What is The Vision of/for
The JESUS Gallery?
"If you know me,
then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him."
First and foremost, The JESUS Gallery is hoped to be a place of encounter with the living Jesus. Jesus is alive and present in his word, thus, when anyone seeks to open his word, Jesus himself will be there. Jesus is constantly seeking to make himself known, so The JESUS Gallery is just another of many, many, many ways through which Jesus can attract new followers.
Second, The JESUS Gallery is intended to become a place of encounter between people previously unknown to one another. It is a mixing place where folks from different neighborhoods, different churches, different backgrounds, and different life settings meet and interact with one another over the topic of Jesus: what did Jesus actually do and say as revealed in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In the interaction that takes place Jesus himself is made known – or better known – to all present.
Third, The JESUS Gallery is a place where money is irrelevant. Admission to The Gallery is always free; there is nothing for sale; there are no solicitations for donations – no basket gets passed; no offerings box.
Fourth, The JESUS Gallery is not a church and is nothing like a church. Normally it will not be open on Sundays or Saturday afternoons/evenings. It will not offer “worship services” or liturgies or rituals. The closest parallels to The JESUS Gallery are art galleries and libraries. It is a place open for many hours at a time during which one is free to come and go based on her/his personal whims. Besides opening and closing times there is no schedule of events in The Gallery. One may visit The JESUS Gallery for two to five minutes or for several hours. One may visit to engage in conversation and discussion with others in The Gallery, or one may visit for private, contemplative time to view the art and/or listen to a Gospel and/or meditate/reflect privately.
But The JESUS Gallery is not a substitute for church either. It is imagined that most repeat visitors to The Gallery will also be active members of some Christian worship group (i.e. “church”), and that most who first visit The Gallery out of curiosity about Jesus will eventually desire to find a church community to meet with regularly.
Therefore it is vital to achieving this vision that The JESUS Gallery is intentionally and vigorously and explicitly non-denominational. Jesus himself prayed that all his followers “would be one” and The Gallery seeks to be a place where anyone who seeks to know and/or follow Jesus will feel welcome. When Christians from diverse backgrounds and experiences seek to share their experiences of Jesus with each other then all are strengthened and Jesus becomes better known. In fact, this is a central aspect of the vision for The JESUS Gallery: it is a place where persons from many faith traditions will gather. If it ever becomes dominated by one denomination or tradition it is not living out this vision.
The original vision is of one small-in-size gallery in South Bend, Indiana. But the 50-year vision also allows for a variety of futures:
it stays small and local;
it stays local but grows in size to become more of a regional/national attraction as a “Jesus Museum” or “Jesus Institute” while also retaining it’s character as a place for individual encounter and contemplation;
the one gallery inspires additional galleries in other neighborhoods, cities and towns.
It also might be a very short-term concept that fizzles out in a year or two. But what is hinted at here is not intended to circumscribe the gallery’s future: this is the beginning of a journey whose precise destination is not known, nor is it of much concern.
In all versions of its future The JESUS Gallery is seen as simple or modest rather than grand or elegant. Low-budget is part of that. It is intended that explicit, public, fund raising will never be a part of its operation. Donations will never be sought from Gallery visitors. Rather, funding will be provided by quiet, background benefactors. Should that not happen it is time for it to cease to exist. Further, those who do donate to The Gallery are imagined to be folks who are much more generous toward their own churches and other charities than toward The Gallery; support of The Gallery should not lead these folks to reduce their support of any other cause they deem worthy.
John Tugman, November 2018
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