a note to pastors, cont. – are you actually equipping along the pathway of together walking with Jesus?

On Monday, I posted a heart-felt note to pastors because I am simply burdened that we are not actually equipping. So, Wednesday, I posted the first of three follow-up posts focused on actually equipping along the pathway of personally relating with Jesus. In today’s post, as we continue to think on whether I am actually equipping our local church expression to be who Jesus intended together, the focus is on actually equipping along the pathway of together walking with Jesus.

Two thoughts.

1 _ Followers of Jesus committed to being the church as they walk closely TOGETHER in a specific context is absolutely crucial with regard to obedience to Jesus’ command in John 13:34-35.

I have been asked before how a church family can fully commit to living sent together and making new disciples and still care for the people of the church family. My response was simply this:

>> how can a church family fully commit to living sent together and making new disciples and NOT care for the people of the church family? 

We can’t.

Jesus commanded it.

34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35, HCSB

And He is speaking to His followers here. He is therefore intending that His church, His followers united around mission, love one another. We would be disobedient if we didn’t. We would not be demonstrating our love for Him. Which means, it would be questionable as to whether we were His friends together.

12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you.
John 15:12-14, HCSB

2 _ Followers of Jesus committed to being the church as they walk closely TOGETHER in a specific context is absolutely crucial with regard to putting the near love of Jesus on display among those who feel lost and lonely. 

So how do you equip people who say they follow Jesus to actually love one another? Might I suggest two ways to equip for this that I have noticed actually work:

  • emphasize redundantly that we are loved by Jesus, that He has demonstrated that love clearly, and that only in living loved can we be secure enough to actually love like Jesus has loved us.
  • then, as the equipper, love first. That is how Jesus loved us. He did not wait until we invited Him to love us. He loved first. He did not wait until we said we were sorry. He loved first. He did not wait until we had communicated all the ways we needed to be loved. He loved first. If we as equippers love people we equip in this way and then encourage them to love others first, we will likely begin to see an environment of active love for one another.
These may seem too simple. I am just asserting that I have not seen any other formal approach or focused program end up or equipping concepts have more effective results than this “live loved and love first” approach.

Read that new command from Jesus again if you don’t mind:

34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

People will know we are learners and livers of His ways, according to this new command He gave, by one thing and one thing only – our love for one another. Why?

Could it be because there is something very intriguing about seeing an otherwise self-absorbed group of people unconditionally, graciously, forgivingly, enduringly love one another? Could it be because the message of God’s near love is best seen than it is heard? Could it be because only when reconciliation is on display that the Gospel is really on display? Could it be that when this love for one another actually becomes a part of the daily rhythms of life that our beliefs becomes more than just intellectual presuppositions? Could it be that only the Holy Spirit could empower and enable us to love like Jesus loved us?

That last piece of rhetoric alone highlights how important this actually equipping along the pathway of walking together with Jesus really is. Because a lot of people can be generous and kind and compassionate and philanthropic. But only by the power of God can an entire group of people begin to faithfully and perseveringly through good and bad, through ease and conflict, through respect and disrespect keep loving each other.

Which leads to a segue for our next pathway. Consider this:

>> could it be that only when that love for one another as His church is on display out in the midst of our communities and out engaging the various domains of our culture and out in the everyday rhythms that people will begin to consider the practice of Jesus’ teachings as more than just an equal religious alternative? 

We will tackle that one next time.

Thoughts or comments?

Lord, please help me to actually be equipping along the pathway of together walking with Jesus.
-jason

A note to pastors, cont. – actually equipping along the pathway of personally relating with Jesus…

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So, as a follow up to Monday’s post on actually equipping the church to be who Jesus intended, let’s consider what equipping along the pathway of personally relating with Jesus might include?

First, may I suggest the need to clearly and consistently communicate a tenant of the Gospel that is central to our “growing up in Christ:”

>> that God did not intend for us to live FOR Him but rather to live WITH Him.

Please understand that I am hesitant to assert any personal understanding of God’s intent, unless I have become confident that the whole of Scripture supports my hypothesis. I am very confident in this assertion. Simple rationale strengthens the thought.

Why on earth would God put on skin and come to earth declaring His unconditional love and sacrificial friendship if all He desired from us was robotic, ritualistic obedience?

Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Abraham was called a friend of God. Why? Because he walked with God, listened for God, responded to God. He obeyed because he related with God. He did not obey so God would relate with him. After all, God invited him on a road trip, not the other way around.

We need to realize that the Scriptures indicate that Jesus died not only for our sinful disobedience – for what we did. He also, and likely more significantly, died because of who He is. What He did as the death-taker demonstrates who He is as the life-giver. He chose to give His life. Grace was calculated, intentional, resolute, bloody, a temporary burial wrap.

This was not the stuff of Valentine’s Cards. It was and is the stuff of an enduring love. It is the stuff of “with” not “for.” This is the stuff that compels us to want to live in such a way, as Paul says, that is worthy of this “first loved us” Gospel.

May we equip the church to live loved, personally relating with the One who first loved us, secure in His goodness rather than weary trying to prove our own.

Next, as we equip the church to personally relate with Jesus, may we equip people to pray in the same way that we breathe.

To pray without ceasing, as Paul asserted we must, would imply prayer as more than just a periodic exercise. Rather, it is a constant interaction. Probably mostly listening. Often unbeknownst to us. Intentionally as intercession in those times when a deep breath is needed.

This kind of praying produces a Christ-connected kind of living. This kind of praying results in Spirit-prompted rhythms. This kind of praying is the earmark of a personally-relating-with-Jesus life.

This kind of praying indicates a personal belief that we actually can relate with Him.

Finally, as we equip the church to personally relate with Jesus, may we equip people to read the Bible as though nourishment.

Moses in Deuteronomy 32 declared that God’s words are not meaningless words; they are our life. Jesus told Satan in Matthew 4 that man cannot live on bread alone. Paul extended the metaphor of “growing up in Christ” as moving from bread milk to heartier food. Nourishment.

Has the Bible been preserved for the sake of our preservation? Has the Bible’s presence been sustained to be sustenance that energizes us toward greater awareness of His presence?

What if the Bible’s purpose is simply to tell us of God’s enduring love while it grows us in an enduring relationship with Him? Specially in this way:

>> the more I immerse myself in the Scriptures, the more recognizable God’s promptings and more noticeable God’s ways as I relate with Him daily.

Why? Because I recognize from what I have read about Him when He is about to invite me to participate with Him. Because I notice from what I have read of His story when I am getting to be in on a particular scene of His story continued today.

Reading the Bible, when thought of in this way, becomes more than a chore. And studying to learn how to better read and understand the Bible, when thought of in this way, becomes less of an academic activity and more of a real-life necessity.

Not just meaningless words, but essential to my life of personally relating with Jesus.

Thoughts / Comments???

Next up – what actually equipping for us to walk TOGETHER with Jesus might include…

Praying to be one who actually equips.
-jason