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From the Cross, through the Church, to the World

Resources for Celebrating Pentecost

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

—Acts 1:8

Pentecost is a great time to celebrate the mission of God to the world. The church has often made the connection between Pentecost and international missions. However, the traditional distinction between home and world missions is increasingly fuzzy as our own communities have become home to many people from distant parts of the world—immigrants as well as temporary residents who come for higher education or business opportunities with plans to return to their places of origin. Both of these phenomena were present already in biblical times, with a Roman centurion living in Judea who witnessed the crucifixion and people from all over the Roman world and beyond who were present in Jerusalem for Pentecost.

This article includes suggestions for Pentecost worship highlighting the mission of God. The ideas that follow could be used in worship in successive weeks (perhaps Pentecost and the preceding Sunday) or even in the same service in order to help your congregation see and participate in the one mission of God that embraces all people, both near and far. Though written with the Christian Reformed Church and its ministries in mind, these resources can be used for worship in various denominations.

Sermon Topics

Two possible sermon texts are suggested below for those who want to focus on the theme over a two-week period. Those who will be using these resources in a single service may want to choose Acts 1:8 as the sermon text.

  • Local mission: John 4:27-42, the Woman at the Well (“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony . . .”)
  • International (global) mission: Matthew 28:16-20, the Great Commission (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . .”)

Litany

The following litany appears here in three parts. If your service focuses on both local and global missions, use all three parts (A, B, and C) as one unit. If your focus is on local/national missions, use Parts A and B. If your focus is on cross-cultural/international missions, use Parts A and C. The theme verse for the litany is Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Part A

O God, you sent your Son to take upon himself our suffering, to teach us your ways, and to bear the penalty of our sin.

We are amazed by the wonder of your grace.

On the cross, Jesus made a way of salvation for all who put their trust in him.

We declare our trust in the one name that saves.

From the cross comes a message of forgiveness and new life for all kinds of people.

Help us who have received this good news not to keep it to ourselves.

Part B

We are your church, O God.

May we be your hands and feet in this world.

Many in our own workplaces, communities, and families have not yet experienced the fullness of your grace.

May we be your voice in calling others to trust in your Son.

Jesus declared, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria.”

In this community, help us to give witness to your grace in Jesus.

You called your church, both then and now, to cross boundaries for witness.

Help us to witness to those within our country who are geographically or culturally at a distance.

From the cross, through the church, to the world

your grace must flow. Help us to be agents of your mission.

O God, you sent your Son to take upon himself our suffering, to teach us your ways, and to bear the penalty of our sin.

We are amazed by the wonder of your grace.

On the cross, Jesus made a way of salvation for all who put their trust in him.

We declare our trust in the one name that saves.

From the cross comes a message of forgiveness and new life for all kinds of people.

Help us, who have received this good news, not to keep it to ourselves.

Part C

We are your church, O God.

May we be your hands and feet in this world.

Many around the world have not yet experienced the fullness of your grace.

May we be your voice in calling others to trust in your Son.

Jesus declared, “You will be my witnesses in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

To those who have come from distant lands to live among us, help us to give witness to your grace in Jesus.

You called your church, both then and now, to cross national and cultural boundaries to be your witness.

Help us to witness also through those who are sent to people who have never heard the good news, as well as to support the ministries of those giving witness to their own community about Christ.

From the cross, through the church, to the world

your grace must flow. Help us to be agents of your mission.

Music Suggestions

For Local Mission

“All Are Welcome/Let Us Build a House” Marty Haugen, www.hymnprint.net
“The Servant Song” CH 424, SFL 248, SNC 277, WR 391
“Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service” PH 427, PsH 603, WR 575
“Open Our Eyes” CH 633, SNC 80, SWM 179
“The City Is Alive, O God”PsH 597
“God of Grace and God of Glory” CH 435, PH 420, WR 569

For Global Mission

“Lord Most High (From the Ends of the Earth)” SNC 47
“Hope of the Nations” Brian Doerksen, www.integritymusic.com
“Lift High the Cross” CH 450, PH 371, PsH 373, SFL 171, SWM 243, TH 263, WR 287
“Lord, You Give the Great Commission” PH 429, PsH 523, WR 592
“For the Troubles” GSW 43
“Let Us Go” CSW 36
“There’s No God as Great” PsH 517, SFL 240, SWM 244

Children’s Songs

“Halle, Halle, Halle” (Caribbean-style praise) SWM 134
“This Little Light of Mine” SWM 242
“Lord, I Lift Your Name on High” CH 107, SNC 157, SWM 39, WR 88
“I Am the Church (You Are the Church)” SFL 336, WR 550

Excerpts

From the Cross, through the Church, to the World

From the cross. On Easter Sunday we celebrate the risen Savior’s triumph over death! We are also reminded that Jesus commands us to bring this good news to all people, whether they’re across the street or around the world.

Through the church. On Pentecost, we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church. Through the churches of the Christian Reformed Church, Christian Reformed Home Missions helps bring the message of the cross to neighborhoods and communities across North America. By partnering with local churches and others, Home Missions is multiplying new churches and campus ministries, cultivating diverse missional leaders, and helping churches discern their place in God’s mission.

To the world. Christian Reformed World Missions helps CRC congregations fulfill the Great Commission by sending more than 200 missionaries to serve in over twenty countries. Through partnerships their work extends to more than thirty countries. World Missions partners with churches and organizations to proclaim the gospel, promote healthy churches, and expand the reign of Christ.

