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More than we bargained for

Evangelism conference closes with call to openness to God’s possibilities

August 18, 2014

Shannon Kiser

Shannon Kiser preaches as the closing worship service of the 2014 Evangelism and Church Growth Conference. —Paul Seebeck

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla.

We settle for “meager substitutes” when God wants us to have abundant life, the Rev. Shannon Kiser told the closing worship service of the 2014 Evangelism and Church Growth Conference Aug. 14.

The conference concluded with the most vivid Christian reminder of that abundance: the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

“God wants us to enjoy life,” Kiser — Washington, D.C., field staffer for the Office of Church Growth of the Presbyterian Mission Agency — told some 500 conferees. “But we destroy, hoard or focus on the stuff that was never supposed to bring us life.”

Preaching from Acts 3 — the story of Peter and James healing the lame beggar — Kiser talked about the man “who was carried in each day expecting, at best, a couple of coins from people who knew it was the law to give alms. Is that how we go through the motions — expecting just a smattering of blessings, not expecting much so not risking much?”

Committed to maintaining what we’ve already got, Kiser said, “we don’t imagine greater opportunities … Living safely and responsibly actually holds us back from what God has in store for us. We must open ourselves up to possibilities rather than going through the motions.”

God’s grace is the key to God’s abundant life, Kiser said. “The life that Jesus offers us is undeserved and yet our lives are transformed forever.”

For example, Peter, having denied Jesus, didn’t consider himself worthy to be called a disciple. “And yet, Jesus came to Peter anyway, Jesus extended grace to Peter anyway, because that is the way of God.”

And that grace we have experienced, “we must extend to others,” Kiser said. “When [the lame beggar] took the hand of Peter and John, everything changed. It’s possible for all those who dare to hope that it’s possible.”

To be agents of God’s grace, Kiser said, Christian

  • “need to be cultivators of hope” — allowing room in our plans for God to show up, to be open to what God is already doing, shalom capable of breaking in at any moment.
  • “need to be willing to repent” — turning to God because until we realize we don’t know how to love as God loves, that our programs cannot save our churches and neighborhoods, that we preach a gospel that we don’t give ourselves over to, that we are too proud and arrogant, we cannot walk toward God.
  • “are invited to live with the confidence that the power of the name of Jesus is in us” —  not passive, but entering into life with people; more than empathy, but finding the appropriate time in an authentic way to say “get up!”

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