Comfort zones are just, well, comfortable.
No matter where we are in our journey we tend to seek predictability and routine over the wild ride of following the real Jesus.
The pull toward institutionalism and religion is a continual gravitational force that draws all of us away from the risky and unfettered lifestyle of an intimate communion with God as the central, guiding North Star.
I admit this in myself.
I recently found encouragement from Floyd McClung in his book “Follow: A Simple and Profound Call to Live Like Jesus.” He says:
“I have written this book with the underlying belief that any hierarchy and all institutionalization of the church lead us directly away from Jesus Himself. We must, therefore, constantly return to Jesus as our source and our example for how to live life and how to do church together. Studying His life, spending time in His presence, seeking to be filled with His Spirit, and fulfilling His mission with others in community—this is how we are to experience life as Jesus intended it.”
Floyd goes on to say that this book is about “how to be a fully devoted disciple of Jesus and not a pretender or an unthinking captive to cultural Christianity.” He says the beauty of living the Jesus way is summed up by living his simple lifestyle: love Jesus, love the world the way Jesus loves it, and to love others who love Jesus.
Mission—Love the world.
Community—Love one another.
While we may be continually challenged to forsake the comfort zones of religion, the Jesus-following life is inherently authentic, God-connected, and impactful in God’s infectious-yeast sort of way.
Two of my favorite people, Tony and Felicity Dale, are guest speaking at the Simple Church Conference later this month in Kentucky.
The conference, hosted by the Simple Church Alliance, has this description:
You are not alone! This year our heart is to encourage you with stories of what God is doing across our country and the world through people like yourself who are seeking to make disciples reproduce simple/organic forms of church.
More information here.
If you know of other upcoming, related conferences, please use the comment section to share with others!
“Movement” is probably an over-used word today, but I’m going to use it anyway.
One of the biggest faith movements in all of history is underway today. It’s the spiritual undercurrent that is slowly but inexorably rising because of Simple Jesus Followers. It is this steady growth of such followers that I call a movement.
These people are everywhere, on every continent of the world, and in every strata of society. They are not pointing at themselves, they are not broadcasting who they are on billboards, and they don’t even have a website defining themselves this way. But they have become radicalized by the radical love and reality of Jesus and He is their thing. They are all about the business of being in love with Jesus and expressing His glory through their everyday lives, gifts, and vocations with the understanding that all parts of life are sacred and meant to be lived in love and obedience to Him.
I know simple Jesus followers who are instigating movements of disciples that will impact nations. And I know Jesus followers who are impacting a disabled friend, neighbor, or adopted child thus expressing Jesus and, in God’s economy, having the same impact as the nation-slayer! The will of God being expressed is the mark of these followers and the measure of impact is the Spirit of God at work. Period.
The age of the limelight is over. It’s no longer about the professional ministers, the professional worship choreographers, and the professional religious-organization marketeers. It’s no longer about who is known, who has the giftings that are idealized and idolized, and who has exponential numbers in their resume. I am grateful that some good things came out of these types of expressions, but I am even more grateful that such grandiose demonstrations of religion are fading and making room for followers of Jesus to understand that the real movement is the growth of the uncommon, everyday expressions of the simple Jesus follower.
Jesus was and is an upside-down God. He was born in a stable, ridiculed by religious leaders, condemned by the rich and famous, beaten and spit upon. No, these are not necessary qualifications for His followers, it just points out that His movement, His Kingdom movement that is still alive and well today according to His promise, is being carried out mostly by those least recognized. Further, to sign up for his movement you can be rich or a pauper, you can have a degree or no education at all, you can have world-recognized talents or none at all, you can be outgoing and charismatic or just the opposite. God’s unrelenting plan, from the very beginning, is to work through those who love him and desire him above all else. No other qualification needed! And he is doing just that!
Perhaps the biggest obstacle of the western church is that the everyday follower does not believe in himself or herself or, maybe more to the point, does not believe in God’s power to work through ‘normal’ everyday lives. It’s time to throw off the shackles of the big and the beautiful and believe that every one of us is called to simply follow, with heart and passion, the God who does great things through us, and to see that, by so doing, we have the opportunity to be part of the greatest world-changing movement in history.
Mike Breen, in an article here, describes the slow death of the American church if it continues to give in to these three enemies:
The article quotes Martin Luther King, Jr., who said:
If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.
Indeed, the church must come out of denial and face those things, and those enemies, that keep us from being authentic followers of Jesus or face the ongoing decline into irrelevance and impotence.
But, when I read an article like this, I am tempted to only look outward at how others and other institutions have been infected by these enemies. And that misses the point. I share the same culture as the American church, and these same attitudes lurk, often hidden, in my own heart. Real change, the kind that renews and revives the community of His followers and keeps us from being just another social club, begins at the deepest level of my own personal heart repentance.
Therefore, I challenge myself…
Where is my ambition crowding out the simple service of His kingdom?
Where am I seeking people’s admiration more than the satisfaction of God’s approval and love?
Where am I setting myself apart from others, and magnifying differences, in order to feel better than them rather than having a heart cry for every person and ‘tribe’ to simply know God more deeply?
It’s not enough to be ‘against’ the enemies. I want to be ‘for’ change that starts with myself.
Read Mike’s article here.
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:3
The simple/organic church lifestyle opens the door for every believer to step into his unique calling and recognize his unique ‘letter’ written on his heart by the Spirit of God. Every person has the privilege and responsibility of tuning into the process in which God shapes each one for his destiny. Part of that is recognizing the core message—the life message—that He has formed in us.
Tony Stoltzfus says that every Christian has “a special life message that’s a summary of their story—the place where their various life messages join together in one theme… That one-of-a-kind message is the heart of their call.”
There is power in recognizing and affirming our life message so that we are freely sharing this core of who we are with those around us. It fuels our spiritual passion and excitement. Often, it leads us into a clearer understanding of the Kingdom calling in our life.
Recently, as a group exercise, we looked at ways to identify our life message. We used three different methods which I share here. The idea is that you might be able to identify your life message using any one of these three methods.
(Note, that I adapted this from Tony Stoltzfus’ excellent book entitled ‘Leadership Coaching.’)
1. Finding Your Current Life Message by Looking at Your Suffering
Write down a key difficulty you suffered through that has significantly shaped you. Then, write down the core message that this experience built into you for others!
2. Finding Your Current Life Message by Looking at Your Soapbox
What are the themes you come back to over and over when you are helping or serving others? What are you always talking passionately about? What do you most yearn to impart to people? Write down the core message!
3. Finding Your Current Life Message by Looking at What Injustices You Want to Fight
What injustices make you want to rise up and fight for the good of all? What’s the injustice you see, where you have a compelling vision of the better future that could be? Write down the core message that you want others to hear!
I love the way that God shapes us uniquely and then uses that uniqueness for His glory!
On a personal note, it was a challenging season in my own life (which I describe in the first chapter of Simple/House Church Revolution) that led to a re-write of my life message twelve years ago. Out of this came an unexpected re-direction in life and ministry and the formation of Appleseed Ministry. The life message would be something like this: “It’s not structured church or religion that transforms people and nations, rather it’s all about the simple life of Jesus, flowing personally through his irreligious followers, leading to a lifestyle of loving and discipling others.”