In previous weeks, you’ve heard much about our Mission, which is to partner with God in transforming people into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Shaped by our Core Values, our mission drives us into many different kinds of ministry: worship, preaching, teaching, missions, student ministries, NRES, retreats, seminars, small groups and more.
Last December, your elders prayerfully began probing the question, “Of all that we are doing and should be doing, what part of our mission needs our focused attention this year?” The answer to that question won’t be the only thing we do, but it will become this year’s priority. The one which rose above the others was that of Outreach. This year’s ministry focus is Outreach.
Outreach could be called the first step in the accomplishment of our mission—at least from the perspective of those people we want to see transformed by the power of God into the likeness of Jesus Christ. From our perspective, we’ve got devote ourselves to prayer and our own transformation. But the accomplishment of our mission depends on our moving into others’ lives and not just focusing upon ourselves.
To focus on Outreach means that we purposefully ask ourselves what we can do to build bridges to those in our community, in order to draw them into a relationship with us that by God’s grace draws them also into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. We ask this of ourselves as individuals, our families, and each ministry within the church. What can we do (or not do) that will make us more effective bridge builders?
Recently, I’ve been challenged by reading one of those out-of-the-box books which I make a regular part of my own literary diet. The book—actually workbook—is The Tangible Kingdom Primer, a study guide based on the book by the same name. Like any book I read or recommend there are things that I don’t endorse. But that’s sort of the purpose of reading outside my regular circles. It challenges and confronts my assumptions and makes me re-examine them. If we only read what we already know and agree with, what’s the point of reading?
Anyhow one of the book’s challenges concerns our understanding of discipleship, which overlaps this year’s priority of Outreach. Here are a few quotes:
The problem is that what we call discipleship today is nothing like what they [the disciples] went through. The disciples of Jesus were being trained by living example. And they were being trained in action, not just in theory….much of what we call discipleship training involves learning concepts individually with little emphasis on the practical implementation of the knowledge….What we need is a new definition of discipleship. What if discipleship became more costly in terms of time, effort, relationships, or finances? What if it became a real apprenticeship?
…maybe the reason we don’t see God’s power or work in our lives is that we’ve never moved from passive discipleship to apprenticeship.
Many of us have experienced a faith focused on “sin management.” That is, we focus on not doing things God has asked us to avoid. But have you ever considered that sin can also include “not doing” the good things God has asked us to do? We may feel bad if we use a swear word but not care if we forget to help the poor and oppressed.
Or, maybe a passive discipleship mentality of not doing the bad stuff lets us be comfortable ignoring the role God calls us to play in the lives of our neighbors, co-workers, fellow students and the others who live in our community, who have real spiritual and physical needs.
Along those lines the book asks a number of probing questions. Let me cite just four of them:
–Are you able to describe the story of your faith in Christ to others?
–Do you feel comfortable participating in activities with non-Christians?
–Do you regularly welcome others into your home?
–Is sharing your life with others a priority for you?
Would Jesus rejoice in your answers? If Outreach is to be that beginning part of our mission in a healthy and fruitful manner, those are just some of the questions we need to ask. And, maybe some of the changes we need to make.
Life is not about maintaining my routine.
It’s not about playing it safe or being at ease.
Life is about loving Jesus Christ and building his Kingdom!