PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body as a holy and living sacrifice to you.
Jesus, We belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Romans 15:14–22 (NIV)
I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written:
“Those who were not told about him will see,
and those who have not heard will understand.”
This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.
Some years back, Nick, from the Farm Team at Seedbed headquarters, made my dream t-shirt. Nick is the designer and creator of all things bright and beautiful that come out of our Seed house. It’s a gray t-shirt with simple black lettering on the front. It says, “Ask Me about My Band.” I love it so much because it creates two opportunities for me when I wear it and someone does indeed ask. I can tell them about my country band, “J. D. and the Dukes,” or I can tell them about my Seedbed band. And if time permits I can tell them about both. And in the telling, you are already seeing how I am beginning to get them caught up in the fishing net of Jesus.
Well, you asked me about my band, so here goes. We tied the first knot on April 8, 2016. (Yep, that’s 4.8.16 for the numerical mystics among us.) At that point, I was halfway into what would be the worst and most tragic decade of my life so far. Two men, about a decade younger than me, approached me with the idea of starting a band. We would invent it as we went—you know the drill—build the bridge as we walked across it. We would anchor it in the great tradition of John Wesley and the Moravians before him and yet we would innovate on the tradition for twenty-first-century application. We knew it was an idea whose time had come again and we all knew we desperately needed a deeper form of relationship than the well-meaning but superficial community we had found in our churches.
It turns out our friend, Kevin Watson (aka the Master Yoda of banding), had been digging a deep scholarly well for the past decade into the community structures pioneered by John Wesley. Seedbed published his popular book on The Class Meeting and subsequently on The Band Meeting. Kevin was the one who famously said the church is addicted to curriculum and it is not adding up to transformational living (aka the emperor has no clothes). We knew he was right and that our own lives were evidence of the deficit.
So on April 8, 2016, Mark and Omar and I started Band #1 in the model of banding we set out to pioneer. I had mentored Omar and Mark about a decade prior through their seminary years when I served as dean of chapel at Asbury Theological Seminary. Little did we know in that first meeting the kind of friendship we were about to forge together. Going on eight years later, we have met together on most every Friday morning at 8 am for our band meeting. And we will never be the same.
We live in different states so we meet on a call; connecting in person annually or more as we are able. Here’s how the meeting unfolds:
After a few minutes of small talk banter, someone will call the band meeting to order with these words:
“Wake up, sleepers, and rise from the dead!”
And the other two will respond:
“And Christ will shine on you!”
Next, one of us, (usually me because I have rememberized it) will pray the Banding Prayer:
Father, we pray that out of your glorious riches, you would strengthen us with power through your Spirit in our inner being. We pray that would be rooted and established in love so that we may have power to grasp, with all the Saints, how high and how wide and how deep and how long is the love of Christ and that we would know this love that surpasses knowledge that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Next, someone volunteers to go first and we take turns responding to the five banding questions:
1. How is it with my soul?
2. What are my struggles and successes?
3. How might God be speaking to me through the Scriptures and the Spirit?
4. Is there any sin I wish to confess to the band?
5. Is there anything I wish to keep secret from the band?
I’ll be honest. It took us a while to get to questions four and five. We had to build deeper trust. But my goodness—what depths of love have been unlocked from adding them later. After one band member finishes responding to the questions (uninterrupted I might add) the others may speak a word of encouragement and affirmation and then one of us will lead in prayer for the one who shared. Then the next volunteer goes. Once all have shared we conclude the meeting with the rest of the Banding Prayer:
Now to him who is able to do abundantly above and beyond all we can ask or even imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus now and throughout all generations. Amen.
And we are done. It takes an hour and change. We have walked through green pastures and sat by still waters and yet also through the valley of the shadow of death, disease, divorce, and enormous discouragements and disappointments. Not only has Jesus preserved our lives through the band, but he has also transformed us and taught us what real love is—how to receive it and give it.
Here we are, going on eight years later, and thousands more bands have joined us. I would love it if you would too. You can learn more here. And I would love to hear your banding story. Share it here.
I’ll save the J. D. and the Dukes band story for another day.
Abba Father! Thank you for the gift of each other. You have hidden our inheritance in the Saints. Would you give us the courage to begin searching for this treasure in a few other souls? Would you lead us to another two or three people with whom we can become more deeply known and hence more deeply loved? We confess, so often to be well known is not to be known at all. I want to be known well and I want to know a few others well. I want to do the work of real soul transformation. Actually, I know only you can do that work. I want to learn to show up where that work happens; where I can be transformed instead of endlessly trying to fix myself. Come Holy Spirit, lead me to this kind of fellowship—for my good, for others’ gain, for your glory. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Are you ready to launch a band? Are you willing to be made willing? Will you bring this before the Lord as a matter of prayer? What if this is the most significant act of service and mission you could offer your local church—to tie a knot in the net of this community?
Today we will sing a great chorus from the 1960s. Most of you will know it as “Sweet, Sweet Spirit.” It is hymn 361 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt