That said, I love hearing how others are living their faith into the world they live in. Here is a short list which I hope you will add to.
The ‘church’ is meant to be a going, 24/7, unleashed expression of Jesus. Therefore this small list is only scratching the surface of what the people of God are meant to look like as we live our faith into the world.
Let me be blunt.
I believe the church comes closest to its intended shape when Jesus-followers are loving God, loving others, and learning how to disciple people who will disciple others.
Meaningful, organic, simple gatherings are meant to come OUT of the process of disciples making disciples and to support that process.
But there is one key that must not be missed or we will just be out trying to put together yet one more model and method of Christian living: We are called first and foremost to be a disciple ourselves… and there is a cost. Jesus said it quite bluntly:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)
At the very core of the church and at the very heart of disciplemaking, is the disciple who has eyes on Jesus and hands not grasping for the things of this world. And it is the freedom, love, and joy that comes from being such a disciple that is at the heart of relating to others in a way that they, too, become disciples of Jesus Christ.
Yes, discipleship does cost us everything. This cost is not about putting on a religious cloak of self-flattery, false-self-sacrifice, or pharisaical self-righteousness. Rather, there is the confession that my soul wants to cling to things that keep it from the full embrace of the most amazing lover and the only true infuser-of-life. When I daily seek to give up pig’s food for the Father’s grasp, I am a disciple who has found real life unlike any other. And such disciples are at the heart of disciplemaking.
In our old way of doing church life, there were some markers, structure, and programs that gave definition to our life as Believers. We could at least check off the following areas and know that we were ‘on the right track:’
But what about this living, organic church? How do I know if I am moving in the right direction? Sometimes we revert to an old way of thinking:
But maybe we are still missing the true nature of being organically connected to Jesus.
I do believe that we can see markers in living organically, but they are more like dance steps rather than program to-do lists. They are more about lifestyle that integrates with all of life rather than simply a list of sacred activities divorced from the rest of life. They happen internally which are then reflected externally rather than the other way around.
I have often used the diagram below to describe the organic lifestyle, but it’s easy to try to turn these (or any other organic methods) into program again so let’s be clear. This is a lifestyle that begins and rests fully on a listening relationship with Jesus. Only He can lead us in the life of spiritual power that we are meant to live in. Further, each part of this process is not a step but a lifestyle that grows out of that intimacy with Him and which deepens as our life with Him deepens. We reach out to others, with our own abilities and gifts, as He leads, inspires, guides, and empowers. We ‘make disciples’ by assisting others to have a similar, personal walk with Jesus. We gather in ways that come naturally out of the other steps (we don’t gather and then try to make the rest happen). And we facilitate others to do the same because we want them to experience His full and fruitful life.
For the sake of providing some guidance on the organic lifestyle, I sometimes use a series of questions. They are designed to encourage us to listen to Jesus and, as we move deeper into Him, walk with Him naturally into the Kingdom, organic lifestyle that He draws us into:
What does ‘Living Organically’ mean to you?
I was watching a movie last night about the impact a great coach made in the success of some athletes. The movie is ‘Backwards’ in case you were wondering.
It reminded me that we are not on this journey alone and that we need others, if not formally, than informally to support us in our spiritual journeys.
In some ways, in my former, traditional church days, it may have seemed easier to be surrounded by such people. At least there were more people ‘around.’ But either way, I find that I have to work at finding and keeping in place the needed support. I need the Fellowship of the Ring, so-to-speak. As Frodo said, “I cannot do this alone.”
I need coaches. I need mentors. I need spiritual directors. I need missional community. I need counselors. I need people who speak prophetically into my life (with wisdom) as friends who know me.
Such people are available when I recognize the need and ask God to provide. And they play an essential role in our journeys.
Let’s go for God’s best, by His grace, and seek out people who will join us and support us in our destinies.
When we settle for today’s status quo then we are no longer open to new leadings of the Holy Spirit, we accept yesterday’s movement as good enough, and we are no longer open to what the possibilities are for the future. In short, comfort zones and stagnation sets in. We become critics of new things because the ‘old thing’ is good enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just talking about institutional churches or traditional churches, I’m talking about all of us.
We want to settle in and we stop asking, “Is better possible?”
Seth Godin wrote a post with this same title and said:
“Is better possible?
The answer to this is so obvious to me that it took me a while to realize that many people are far more comfortable with 'no'.
The easiest and safest thing to do is accept what you've been 'given', to assume that you are unchangeable, and the cards you've been dealt are all that are available. When you assume this, all the responsibility for outcomes disappears, and you can relax.”
Seth goes on to say:
“If you accept the results you've gotten before, if you hold on to them tightly, then you never have to face the fear of the void, of losing what you've got, of trading in your success for your failure.”
He concludes his post with these words:
“We owe everyone around us not just the strongest foundation we can afford to offer, but also the optimism that they can reach a little higher… ‘Better’ is a dream worth dreaming.”
Seth is some kind of ‘marketing guru’ whom I quote because his words apply prophetically to the church. No matter where we are we want to hole up, build a monument, and take comfort that we have arrived somewhere. The moment we do that, we are no longer leaning into the wind of the Holy Spirit and asking Him, “How can I be more available to you? How can I press in to seeing more of your Kingdom on earth? What’s next? How are you moving today that might shake me out of my comfort zone if I were to join you? Where have I become backward-looking instead of seeking your vision? What is your dream for me and how can I grab hold of it today? Where have I given up that you are just now getting started in?”
I’m excited to believe that, no matter where I am at today and no matter what challenges I have faced, there is more and better that God, by the wonder and power of His Spirit, wants to do in and through my life. I just need to be willing… and seeking… and looking… and following.
And not settling…