Years ago my friend Danny, who played Division 1 College Baseball, described patience as the clean-up batter in Paul’s list of the fruits of the Spirit. If you played baseball the clear implications are that patience is both a virtue and difficult. Maybe that is why Paul lists it as an activity produced by the Spirit of God.
I recently picked up Alan Kerider’s, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Kreider notes,
Patience was not a virtue dear to most Greco-Roman people, and it has been of little interest to scholars of early Christianity. But it was culturally important to the early Christians. They talked about patience and wrote about it; it was the first virtue about which they wrote a treatise, and they wrote no fewer than three treatises on it. Christian writers called patience the “highest virtue,” “the greatest of all virtues,” the virtue that was “peculiarly Christian.”Kreider, p.2.
An observer, somewhere in the future, may write that patience was not a virtue to most American people, and even Christians too. Unless they happen upon the story of my young friend, Damien.
We met about 8 years ago. Initially, we communicated via email until we realized we were only about twenty minutes apart. He served a large church, maybe even considered mega-, in their Youth Ministry. I recommended him to a church as Youth Pastor/Collegiate Minister where he spent about three or so years before the incoming Pastor wanted to “start over” with staff. We often had lunch together. During those conversations, Damien talked of interest in church planting. I encouraged his interest.
Damien would need a job and a plan. He landed a job with a major corporation with a local office. Then, Damien began exploring church planting options. He had conversations with his own denominational church planting leaders, queried other denominations and networks and churches that provided support for such an endeavor. A group of folks began meeting in homes to explore the possibility of a new church.
Most advised Damien to raise his own support, preferably three-year commitments to cover his salary. Add to that what it would cost to rent space and purchase what would be needed for easily setting up and tearing down space that would likely be used for other events Monday-Saturday. Once a budget and support were determined, he would need to recruit a core group of people who would meet for a period of time before launching their new church. Damien would then have about three years to lead his team, reach out to those in a selected geographic area and work tirelessly to ensure sustainability within three years as support would become the responsibility of the fledgling church. All this would be done in the context of declining church attendance, the rise of what researchers have dubbed The Nones, and essentially work against the ongoing secularizing tide that has impacted churches in numbers and budget.
Damien decided to work against a different culture. Rather than follow the now established pattern described above, but not in complete detail, he set out to work patiently. He did not recruit support for his salary or that of his co-leader. They both have jobs. Rather than rush into a Launch Day, they met for over a year, prayed and developed deep friendships that would form them both personally and as a young group. Then in March of this year, they began public
There are other details that I could point out like the supportive church that has helped mentor Damien. His continued work on a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Fuller Seminary. The young worship leader that he never expected would come to join the leadership team. And more.
Last Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at Koinonia Bible Church’s Sunday worship. They meet at Stone Ridge Elementary School in Northeast Yukon. Their worship space is set up such that the Communion Table is in the center of the stage and the room. For those who find this unfamiliar, consider it both theological and symbolic. Theologically they give priority to the Life of Jesus – life, death, resurrection. Symbolically they communicate that Jesus is the center of worship, not a personality, the preacher. Each service moves toward Communion, the Table. No closed Communion at Koinonia.
I keep coming back to Krieder’s opening chapter when I think of Koinonia. Patience has been their habit. Most church planter’s feel the stress of numbers. It is a classic question pastors receive, always. “How many do you run?” Rather than asking questions like, “What are you known for?“, “How are people being formed to be like Christ?“, “What habits do you promote that forms people in service rather than consumption?” Damien shared that a couple visited that were accustomed to a familiar large mega-church. When Damien announced there would be a guest preacher, the couple did not understand why the pastor would invite a guest since church is about building its brand around the pastor. This is the way many have been discipled to think by the prevailing celebrity culture. Kreider points out something different about the early church,
Amid it all [The world seemed out of control.], Cyprian, as bishop, wanted to keep the Christians true to their tradition. This, at its heart, meant embodying the Christan good news, bearing it in their bodies and actions, living the message visibly and faithfully so that outsiders would see what the Christians were about and, ideally, would be attracted to join them. So in 256 Cyprian wrote a treatise of encouragement for his people. “Beloved brethren,” he wrote, “[we] are philosophers not in words but in deeds; we exhibit our wisdom not by our dress, but by truth; we know virtues by their practice rather than through boasting of them; we do not speak great things but we live them.”Kreider, p.13.
Soon Koinonia will add what they are calling Home Churches. Their hope is to utilize something of what is being described as, Dinner Church. They will not discontinue their Sunday Worship gatherings but will add small group gatherings with the features of some of the elements described in David Fitch’s, Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission.
If you live in or around Northeast Yukon and looking for a church to attend, even become involved in, consider Koinonia Bible Church.