A Lesson from the Phoenix

The phoenix is a mythical sacred fire bird that can be found in the mythologies of the Arabian, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, Turks, Indians, Phoenicians, and Canaanites. It is described as a bird with colorful plumage and a tail of gold and scarlet. It has a 500 to 1000 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again.

Unlike the phoenix, Jesus’ Church is anything but a myth. Yet, like the phoenix, the Church has frequently seen the miracle of something new and fresh and beautiful coming from the ashes of something that has aged and lost its vitality.

Pastor Kevin often speaks of form and function. Function is the purpose of an activity. Form is the vehicle used to accomplish that purpose. On a trip, the function is to get from Point A to Point B. The form can be walking, biking, driving a car, riding a bus, or many other methods of transportation. The myth of the Phoenix illustrates how many functions in the Church of Jesus Christ are timeless. They just never grow old, or outdated, or need to be laid to rest. For example, Jesus said that until He returned, we are to make disciples of all nations, by baptizing and teaching people to become fully devoted apprentices of Jesus in all areas of life. The myth of the Phoenix also illustrates how in nearly all cases, the forms we used to accomplish those functions do fade and die and need to be replaced.

In 2008, Calvary started a Sunday night service. The function was to provide a worship option that would reach people who didn’t feel a good fit on Sunday morning or who could not attend on Sunday morning. The form was a service that was a bit smaller, a bit more casual, and at times a bit louder. In the summer of 2011, after seeking God through extended prayer, they also realized that deeper community and mission to reach people in the neighborhood needed to be added to the function. The result was a new form, TheGathering.

Over the past six months, TheGathering has been only partially successful in providing a form that would deepen community and fuel mission to reach our neighborhood. As in the story of the phoenix, TheGathering leadership saw signs of “twigs being gathered and the nest built.” A key leader moved away. Dorkham, our worship leader for TheGathering accepted a call as Worship Pastor in Maplewood. TheGathering’s energy and attendance lessened. And yet, as in the story of the phoenix, we sensed something new being created in the nest. Willie Grimm came to us with a passionate heart and a long resume of church planting. Since taking over worship for the past six months for TheGathering, we have had the opportunity to get to know him, and he us. This has fueled our mutual excitement for the possibility of teaming up on a church planting project. Also, out of TheGathering congregation recently, a
dynamic community group of five families has formed. We realize the function of deeper community and mission to our neighborhood IS happening even though the form of TheGathering service had run its course.

TheGathering held its last service on November 24. An open forum will be held at 5:30 p.m. on December 8, in the Fellowship Hall for anyone who would like to watch with us to see what new forms God will bring out of these ashes to better help us connect people in community and reach people in our neighborhood with the Savior.

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