Life reproduces life. That’s true in nature and it’s true spiritually. Where there is vibrant mature life, there is reproduction.
Last week, we saw that truth confirmed yet again as a third-generation fellowship emerged among what some consider a “disreputable” segment of our county.
This new community of believers is in a subculture where Christians and other churches previously lacked the courage to go. Until now, they had been written off as beyond hope.
These new believers found life in Jesus because some cared enough to go where most feared to tread.
In a nutshell, this newest fellowship is the fruit of another fellowship, which in turn was planted by our original fellowship. And as life keeps reproducing live, grace now abounds in yet another improbable place.
Life Reproduces Live
The world looks at particular communities and sees only despair, addiction, exploitation, bondage and abuse. But others in our fellowships saw what God saw – people whom He loves and calls to Himself regardless of their circumstances or their past - and decided to go and become part of their lives.
The folks who went loved Jesus enough get out of their sensibilities – not with all-too-typical arms-length programs, but with the boldness to stand firm in God’s precepts while embracing real people with messy lives. (See A False Love.)
By loving the Lord more than their sensibilities, they submitted to the assurances of scripture and gained the confidence to bring the Lord’s forgiveness, healing and wholeness to otherwise broken people.
It wasn’t always easy, but those who went were willing to heed the Great Commission and Christ’s command to “go” – to disciple, to baptize, and to mentor others in how to obey all that Christ commands. And in so doing, the lives of previously discarded individuals, and their previously discarded communities, are being transformed.
As a result, many now know the Lord and another indigenous church has emerged where Hell once prevailed.
Oh, and did I forget to say…
The Body of Christ
When some of us go into new subcultures and communities in our county, we don’t go alone. As we show people Jesus, we became bridges who connect real needs with real solutions.
For example, there are people in our fellowships who have developed the skills to do the kind of intense counseling often needed to find freedom in the Lord from life controlling issues like addiction, abuse and despair – and they make themselves available as needed.
Others are good at being mentors in basic life skills – and they make themselves available as needed.
Some are good at laying the foundations needed to establish new indigenous fellowships – and they make themselves available as needed.
And folks gifted in ushering others into intimacy with the Lord through intercessory prayer make themselves available as needed.
Many gifts, many callings, many blessings.
It is the multi-gifted, multifaceted Body of Christ reproducing itself as each unique individual works together to do their part.
In our fellowships, we go and reproduce the life of Christ – and advance His Kingdom – because we have learned to confidently lay hold of His authority. We go where our sensibilities could not have gone, because we know Him as the Living Word and accept Him at His Word.
We are now into a third generation of new fellowships – and it’s only been a couple of years since some of us old timers first decided to invade the domains of Hell.
When we initially went, we didn’t know what we were doing. But we decided to heed the Lord’s tug on our hearts by obeying the commands and trusting the assurances we saw in His Word. As we did so, He began to confirm His Word and we increasingly began moving less and less in our own sensibilities and more and more in His authority. (See Participatory Church for more of that story.)
As a result, life is reproducing life, generations upon generations have come to know the Lord, and others likewise are advancing His Kingdom – all in just a few short years.
And although we are not big in numbers, we are right where the Lord wants us – letting the life of Christ in us be expressed among us and through us.
The Fullness of Christ or Insular Comfort Zones?
I know some don’t like having their comfort zones questioned in my blogs, but I bear witness to the dynamic power of Jesus to transform lives and communities.
Vibrant multiplying ekklesia doesn’t need to be just a “third world” phenomenon. It is happening even here, in our postmodern culture, as we let our sensibilities shatter on the rock of God’s written Word – then in obedience go forth.
In nearly fifty years of serving the Lord, I have seldom (if ever) seen an exception to this observation: Those who want to hold onto their sensibilities tend to promote some existential concept of Jesus over the plenary authority of His written Word. Because they only want to know a subjective Jesus defined by their own perceptions, they lack dynamic spiritual authority and authentic external fruit (beyond, at least, what any “good” person in the world might otherwise produce).
They are good people, and sincere, but tend to be internally focused on their own perceptions of Christ and those who share their existential sensibilities. They want an affirming Jesus, defined by their own needs and wants, and so they seek some new narrative or overarching “story” about Jesus which allows them embrace His Person, but ignore the hard propositional truths, moral precepts, and commands that He has also chosen to reveal in scripture.
Disturbingly, they justify their existential theology by claiming they have found a “deeper life” which makes them “beyond” the rest of the Body of Christ, and write blogs and books that present an enticing, self-affirming picture of Christ.
When questioned, however, about their lack of external fruit and their persistent failure to create healthy, sustained, reproductive fellowships, they insist that they will eventually get around to “going”. According to them, the Great Commission, discipleship, producing external fruit, becoming reproductive, moving in dynamic spiritual authority that transforms their communities, and the like, will eventually happen as they pursue their ever deeper personal revelations of Christ – but it never seems to actually happen.
Let me repeat that: It never seems to actually happen.
In contrast, those who want the fulness of Christ and love Him enough to unreservedly submit to His eternal truths, experience transformational repentance as they let their sensibilities shatter on the Rock of His external Word.
Even new believers, who are totally sold out to Jesus and willing to wholly submit their own sensibilities to the radical authority of His Word, are able to move in authentic spiritual authority and produce external fruit.
Such men and women are not perfect, but they nonetheless reproduce the authentic life of Christ as they surrender to all of Christ and all that He commands.
This makes me passionate for His fulness – and gives me the boldness to preach freedom from dead-end existential sensibilities which have crippled our lives, our culture, our faith, and even our churches for too long (see Organic Dead Ends).
Real Fruit from True Authority
Time and again I have seen these truths confirmed:
Only when we step out of our sensibilities…
Only when we stop creating Jesus in our own image…
Only as we embrace the fullness of the Living Word by also submitting to the plenary authority of His written Word…
… do we gain His authority to advance His Kingdom through authentically transformed lives and healthy, reproductive ekklesia.
Trust me, it does work.
His Word said it. I believe it. And in faith, we are doing it and seeing lives and cultures redeemed through the fulness of Christ.
Let Christ shatter your sensibilities as you embrace His fullness – His Person, His Word, His precepts, His truth, His commands, His equipping gifts and His dynamic power – and go forth in confidence as you learn to walk in His delegated authority though obedience.
Then let us join in praise and awe as together we see His Kingdom truly come, and His will truly done, time and again – on earth as it is in heaven.