It’s easier to go to church or join a church then… just keep loving people.
It’s easier to prepare a sermon or listen to one then… just keep loving people.
It’s easier to share an opinion or bash the opinion of another then… just keep loving people
I am preaching to myself…
It’s the simple basic command of the Gospel that Jesus spoke of and demonstrated… just keep loving people.
We all know people who are good at this in different ways. Some of you are great at loving addicts and alcoholics. Some of you are great at loving your neighbor, or the lonely, or the infirm. And some of you are great at carrying your love across cultural and/or geographical divides to love people from different places and different backgrounds.
Sam Riviera has a great post, from his own experiences, on how to love homeless people. As Sam says in his article:
I remember that old adage “I don’t care what you think until I know you care about me.” I probably misquoted it, but you get the idea. Another way of stating the same idea: We must earn the right to be heard. Our currency is caring and loving.
The church and Christians lost the right to be heard in many peoples’ lives long ago. Instead of finding caring and loving, they found disinterest at best, meanness, hatred, anger, and judgment at worst.
Our friends, be they the homeless, the poor, our neighbors, or our gay friends, want to talk. They tell us their stories. We listen. They ask us questions. We answer their questions, talk with them, shake their hands, hug them, and in the case of the homeless give them some water and maybe an orange and a pair of socks, a tarp, or a warm coat.
Sometimes when we’re on the street and we answer their questions with “We’re here to show the love of Jesus to the folks here in the neighborhood,” they start crying. I don’t remember how many times this has happened, but it’s not unusual.
Just keep loving people… and do it your way!. As Mother Teresa said, “Find your own Calcutta.” It does not get any more real, organic, and fruit-bearing than that!
I'm sitting on a 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to meet with a group of International mission leaders and find myself thinking about the God-process that brought me to this place. As I reflect back over decades of experiences I sense that many others have had similar journeys and milestones. Here is what my 'winding road' has looked like:
1. Passion. Nothing matters like passion from start to finish. When God found me, changed me, and filled me with Himself, I had no greater desire than that others experience the same. The reality that there were whole people groups who never would have this opportunity unless the Gospel was taken to them caused me to be smitten with the longing to do just that.
2. Vision. From passion it seems easy enough to develop some sense of vision and even an action plan. The challenge is that the early years are often a mixture of a lot of my own ideas sprinkled in, maybe, with some of God's. Think of Moses trying to free his people by killing the slave master or Joseph trying to explain his dreams to his brothers. Well-intentioned, but...
3. Faith Steps. The vision is initially walked out with steps of faith that are “certain” to lead to God's blessing on life, ministry, family, and all areas of life. So, with confidence I launch out. And, indeed, God always honors our faith and some wonderful things do happen because of it. He is faithful, but He is still in the business of shaping me big-time!
4. Vision thwarted. Somewhere along the way, the early vision and faith-steps encounter obstacles and, despite the fact that there may be some fruit from it, eventually it comes to a standstill. The resulting disappointments are so confusing. I was certain that I was 'the man' fulfilling 'God's calling' so why are things not working out as I had planned and envisioned?
5. Patience, Perseverance, Character Growth. This is the most difficult season of all. It seems to be a time of just slogging it out one step at a time. The vision has dimmed, the glamour of it all is gone, and the way seems dark at times. In my own life, I went through a series of painful, personal seasons that seemed to make the way darker, dimmer, and more confusing than ever. Yet this often seems to be the most important part of the entire process as God shapes the heart more fully for Him. It was a time when my identity became less about 'the vision' and more about simply being the child of God. It was a painful, difficult, necessary, growing-up phase.
6. Contentment. This may be the fruit of step five through which God becomes greater, being-with-God becomes more the point than anything else, and there is less of the push to 'do something' or try to 'be someone.'
