What precisely does the interruptivity of the Spirit mean for the mission of God? While the original disciples were instructed clearly to wait for the coming of the Spirit in the Upper Room, they had few precious clues about what that would entail. They were still expecting, discernible from their questions to Jesus after forty days of instruction in Acts 1, that this would entail the coming of the messianic reign that would drive out the Roman oppressors from Palestine. Well they were somewhat right about the former, although its manifestations would not include the latter. Instead, the coming messianic outpouring of the Spirit would drive them out from Jerusalem through Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth. Life as they had known it was interrupted.
The Spirit also interrupted their world as they knew it and turned it upside down (Acts 17:6). They had spoken previously in Aramaic, but now they were given the gifts of speaking and even hearing through a cacophony of languages about the wondrous works of God. Their cultural horizons were interrupted through the redemptive work of God among proselytes in their midst. Their social world was interrupted: a patriarchal way of life now included maidservants, and a gerontocratic regime now featured youth. Yet most of the disciples also felt liberated to transgress the class stratifications that governed their world since now they, mostly of the lower classes, were empowered by the Spirit to be living witnesses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Life as they had known it was forever interrupted.
The Missio Alliance conference to be held on April 11-13 in Alexandria, Virginia, is titled “Renewal Evangelical Imagination for Mission.” I am honored to be one of the invited plenary speakers and will speak to this theme from a renewal point of view. My contribution will focus precisely on the interruptions of the Holy Spirit and the ancient-future mission of the people of God, the body of Christ, and the fellowship of the divine breath. We will unpack eight dimensions of the Spirit’s interruptive and missional empowerment from the Pentecost narrative of Acts 2. Besides my presentation, there will be many others who will engage with the conference theme from a wide range of perspectives – each of these, I dare to hope, can be considered to be distinct expressions of the many tongues of the Spirit initiated on that Day of Pentecost. I hope to see many there.