When we teach folks to be the church, God’s Kingdom can’t help but ripple out into all sorts of improbable places through improbable people – impacting whole communities, towns and cities. Here’s just one related, amazing story, among many …
Miguel Labrador posted a very important blog this morning on Why Leadership and Effectiveness Are Not Benchmarks of Discipleship. I highly recommend his blogs in general, and urge you to subscribe to his blog feed. Miguel is doing it, and not just talking about it, and always brings great insight.
Rob Moley, in his blog Restore the Word, wrote yesterday on “The Great Commission: Discipling Individuals or Nations?”.
In it, he says this about the Great Commission:
Rather than being a command to influence nations with the principles and truths of God’s kingdom, the logic of the command in Matt. 28:19-20 is to make disciples from every nation. Then, as ambassadors of God’s kingdom, these disciples are able to influence all aspects of society, and God willing, even disciple whole nations.
His point is that the Great Commission is about transforming individuals into disciples who obey all that Christ commands, who in turn transform the world around them.
Leading up to Tuesday’s elections here in the United States, I often used this blog and Facebook to urge Christians to vote. (See Does Jesus Want You to Vote?)
When I did, I always got heated push back – mainly from other Christians who oppose Biblical civic engagement.
Generally, they think God is only interested our personal relationships with Him, or that He is solely focused on the Church.
Marianne and I have a plaque in our home which says:
“One who practices hospitality entertains God Himself.”
This week, look around and make an effort to see those who have no family or are going through hard times – then ask if they’d like to share Thanksgiving with you and your family at your home later this month.
This is love.
If you live outside the United States and don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, then use some other time of celebration. You will bless, and be blessed!
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.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why significant segments of the organic church community in the Western hemisphere have failed to achieve Biblical viability – becoming instead anemic, self-focused and insular.
Even a casual observer must acknowledge that “organic” or “simple” churches in the West (unlike other parts of the world) seldom exhibit dynamic spiritual power; consistent reproduction, growth and maturity; or tangible, transforming impact.
I believe in the future, and in God’s sovereign ability to redeem history, nations and cultures.
I believe, because right now there is a fellow believer…
In the hospital quietly holding the hand of a friend recovering from life-saving surgery.
In grad school, heeding God’s call to basic research which will lead to new therapies that save countless lives.
Trudging through the woods, visiting tents, and checking on the well being of homeless women who “fell through the cracks”.
Standing outside an abortion clinic, ministering love and hope to a woman who knows neither.
Experiencing the first blush of lace and the joy of total intimacy on his wedding night, undefiled by the world.
I’ve heard privately from some who were offended with my use of “lazy-assed” in my blog, I Want More Religion (Part 1).
In my own defense, I was going to say “stinkin’ white-washed sepulchres” and use a whip to toss some tables, but I thought I’d tone it down and used “lazy-assed” instead. 😉
Seriously, if we don’t get out of this post-modern, introspective, insular, Jesus-is-all-about-affirming-my-own-sensibilities funk, then there is no hope of redemption and wholeness – for ourselves, for those He calls us to tangibly love and bless with real deeds, or for our culture.
One of the biggest lies you hear these days among the “hip” crowd goes like this: It’s not about religion, but a relationship.
Folks, sometimes your “relationship” with Jesus – especially when it becomes insular and consumed with your own sensibilities – is a stench in God’s nostrils.
If that offends you, get over it.
I spent Sunday afternoon with the guys in one of the churches that we planted three years ago in the local jail.
My voice went hoarse from singing along with them and my fingers became sore from playing the guitar as they took the initiative in starting song after song and leading forth.
For nearly an hour and a half they sang non-stop praises to the Lord, and were so loud and enthusiastic I’m sure they could be heard throughout the building.
They were stompin’, clappin’ and rockin’, with lots of laughin’ and cryin’ in gratitude before the Lord!
Now, I don’t want to shake up anyone’s theology, but the Holy Spirit also was grooving to some powerful, spontaneous rappin’ that was going on!
The newly touted idea that “ekklesia” (the Greek word translated “church” in the New Testament) and the Great Commission are at odds is itself odd.
Jesus told His disciples:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20 ESV)
The Great Commission applies, according to Jesus’ own words, through the “end of the age”. Any theology or view of “ekklesia” which ignores or somehow discounts that reality – out of reaction to real wrongs like man-centered discipleship or overwhelming external agendas that suck the life out of a church – is fundamentally flawed.
The “You Can’t” Crowd
What I find most bizarre among emerging “Beyond Evangelical” authors is how vocal they are in telling Christians what we can’t do – we can’t be engaged in cultural or civic reform, we can’t go and disciple the nations, we can’t be engaged in politics, we can’t ever take a social position that offends, we can’t this, and we can’t that.
Sometimes, it gets so bad that you can only laugh.
It’s amazing how ekklesia takes root in the fringes of society when you empower Christ in existing community rather than trying to bring “church” to them, take them to “church” or do “church” for them.
