Growing Wide and Growing Deep

by Rev. Robert Hocutt on April 29, 2022

Photo: Church of the Redeemer, Greensboro

Confirmation in the Diocese of Christ Our Hope

The church uses a variety of metrics to measure growth. In the Diocese of Christ Our Hope, whose primary mission is to plant, equip, and multiply disciple-making Anglican churches, the number of new church plants and new church plant interest groups traditionally have been our key metrics. Those are good metrics and they make sense. After all, the more churches there are, the more opportunity for people to come to a knowledge and love of Jesus Christ! It is necessary to grow wide.

Growing wide, though, is untenable without growing deep. As I type, I’m looking out the window into my neighbor’s yard where a very tall, very thick old maple tree used to stand. It had a huge canopy of leaves and branches that covered the neighbor’s entire yard and most of the street. It looked like that tree had been there a hundred years and had at least another hundred left… that is, until a severe storm rolled through earlier this spring. The wind uprooted the tree and it fell across the street onto another neighbor’s car. Inspecting the damage after the storm, you could see the entire root system ripped from the ground. Maple trees have notoriously shallow roots relative to their height - usually less than two feet below the ground. A tree can only grow so large without deep roots to anchor it.

Incidentally, the mission of the diocese is to plant disciple-making Anglican churches. Well-formed disciples are the “roots” of the church - believers whose faith is rich and deep; who anchor the church and allow it to weather the constant storms of our historical moment.

A key marker of discipleship in our Anglican world is confirmation and confirmations have been happening in a flurry around the diocese! Bp. Steve remarked during a recent meeting that between mid-September 2021 and the end of April, 2022, he and Bp. Quigg will have confirmed nearly 300 people in Diocese of Christ Our Hope churches. That is 300 confirmations in just seven months!

That is significant because of everything confirmation entails. At its core, confirmation is the anointing of laypeople for the expansion and growth of mission in their lives and spheres of influence. It is a mark that a believer has been affirmed in their faith and subsequently set apart for ministry; that the Holy Spirit is active, working out God’s ultimate purpose for that person’s life.

Confirmation also grows the church. It grows the size of the church certainly, but confirmation also grows the church as a sacramental community where God intersects the world through the work and ministry of his people. It brings Christians into a deeper relationship with one another, unified in their calling as, “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession,” who proclaim the glory of God who brought them out of darkness and into the light (1 Peter 2:9).

Each time Bp. Steve or Bp. Quigg confirms someone, they witness the Lord at work in a new way and this has become a favorite part of their episcopal ministries.

Often in confirmation, the Lord will identify a new calling in a confirmand. After one set of confirmations, a father approached Bp. Steve and revealed that the Lord had given him the vocation to disciple. Not only did he want to disciple his own children well, but he felt a calling to minister to other fathers and help them disciple their children well.

The Lord might also change a calling in a confirmand. In their confirmation meeting, an educator admitted that even though she was incredibly skilled at her specialty, her primary calling was not to be an excellent teacher as she thought (though she was). Her primary calling was to love her students well and approach teaching from that posture.

Finally, the Lord might clarify the calling of a confirmand. One high school student found herself in and around conflict often. She prayed for peace, hoping the Lord might remove conflict from her life. At her confirmation, the Lord expanded on that prayer, calling this student to be an active agent of peace, a true peacemaker, compelling her to lean into conflict as it arose and work to bring resolution.

Stories like this abound in both Bp. Steve and Bp. Quigg’s experience. Praise God that he is growing our diocese wide and deep. Praise God for clergy and church leaders who recognize the need for Christians to be discipled well. Pray with us that the Lord would continue to bless our diocese in this way, forming deeply-rooted disciples who live into their calling as God’s royal priesthood proclaiming his glory.

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