Together, Home and World Missions are following God’s gospel movement . . . from the cross, through the church, to the world.

Praise Ribbons

Here’s an idea for involving kids in Pentecost praise.

Cut up strips of red cloth or wide ribbon (any length), knot a loop on the end for kids to hold, or slipknot the ribbon around a large plastic ring (or metal canning jar ring).

Have kids wave the ribbons during the songs. Hand the ribbons out when children come into the service or during the children’s message. If you have a two-week focus, collect the ribbons in baskets at the end of the service and use them again the next week.

Children’s Message

Supplies: cross, jar of water, red food coloring, globe, and red ribbons for each child to wave

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. . . .

—Romans 1:16

From the Cross
Visual: a cross
Focus: Jesus died on the cross to offer salvation and new life to all who believe.

Ask the children, “What does gospel mean? What is the gospel?”

Through the Church
Visual: jar of water, red food coloring (see below)
Focus: All of the people who believe in Jesus are called the Church.

Say to the children, “You and I are part of the Church. Jesus sent his Spirit to live in us. On Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit, who lives in those who believe in Jesus. The Spirit gives us power to tell others about God.” Ask, “How does God’s Spirit live in us?” Hold up a jar of water and say, “Notice the clear water.” Then add a few drops of red food coloring and shake. Say, “It’s still a jar of water, but it’s changed. That’s what happens when God’s Spirit becomes part of us—it changes us; we are different.”

To the World
Visual: globe, red ribbons
Focus: When we are kind to people, they see Jesus. When we tell people stories about Jesus, we are sharing the gospel.

Say, “Romans 1:16 says the gospel is the power of God for all who believe.” Show kids the globe you’ve brought. “God wants all the people in the whole world to know about him. That’s why he sent the Spirit at Pentecost.”

Hand out red ribbons (see sidebar) and tell the children that the ribbons represent the tongues of fire that were seen at Pentecost when the Spirit came. Encourage them to wave red ribbons to celebrate Pentecost while we sing. That will remind us of the power of God and his Spirit.

More Activities with Children

Children love to participate. Here are several suggestions for Pentecost activities that can be enjoyed by kids of any age in a small group or large group setting.

Art
Hang a large piece of posterboard or sheet of newsprint and draw a cross in the middle. Draw a circle with dotted lines large enough to allow the children to color, draw, or glue pictures representing local mission inside the circle. The space outside of the dotted circle represents global mission. Allow them to color, draw, or glue pictures in that space after discussing how the Spirit has no boundaries to accomplish the mission of God.

“Our Town” Video Clip
Create a video clip called “Our Town.” As a family, class, or small group, use video cameras to film local activities and locations that represent the place you live. This can take any focus or direction you choose, but could include schools, restaurants, sporting events, cultural events, food pantries, hospitals, and the like. Play the video clip as an introduction to the sermon on Sunday, representing the local mission field.

Family Worship
Family worship can be a meaningful activity for children if you allow them to plan and participate in as much of the worship as possible. Guide them by providing the theme (sharing the good news of God’s love with others), and then encourage them to choose songs, Bible stories or passages, prayers, and so on. Provide age-appropriate story Bibles and psalms, CDs, or other music for them to use. Encourage each other to be creative and enjoy your worship together.

Scripture or Song
Let children write their own music or rap. Suggest a text and let them come up with rhythm and/or melody. Record their composition, or, if you are able, transcribe it on staff paper or a music computer program such as Finale. Save it so that it can become a family worship favorite.

How Can Your Church Bring the Message of the Cross to the Community?

It’s important to understand the culture and context in which you are trying to share the gospel. The only way to be effective is to “speak the language” of those with whom you are sharing the good news and immerse yourself in the culture—in other words, to follow Christ’s example and be incarnational.

We learned that it had been a tradition for many years to have a community-wide Easter egg hunt. However, this tradition had ended because kids began to fight over the plastic eggs filled with candy. We saw this as a unique opportunity to bring restoration to this tradition.

During our first year as a church plant at RedArrow, we had already built a relationship with the village manager. We asked if we could once again offer an Easter egg hunt for the community. However, instead of holding the event on Maple Island, the large, uncontrollable area that had been used in the past, we decided to use the new community playground, which could be easily monitored. Instead of filling plastic eggs with candy, we simply hid empty plastic eggs. We announced that when a child found five empty eggs, they would exit the playground and redeem the eggs for a large bag of candy. Included with the bag of candy were invitations for children and their families to other RedArrow events, including our Easter morning worship service.

This event accomplished two things. First, it helped our church get outside of the four walls of our building and further develop relationships with people who do not know the Lord Jesus. Second, it changed our reputation in the community from the “new guys down the road” to a faith community with a commitment to invest in the lives of people in our town. We continue this investment in our community through other creative events such as the kite flying event we do each year on Ascension Sunday.

—Ben Bowater, Church Planter, RedArrow Ministries, Paw Paw, Michigan

On Pentecost Sunday our church takes the time to celebrate our ethnic diversity and unity in Christ. We make sure to sing a wide range of songs: gospel, Spanish, traditional hymns, and contemporary songs.

I preach a sermon on the joy of the unity we share in Christ. We also have a special reading led by a wide range of people in the congregation (African, Latino, and Anglo).

—Felix Fernandez, Church Planter, New Heart Church, Longwood, Florida