When some of us started changing our perspective, we started seeing dynamic, participatory, indigenous fellowships emerge in the jail, among the homeless, and with ex-offenders – as well as other improbable existing communities.
The life of Jesus that is evident in those fellowships at the fringes of society is now attracting “normies” to come and be part of their times together. It is amazing to see the spread of the Gospel through those whom society scorns, for the redemption of society.
When you introduce people to the freedom to find and express Christ in them and through them – and thus allow them to relate together as a fully functioning and participatory Body of Christ – Jesus just naturally happens!
This morning, as I was pulling out of my driveway to meet with some guys in the jail, I felt the Lord say it was time to plant a church among them.
I’ve been mentoring and building relationships with a group of thirty or so men in the jail, as we periodically meet to discuss the things of God. Some are believers, and some are believers in the making.
This morning, I was prepared to share with them about slaying those giants in their lives which stood in the way of God’s promises.
But I felt the Lord say, instead, that it was time to actually start an indigenous church in their housing unit.
This sense that it was time to plant a new church among them did not strike me as the least bit odd. I am part of a fellowship that has planted various sister churches that are thriving in other housing units in the local jail, as well as in other improbable places. So the sole issue for me was simply being receptive to the Lord’s timing, by acting only when and how He says.
Is there still no room at the inn?
It’s not too late: Invite to your time of Christmas family sharing, or to your Christmas meal, that man or woman who recently was released from prison, or that person who has no family in your area and is alone, or someone who is destitute and living in the woods near your home (trust me, they are there).
You and your family will bless them, and be blessed, more than you can ever imagine.
If you don’t know anyone to invite, call your local homeless shelter or battered women’s shelter. Ask for the staff person on duty. Tell him/her you want to invite someone to join your family Christmas morning, or to share a Christmas meal at your home.
Let them know if you are interested in inviting a family, or maybe just an individual or two, and ask for their recommendation. They will know the residents, and will do a good job introducing you to an appropriate person or family.
Some of my most enduring friendships have come from reaching outside my comfort zone to those who are destitute, abandoned, imprisoned or just plain alone. It will change you far more than them.
And please, don’t try to “fix” them – just be a friend. The rest just sort of follows naturally – including them fixing you as you open your heart and your life to those who you previously treated as “other” or only “helped” through impersonal “programs”.
Take a chance. Open your home and your lives to embrace the Joseph’s and Mary’s of our age.
This is true church. This is true religion. This is true grace.
~ Jim Wright
Most “-isms” in the Body of Christ are little more than an attempt to push some limited image of Christ on everyone else.
Some -isms today that threaten to rob us of the fulness of Christ are pietism and post-modernism.
This short video brought tears to my eyes over my longing for authentic church to take root throughout our communities.
Some of us are beginning to find it, but it’s very very rare in an age when church is little more than a set of programs, performances, ministry teams, leadership structure, buildings, budgets and Sunday services centered around the vision and abilities of some gifted man.
As you watch, listen with your heart to what the Lord may want to say to you. All over the world, He is birthing in more and more people a longing to once again be the church. It takes courage and there are birth pangs, but trust me, it’s worth it!
By Kelly and Niki Tshibaka.
Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride! In this PowerPoint presentation, all that you think of as “church” is about to be challenged so God can woo us back to being, once more, the multi-faceted, wonderful, exciting Body of Christ.
I vividly recall leafing through World magazine back in 2006 and reading the unsettling but hardly surprising news that Randall Terry – the firebrand evangelical who formerly headed Operation Rescue and was then financially wiped out following a series of lawsuits by pro-abortionists – had joined the Roman Catholic Church.
“Unsettling,” because it provides further evidence of the growing weariness and disillusionment I’m seeing among spiritual “entrepreneurs” who’ve been laboring within evangelical circles to expand the Kingdom of God in all spheres of life and culture.
“Hardly surprising,” however, as those “on point” for the Kingdom increasingly seek refuge from the prevailing pop-theology (or dare I say lack of theology) and me-focused brand of Christianity that pervades evangelicalism (which includes charismatics and Pentecostals), animates many of our local church and national leaders, and cuts believers off from the great historic doctrines and creeds of our faith.
If evangelical Christians have the equivalent of a “sacred cow,” it must be foreign missions. At the risk of martyrdom, I hereby declare that it’s time to slay that cow (or at least herd it into different pastures)!
I wrote this report in early 2007, following an extensive ministry trip in Ukraine. Ukraine previously was the western-most region of the former Soviet Union, where it bumped up against Europe, but is now an independent nation.
With all that’s happening in that part of the world, I thought it might be interesting to post this on Crossroad Junction. Please be in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. Since this trip, the situation in the country has deteriorated as Russia continues to challenge Ukraine’s fledgling democracy, the economy is in shambles, and political infighting grips the nation.