I was pleased to read the latest post on Earlham School of Religion's blog, Learning and Leading, which featured an essay by a newly-convinced Friend in Spain. Luís Pizarro describes his convincement into the Conservative Quaker tradition, and the challenges he faces as he attempts to foster a new Friends Meeting in his home city of Seville. Luís shares his experience of being an isolated Friend in a country largely lacking Quaker Christian witness, and how he faces a western European culture that is intensely secular, and often hostile to Christianity.
Luís touches me with his willingness to let his life preach, becoming a visible witness to the presence of the Risen Lord in Spain. He courageously holds out the possibility of intimate relationship with Jesus, inviting his fellow countrymen and countrywomen into the intimacy with Jesus that he has experienced. So far, Luís is probably the only Quaker in Seville, but through God's sustaining and empowering Spirit, it is my prayer that there will one day be a thriving Conservative Quaker Meeting there. Indeed, I pray that Luís' courage and faithfulness to the Holy Spirit's work in his life might open the door for the development of a new Yearly Meeting in Spain. One day, there may be a Spain Yearly Meeting that can look back to these days, in the second decade of the twenty-first century and say: "This is how it all began, with one man's courage and faithful witness."
Of course, Luís' courageous witness is not enough. As he himself states in his blog post, he needs our support. He looks in particular to Quaker Christians in the United States to extend him the hand of friendship, encouragement, and teaching. Luís has been convinced of the truth of Friends' testimony of the Resurrected Jesus, but his only connection to his brothers and sisters in Christ abroad thus far has been through literature and personal contact through email and Skype. Luís, and the Meeting that we pray will begin to grow in Seville, needs ongoing connection with the wider Religious Society of Friends. Friends in Spain need our prayers, correspondence, counsel, visitation, and practical support.
Luís is an outstanding example of the ways in which Jesus Christ is raising up testimony of his continuing life and presence throughout the world. Fortunately, however, Luís is by no means unique. There are men and women across the United States and throughout the world who are discovering Christ's inward voice and are being drawn to unite with the testimony of the Friends tradition. Jesus is raising up his witnesses in Spain, the UK and Brazil. He is raising up modern-day prophets and apostles in Atlanta, Detroit, DC, Philadelphia, Chicago and elsewhere. How are we as Quaker Christians in the United States called to nurture the new signs of life that are emerging in our cities, as well as across seas and mountains, beyond Quakerism's historical geographical and cultural boundaries?
There are millions of women and men who are discovering the presence of the Spirit of Jesus in their lives and are looking for the next steps in their relationship with him. Their encounter with Christ leads them to seek community with others who are walking in the Way. What is our role as Quaker Christians in providing eldership and oversight for these individuals and new worship groups? How can we be more intentional about releasing the gifts of ministry, eldership, oversight and apostleship that are present within the Religious Society of Friends, commissioning a new Valiant Sixty to carry the good news of Christ's gospel - his living presence - out into a world that his hungering to hear his word?
Unlike the original Valiant Sixty, this new generation of Quaker apostles cannot be satisfied with preaching the message and moving on. The old method of "setting a fire and leaving it burning" never did work, and we must recognize the need for ongoing discipleship, support, and care for new Christians and emerging fellowships. How can we provide the nurture, teaching, practical support, and modeling that new Friends and new Meetings need in order to grow to maturity in Christ? Are we ready to release the the resources - human, financial and spiritual - that will be needed to equip a new Valiant Sixty? Are we ready to outfit and support dozens, even hundreds of gospel laborers to work in the fields for months, years, or decades at a time? Are we ready to invest our lives and resources into the work of proclaiming Christ's love and building up his Body, the Church?
As we are faithful to the call to go into all the world, proclaiming and embodying the gospel of Christ's living presence, we can be sure that we will not only enrich the lives of those whom we visit - we will also find our own lives changed and faith strengthened by our encounter with Christ in others. Luís and Friends in Spain surely have a great deal to teach those of us in the United States that have taken our relatively religious culture for granted. When we respond faithfully to God's call, we can be sure that our lives and worldview will be turned upside down.
Jesus warned us to count the cost before setting out on a journey with him.(1) He knew that walking in his way would cost us everything - our very lives! We must be ready to sacrifice in order to support our brothers and sisters who are crying out for the living witness of the Church in our suffering world. The harvest is plentiful, but we will never see it unless we commit ourselves completely to serving Jesus and modeling the tradition in which we experience him as a community. Are you ready? Will you join us?
1. Luke 14:28-33