The Journey to Green Lake: The Birthing of a New Community for Unity in the Mission of Jesus
Between 1999 and 2012 I experienced what I now call “my desert years.” I felt alone quite often. I lacked stamina and courage but I repeatedly heard a consistent word from the Spirit: “Listen to me, follow Jesus more closely and in due time I will raise you up to do the work I formed you to do.” At the urging of my wife I wrote the book: Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church (Zondervan, 2010). To my surprise the late Francis Cardinal George of Chicago read the book. He invited me to his home where our friendship for unity took shape. On March 26, 2012, we had a public dialogue at Wheaton College. The crowd size and response shocked me. There was a palpable hunger in the large chapel for what we were saying that night. The last six-plus years have taken an entirely new direction as I became deeply involved in all kind of ecumenical activities, including my work in “The Gospel Call” with Fr. Tom Ryan. I have also been privileged to serve on the planning committee for the National Workshop on Christian Unity. As a result, I have now been replaced in this unique role by Alexei Laushkin, who also serves on the board of ACT3 as of June 2018.
Knowing that I would be seventy years old on March 1, 2019, I began to act on my longterm commitment to not obligate my board to choose a new president for our mission. I went to our annual retreat in June of 2016 to talk about retirement. The board accepted my plan, but then came a great surprise. They asked, “What has God given to the nine of us through our brother John that we should pass along to the next generation?” Their answer resulted in a discussion of my spiritual DNA and how they might pass this on to others.
For two years now, the nine-person board of the mission of ACT3 has worked closely with one another to create a covenant, a way of life and a plan for a community that would form around what we call missional-ecumenism. This led us back to Green Lake Conference Center (Wisconsin) in June this year, We invited others to join us to explore forming a new community with an ecumenical vision. Thus, The Initiative was born at an ACT3 summer board retreat in 2016 in Green Lake, Wisconsin. We express our purpose in these words: “We walk in unity with Jesus and His followers so that the love of Jesus might exceed all divisions.” Our “way” is to work proactively for missional-ecumenism, to pray daily for a radical increase of love for the whole body of Christ and to share our lives with followers of Jesus from other traditions than our own.
We intend to live this “way” by organizing or promoting engagements, both small and large, with others in order to demonstrate what the love of Jesus looks like in practice. We will attend an annual gathering, such as our recent Green Lake conference, and financially support this community. We will actively share this vision with others, inviting them to join with us in any way that they are led by the Spirit. Our goal is not numbers, but a deep and abiding love that will transform spiritually hungry people into a community of love that creates intoxicated faithful followers of Jesus. As counterintuitive as this vision might seem, when the visible church in is sharp decline both numerically and financially, we believe this is the real need of our time more than most of what is focused upon by our leaders.
NOTE: Remember, this ACT3 Weekly will cease in three or four weeks and only those who sign up for The Initiative will receive email from me. You can sign up at: http://eepurl.com/dA5GqH
ACT3 This Week (July 30–August 5)
- I have several meetings locally this week.
- I preach Saturday (5 p.m.), July 28, and Sunday (10 a.m.), July 29, at Lutheran Church of the Master in Carol Stream, IL.
John H. Armstrong