If we are are a sent people, (which we are!), and we have been united with Christ (which we have!), then we undoubtedly can live as His sent people to bring the good news to those around us.
A few months back, my eight-year-old son was up at the plate in a little league baseball game. With two outs he cracked the second pitch to right field, past the outfielder, sending the baserunner home. Standing on third base, his face was beaming with pride. He found my eyes across the field, spotted my double thumbs up and smiled even wider.
His teammate then stepped up. Two foul balls and a hearty swing later, the ump called the strikeout that ended the inning. I waited in the dugout and was surprised to see my son enter the dugout in tears.
“What’s the matter bud?”
“I didn’t get to finish. I got stuck on third…”
We had a quick talk about how he’d scored a run for the team, and that sometimes getting “stranded on base” was a part of the game. He eventually shook it off and started laughing with his teammates again.
The Big Finish
You’ve called them to let the Spirit recalibrate their hearts through a few opening songs. The sermon made a clear point and the room seemed reasonably attentive. Communion and a few more songs have sealed the deal. Time to head home? Not quite yet.
That conversation in the dugout reminded me that we all have an innate desire to see things through to completion. Call it a need for closure. Or maybe a longing to see loops close and resolution happen. Our liturgies can accomplish this in profound ways, or they can leave our people on third base Sunday after Sunday.
The last liturgical bucket for us is “restoration”. It’s the culmination of the four movements we’ve discussed in this series, but often the most neglected. In the restoration portion of our gatherings, I aim to do two things: (1) remind them of their future hope and (2) send them out as witnesses to the good news of Jesus. Simplified, I want them to hear us say over and over again that, “you have hope and others need it.”
1. The Hope of Restoration
Restoration anchors the believer in what God has promised. It reminds us that things are not now as they should be. We equip people to be unsurprised by the adversity and challenge that comes their way, and also to speak helpful encouragement over each other in everyday life.
In the restoration section of our gathering, we choose songs that affirm God’s unending and unwavering love for his kids, his enduring pursuit of us through the good and the bad, and the rest that comes from our security in eternity for those who belong to Him. We sing about Christ’s return, and the hope we have for the future. We, if even for a moment, pause to reflect on how Jesus coming back to judge all sin and evil and bring in a perfect re-creation is a glorious and essential truth in the minds of the saints. We thank God that all of us are works in progress, unfinished, and incomplete.
2. Others Need Restoration Too
Restoration sends us out. Until Christ returns, His work in us and our work in the world is unfinished. This is why benedictions can tee up conversations for missional communities to have about what their “sent-ness” is going to look like this week.
“Who needs to hear what we heard today?”
“Who has God brought into our lives that needs the encouragement we received today?”
“How can we embody the passage or principle we just heard for the sake of others this week?”
These kind of outward focused questions are the mark of a mature people whose hearts break for the same things that break the Father’s heart. If we are are a sent people, (which we are!), and we have been united with Christ (which we have!), then we undoubtedly can live as His sent people to bring the good news to those around us.
How it Works
These two aspects of restoration typically happen in the form of a few closing songs and a benediction. The songs will focus on the promises of heaven, the completed work of Christ, and the ways in which God sends us out into the world as salt and light. As the last songs wraps up, our teaching pastor takes the stage to proclaim a brief benediction over the room. We keep the benediction short and sweet. It’s a brief reminder that their Christianity can’t possibly fit in a container the size of Sunday. Don’t neglect the shaping and forming purposes of a thoughtful benediction.
Restoration shows us that everyday endings matter. We should make every effort to end things well ourselves, including conflict, relationships, work opportunities, etc. Because our ending is being written by God, no situation, or setback has the final word over our lives.
All this won’t happen in a single Sunday. But repeated over the course of dozens of Sundays, real discipleship can start to take shape. This is why working on the end of your gatherings is worth the effort. How you land the plane makes a big difference in what people remember as they leave and is a key part of shaping your people into the likeness of Christ through your liturgy. Show them how the last chapter that God is still writing informs their everyday life. Help them not get stranded on third base. The inning is not over and Christ is up at the plate.
Do your Sundays remind and equip your people they can live as His sent people in everyday life?
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