a note to pastors, cont. – are you actually equipping for the church to be going near together with Jesus? Thoughts here…

Last Monday, I posted a heart-felt note to pastors. I am simply burdened that we are not actually equipping the church to be the church as Jesus intended. This is an excerpt from what I wrote:

And we certainly were not intended to just get folks in the door of “a church.” Rather, we were intended to equip folks to be sent out as the church. So how might we equip for that. Here are three pathways of equipping I would suggest are crucial if we will equip the church to be the church as Jesus intended:

  1. the pathway of personally relating with Jesus.
  2. the pathway of together walking with Jesus.
  3. the pathway of together going near with Jesus.

So, last Wednesday, I posted the first of three follow-up posts focused on actually equipping along the pathway of personally relating with Jesus. Then last Friday, I posted some thoughts on the second pathway. Finally, in today’s post, let’s focus on actually equipping along the pathway of together going near with Jesus.

I closed Friday’s post with this question:

>> 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? 

How would you answer that? Here are my suggestions.

First, it makes sense that only when the church’s love for one another is on display out IN THE MIDST of our communities engaging the various domains of culture living Christ’s ways in everyday rhythms that people will even have the chance to consider that God loves them and demonstrated His near love in Jesus.

14 But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!
Romans 10:14-15, HCSB 

Pastors – in your strategies and assertions of what the church family you get to lead should be up to, are you calling them to cluster up disengaged and clean and safe outside of our culture, or are you giving them what they need to live sent together in the midst of our culture? I want to ask this of our church family. Let’s all as pastors do just that. And be ready for the response.

Jesus was not sent and did not die that we might be clustered Christians. 

Next, if we as followers of Jesus are not engaging the various domains or spheres of influence within our culture, then we are not living as Jesus lived. He lived out and proclaimed the ways of the Kingdom of God in all the fiefdoms of His region. He brought God’s love near both to high-brow Pharisee and cast-out leper, both to proud, educated doctor Nicodemus and the ashamed, searching-for-love woman at the well, both to tax-collector Matthew and we-hate-Rome zealots, both to governor Pilate and the thieves on the cross. Can this be said of the church families we lead? Or are we emphasizing the success of their church-going and the maturity of their spiritual ventures by activity on a centralized campus we unbiblically call “church.”

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 
John 20:21, HCSB

Finally, pastors, are you challenging followers of Jesus just to memorize and study the Bible, or to actually live it out? Because I would rebuke any pastor who is more passionate about teaching the Scriptures than seeing the church live them out. Two reasons why:

>> because Jesus actually intended that we live what we learn.

46 “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?
Luke 6:46, HCSB

>> because people who feel lost and lonely, who perceive the activity of those who call themselves followers of Jesus, will most likely be gripped by the near love of Jesus when they see the teachings and life and love of Jesus lived out in the rhythms of our lives, when they see it as more than just something to be learned, as more than just a religious alternative.

10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
John 10:10, HCSB

We can only live in this abundant life, in these Kingdom rhythms, by His power in us (the Spirit) as we personally relate with Him and via the presence of a local church family that loves one another as they go together with Jesus among neighbors and nations. When we go near together, people see the love of the God who came near in Christ on display in the reality of our world. That is what makes it real enough to them to expose their own selfish living, to highlight their own deep desire for love and family and togetherness, and to invite them into a life with Jesus.

Are you actually equipping the church to be the church as Jesus intended? How are you equipping along these pathways?  

Thoughts or comments?

Lord, please help me to actually be equipping Your church as You intended. This is not MY church. These people You have allowed me to pastor are Your church. May I live and lead as though they actually are. 
-jason

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