calendar May 8, 2013 in Assembly, Communications, Faith in action, Mission

Gamelin: Go With Boldness

Jay Gamelin, pastor and discipler at Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Lexington SC, illustrated how one can show Jesus by sharing his faith story during his keynote to the 2013 Assembly of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod.

He began by sharing his thoughts about Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, whom he prefers to call “Curious Thomas” or “Honest Thomas” because he honestly shared that he did not believe that the others had seen Jesus while they were hidden away.

“Jesus converts Thomas by showing him his wounds,” said Gamelin. “To show people Jesus we have to be ready to be woundable.”

He reminded the assembly that God is present and works through fear, darkness, and chaos to restore us and creation.

The Gospel in a Post-Modern Era – Part 2 from SEPA Synod on Vimeo.

Gamelin talked about his time in campus ministry at Ohio State University. When he arrived he could tell the Lutheran Campus Center had an identity crisis just by its many names on the sign. He decided to create a “gray space” in which he and the students could explore their struggles. The first year they studied the story of Jacob and for eight weeks put themselves into the story and wrestled with God. They explored what it would mean to not only wrestle with God, but leave limping like Jacob.

“The community eventually changed its name to Jacob’s Porch — because we wrestle with God and… because it’s a liminal space that faces outward,” said Gamelin.

They also created “rules” for their community. One was God is revealed, not understood because Christians are called to discernment. Another was to focus on humility, vulnerability, and dignity as ways to be together.

What he did was focus on discipling his leaders, not running things or being in charge. They also found that by changing the sign, more people wandered in to ask what a Jacob’s Porch is. They soon grew to over 100 worshippers from a wide variety of backgrounds.

He’s in year two in his current congregation, Pilgrim Lutheran Church. It has grown from 250 to 400, which has changed the dynamics.

“We are grieving the church that we were,” said Gamelin. “We are in the wilderness now. The church they were was beautiful, but it’s dying and we have to grieve that.”

To make way for the new in the church, sometimes the old has to pass away. “What needs to die in your church?” he asked the Assembly. “Because you know what God does with death? He makes an empty tomb out of it.”

The church has trained its leaders to take care of members rather than make disciples, Gamelin said. Leaders need to be responsible to tell members that the church is not about their preferences, but should be about helping people who are not in the church to see Jesus.

At Pilgrim, Gamelin views his role as a discipler as well as pastor. The congregation has begun working discipleship into every part of the church, using worship, prayer, service and other activities to form faith along with classes and sermons, he said.

One example of a discipling practice at Pilgrim is the introduction of partner prayers during worship. The prayers of the people are people praying in the pews with together. There are stations around the altar during communion where people can pray with you. He says they are still exploring their “rule” at Pilgrim.

“Do not be afraid little flock for it is the Heavenly Father’s joy to give you the kingdom,” said Gamelin. “To just give it to you.”

“You have to take down the idol of your membership,” challenged Gamelin. “You are not here to serve your membership, you are here to serve God.”

“I go to a lot of synod assemblies. Something is happening here,” he said. “Cast your fear to the ground. Go with boldness, little flock.”

— Rev. Sue Lang