When Jesus Shows Up: Convention Day 2 Stimulates Awakening, Resolve
By Carl Stagner
When Jesus shows up, tables will be overturned. Those who participated in person or online for Day 2 of Convention 2021 and General Assembly testify to this truth that transcends time and space to this very day. Sure, such tables today may not be literal, but they are no less troubling and no less real. Through the soul-piercing messages on Sunday in Denver, Colorado, it was clear that Jesus showed up—and in a big way. A look back at what transpired at the Sheraton Denver Downtown—and in living rooms and churches across the country joining us online—reveals hearts awakened and resolved to join Jesus Christ in doing, not just talking about, justice.
Sunday’s speakers were Geremy Dixon, pastor of Center of Hope LA (Los Angeles, California) and Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei Community (Portland, Oregon). Though their messages were different in style and substance, each dared to challenge conventional understandings of the person of Jesus, the role of justice in the kingdom of God, and certainly the status quo. Geremy observed on Sunday morning that the Western view has tamed Jesus, limiting his attributes and reducing his purpose to the distribution of material blessings. Is it possible that we’ve similarly distorted the gospel? On Sunday evening, Rick called out the widespread fallacy of “getting people to heaven” as the singular goal of the church. Long-held and oft-repeated conclusions about Christianity in affluent and privileged societies like ours have, as both speakers asserted, turned Jesus into a caricature and the church into little more than a social club.
It’s time some tables were overturned.
Drawing from Mark 10:35–45, Geremy Dixon expounded upon the self-seeking tendencies of Jesus’ followers and the unexpected and rather jarring response from Jesus. While others use the power—whatever measure they have—for personal gain, prestige, and position, Jesus insisted it must not be so with his disciples. But what about Jesus’ disciples today? As Jesus used his power and authority to amplify the voices of the voiceless, elevate the lowly, and welcome the marginalized, his followers must do likewise.
The sad reality is that the church in America has, over many decades, become too comfortable in our position and privilege to risk losing it. “Our own comfort, security, and status have become our idols and cause us to ignore the suffering of our brothers and sisters,” Rick observed. Instead of a way of life, inextricably woven into the fabric of the gospel itself, justice has taken a back seat to soul salvation, becoming yet another topic on the table of discussion. Perhaps another table should be overturned so justice might roll on like waters. “We don’t do justice because nothing in our life is going to change if we don’t,” Rick continued. “We don’t have to care, so we don’t.”
The prevailing stream of cultural Christianity is far too comfortable, and Geremy Dixon won’t have any more of it. “We have been called, with the power we possess, to defend the powerless!” he exclaimed. “My question regarding Jesus turning over the tables then, is, ‘Why was he the only one?’”
Speaking from several passages of Scripture in Galatians, beginning with the twentieth verse of the second chapter about being “crucified with Christ,” Rick McKinley pulled no punches in his practical exposition and prophetic exploration of the passage. Wrestling with a broader understanding of a “co-crucifixion,” he noted the urgency of living out a personal gospel, but also a gospel of and for the community. Our “status, privilege, and freedom” must be crucified along with personal sin. Only when our whole selves are crucified with Christ can we lift up the marginalized, the oppressed, and the overlooked—just as Jesus did.
“When we exchange the gospel, this co-crucifixion gospel, with a gospel that is essentially about people getting to heaven, then we’ll be left with an impotent church that can’t handle a world like the one we live in.”
With all the problems of the past year, in particular, it matters more than ever that the Church of God is a potent force for the kingdom, not a diluted relic of past impact. But, as Jim Lyon emphatically noted in his address to the General Assembly on Sunday afternoon, the church has before flourished following great crises (think the 1918 flu outbreak), and it can again flourish. Giving extended time to a presentation of the relatively new and ever-expanding Chapter 4 Institute, Jim left no doubt about what the Movement must do to realize its God-given vision and potential—be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did. And that means following in Jesus’ every footstep. But before Jim’s impassioned address and the encouraging financial report from Natalie Royer, Bishop Timothy Clarke deviated from the normal devotion segment of the General Assembly to allow for a tribute and time of prayer in remembrance of the late “giant” of our Movement, former General Assembly chair, Diana Swoope.
Other Sunday highlights included a riveting lunchtime discussion with the witty and wise Reggie McNeal; voting during the General Assembly; and the commissioning of Drew and Sunny Brown as Global Strategy missionaries to Pakistan, among several other get-togethers and collective experiences.
Don’t miss Day 3 of Convention & General Assembly, designed to further ignite fresh fire in the soul. Kimberly Majeski and Hosanna Wong are the scheduled speakers, while other anointed leaders throughout the day host activities for pastors and lay leaders on a variety of matters. For a schedule and brief biography of each speaker, visit www.chogconvention.org.
Feature (top) photo: Commissioning prayer for the Browns voiced by Rev. Samuel George of the Church of God in Pakistan.