7. Vision Renewed. The final step (to-date) is a vision that is re-shaped by all of the steps mentioned. It is more of God and less of Roger. When I begin walking the faith steps this time, doors open, things happen, and it is much more about Him. He has re-formed everything in a way that I could have never imagined nor done on my own. It is a vision that He has inspired and then placed me in the right places to see it come to pass. Challenges still? Plenty? Heartbreaks and disappointments still? All the time. But coming from a place of deeper surrender and clearer dependency, there is the sense that God will do what He needs/wants/plans to do. I can let go more than ever and just be part of His ride. And, at the end of the day, He will indeed work all things together for the good of his purposes, for my good, and for His glory.
It has been quite a ride, without a doubt, yet when looking back it so easy to see the way God has masterfully and miraculously coordinated every part of the journey. He is an amazing God to do life with!
Have you experienced something similar? Share!
Apparently I missed Roland Allen Day (June 8) in which he is celebrated on a liturgical calendar. But this is no surprise as 1. I was traveling, and 2. I don’t follow that calendar.
But let me celebrate Roland belatedly!
As this article says so well, “Allen was one of the leading missional thinkers of the 20th century. And his influence continues well into the 21st. In fact, if any of the following applies to you, then you have felt that influence:
- you are interested in church planting movements
- you think about church multiplication
- you have strong convictions about the role of the Holy Spirit in missions
- you prefer contextualized church planting over paternalism
- you believe in raising up leaders from the harvest
- you are crazy enough to believe that the New Testament has something to say regarding how we should be doing missionary work today”
Allen’s book, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church has had a significant impact on me and our work both overseas and here at home. It is available online for free here and for $.99 in Kindle format here.
Here are a couple of quotes from this groundbreaking book:
“Spontaneous expansion must be free: it cannot be under our control; and consequently it is utterly vain to say, as I constantly hear men say, that we desire to see spontaneous expansion, and yet must maintain our control. If we want to see spontaneous expansion we must establish native Churches free from our control.”
“The spontaneous expansion of the Church reduced to its element is a very simple thing. It asks for no elaborate organisation, no large finances, no great numbers of paid missionaries. In its beginning it may be the work of one man and that a man neither learned in the things of this world, nor rich in the wealth of this world.…What is necessary is faith. What is needed is the kind of faith which uniting a man to Christ, sets him on fire.”
“This then is what I mean by spontaneous expansion. I mean the expansion which follows the unexhorted and unorganized activity of individual members of the Church explaining to others the Gospel which they have found for themselves; I mean the expansion which follows the irresistible attraction of the Christian Church for men who see its ordered life, and are drawn to it by desire to discover the secret of a life which they instinctively desire to share…”
An excerpt from Simple/House Church Revolution:
As we let go of control-type leadership and top-down organizations, we become ready to use leadership gifts in a way that serves and empowers the body of Christ to reach her full potential. Positions are not needed for this. Titles that lift one above another are not necessary. Leaders simply function, in servant-fashion, using their gifts to help others grow into fruitfulness.
A leader is one because he or she reaches, disciples, and gathers others. In this sense, all become leaders to some extent. Some may have a special ability (i.e. apostolic, pastoral, or evangelistic) to reach and gather many disciples. This leader is still in a serving capacity, lifting others. He or she does not need to be in charge of or “over” a ministry. Rather, this person simply functions by building up the body of Christ and reproducing his or her own ministry in others. Everything is given away: spiritual authority, recognition, encouragement, opportunities to minister and serve. This leader empowers others so well that his or her own ministry goes virtually unrecognized.
When properly understood, we can see that God’s purpose is to release a multitude of no-name, gifted leadership that will never be recognized yet who function in concert with God’s purposes to serve and empower others.
We like to say it this way.
1. A service or event I attend
2. A denomination or organization I become a member of
3. A program I fit into and help build
Simple church, real church, is:
1. A way of life (extravagant lovers of God engaging the world 24/7 with love, power, and word)
2. A simple community (a spiritual family that gathers with full participation, led by the Holy Spirit)
3. Natural, organic multiplication (disciples influencing others to live as fully devoted disciples)