ministries and events.
The big benefit of this approach is that it encourages each congregation to connect with its local community. Rather than have members drive 30 minutes to attend church worship and other events, the members would ideally live within 10-15 minutes of the meeting place. This allows the members to invite local friends to a local church that addresses local needs.
DISCLAIMER: I last lived in Australia in 2003, so I respect that my views may be dated. But from my church experience there and in the US, I believe something must happen to change the mindset of the existing Australian churches. Of course, many congregations already struggle to reach 50, so this overview is grandiose and irrelevant to them. I also believe that a similar approach is relevant to areas in parts of the USA where Churches of Christ are sparse.
- Read Philippians4:1-9 here.
In this week’s sermon I suggested that the sentence “The Lord is near.” provides the interpretive lens for the surrounding instructions. The return of Christ provides the reason for rejoicing. Paul draws his readers’ attention back to the big picture. Give up fighting (v2), don’t retaliate (be gentle – v5), don’t worry (v6) trust God (with prayer because the war’s won – v6), because the Lord is near.
While the quote, “The Lord is near.” could simply refer to God’s presence in the world, its close proximity to 3:20-21, which clearly discuss the return of Christ, makes it likely that Paul had the return of Christ in mind when he made this statement.
I was raised in a church that had a premillenial view of the end times. We studied Revelation several times (for months at a time) while I lived at home. Although I no longer agree with this understanding of Scripture I learned several things from these studies. One of the things I most appreciate about the premillenial teaching is the sense of urgency it gives to the mission of the church. Since coming in contact with churches of Christ 12 years ago I have noticed that the congregations I’ve been around talk very little about the return of Christ. The overwhelming attitude seems to be that “Christ will return one day and the earth will be destroyed one day, but I’m not going to worry about it too much.”
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that many of the fastest growing churches today are also premillenial. By pushing talk of the end times to the back burner it’s tempting (and we often give in) to take a relaxed approach toward personal evangelism and other mission efforts. Churches that emphasise that Christ might return today have a lot more interest spreading the Gospel as far and wide, and as quickly, as they can. We need to remember that it’s true, “Jesus might return for His followers today!” The Lord is near.
What’s your take?
- Have I only attended a strange bunch of churches that aren’t representative of all churches of Christ? or has this been your experience too?
- Do you agree that emphasising the nearness of Christ’s return might change our personal and congregational priorities? how?