I Think I Saw A Jumping Manta Ray!
I walked the beach very early this morning and saw something I have never seen before. Bursting out of the still ocean water was a huge, grey and white Manta Ray. It jumped fully out of the water for a brief couple seconds, and then disappeared. I took this as a God-gem designed only for my soul. This day, I began thinking, would bring something new to my heart and thoughts about the church.
The newness and smile of God I was feeling was confirmed when I studied through James 5:7-12. Jesus’ brother took me back to Job and what God brought about as the difficult chapter of Job’s life came to an end. The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. I locked onto that verse (Job 42:12) like a starving charismatic looking to sew a $5 seed offering at a Steak ‘N Shake. Could Job’s blessing be mine? Is that what you’re saying, Lord? With Gungor’s “We Will Run” and Jesus Culture’s “Revelation Song” rhythmically pounding out some deep thoughts within me, all I could do was smile at what seemed to be God smiling at me. I took the Manta Ray show, the worship, the thoughts from Job, and began anxiously anticipating my day.
I told Lucy that Sherry and I had watched “The King’s Speech” last night. This was a GREAT movie recommended by Cumberland’s own Academy hopeful, movie critic, and worship leader, Megan Sullivan. I was recounting the history of it all to Lucy as we walked. King George the Sixth was crowned king after his brother Edward abdicated the throne to continue being a playboy. King George VI had a speech impediment that hampered his leadership. With the help of a quirky speech therapist, King George conquered his greatest fears and delivered a rally call as England was on the brink of war with Hitler.
One movie and suddenly I was a U.K. history expert. Lucy stopped dead in her sandy tracks and said, “You know I was alive during all of this?’ I asked her how old she was around the time of King George the Sixth coming to power. Lucy was a teenager who read the papers and listened to radio broadcasts of the real deal going down. I moved our conversation on to the next topic, but smiled inside. When God begins tying little threads of things together on study break, I know the day is going to be good.
Today I shifted my focus onto the church… the Bride of Christ at Cumberland. I love the church. I love what God has been doing at CCC. We have shifted, and, as Halter and Smay writes (“AND – The Gathered and Scattered Church”), are being consumed about fighting consumerism within our walls. It has been a slow, steady process to turn hearts from being consumers to contributors. The pendulum has swung from being a seeker-targeted, Sunday morning attractional church, to a beyond our walls missional church. At Cumberland, many have taken up the challenge to stop being receivers only and have grabbed onto becoming Luke 8:15 reproducers. That is a very cool thing to watch.
Just a couple years ago, I was reading study break books suggesting existing churches will never be able to make the shift from “How do we keep people coming to our church,” to “How do we help every person become more like Jesus?” Far from having arrived, we have begun that kind of impossible shift at Cumberland.
Part of the shift has come from our 4-5 annual Faith In Action Sundays where we exponentially serve our community. CCC’ers know we’re adding value to our community. They know our building is not JUST for gathering on Sundays, but also to bless our community. We’re healthier, spiritually, than we were just a few short years ago. God has brought CCC to a place where we now believe the Smyrna community would miss the Bride at Cumberland if she were no longer here. In recent years, this hasn’t always been the case.
But… there’s more. There are jumping Manta Rays we’ve never seen, heart pounding worship ready to stir us, and the smile of God saying Cumberland’s next 20 years will be better than the first. Is that what you’re saying, Lord? What will be next? I’m getting glimpses of God’s vision as I work through my study break and read things like: “AND – The Gathered And Scattered Church.” Halter and Smay don’t necessarily give a step-by-step action plan, but they sure are triggering my thinking exactly like Lucy does with her historical prowess.
Next for Cumberland must be taking what we’ve learned inside and outside our walls, how we’ve grown through our F.I.A.’s — and now making it personal. Gary Swabe is quoted in “AND”: “We need to live as salt and light so as to add value and blessing to our streets, to our neighborhoods, so that if one of our families were to move, the street would miss us and grieve when we left.”
Bringing the heart of God, the dance of the Trinity, the ways of Jesus, and the Kingdom into our normal, everyday lives is what’s next. It the spiritual formation path forward for CCC and for her individuals.
There are details and specifics coming to the surface, but those kinds of things are not for blogs. The specifics of vision and where God is leading will come face to face as we gather before we scatter. In the mean time, look for leaping Manta Rays of your own!