Tag: Gospel (page 1 of 2)

Walking Together Toward Community: Cultivation

Cultivation

Cultivate disciples who make disciples.

Gospel Centered Community (GCC): a body of committed believers, connected by a shared purpose and vision to see Jesus glorified and who challenge each other into deeper relationships with Jesus and one another.

Gospel Centered Missional Community (GCMC): the practical outworking of GCC and is focused on cultivating disciples who make connected disciples.

I call the process for growing into community The Walk and it looks like this:

The Walk

This is the third and final post in which we will examine the committed actions, and their associated elements, for developing community. In this post, we will examine Cultivation:

The committed action of Cultivation is:

 We will cultivate disciples who make connected disciples by sacrificing our time, resources, and self.

Cultivate Disciples who Make Connected Disciples

I changed the word for this final, committed action at least five times. The intent in action never changed, but I struggled to find a word to fit the message. I chose cultivation and not just because it alliterates. Cultivate is defined as:

1. To develop or improve by education or training, 2. to promote the growth or development of, and 3. to devote oneself to developing or growing.

When a community commits to cultivation, they devote themselves to developing and promoting the growth of disciples who make disciples. In committing to developing others, we honor Jesus’ call to be His witness to a lost and dying world.

When we honor His call, we take part in His commission to make disciples. Making disciples:

  • Moves you from GCC into GCMC
  • Moves you from the experience of growing found in GCC, into the experience of living with a mind and heart set on Jesus’s mission found in GCMC.
  • In GCC we enjoy receiving the love of God, and in GCMC we learn to reveal it to others. If we do not cultivate a mission-minded heart, we cannot fully experience the abundant life Christ promised.

The heart of living in GCMC is a commitment to a life of sacrifice, so others have an avenue to connect to Jesus and community.

By Sacrificing our Time, Resources and Self

Time

When I mention sacrificing your time for your community, if your first thought is “I have no time,” then you need to reevaluate how you spend your time. Or, you may need to realize you are not ready to commit to GCMC. Living in authentic, gospel-centered community, and making disciples requires much of you, including your time. As our example for growing disciples, Jesus dedicated three years of his life and was always with them. This should clue us into the time investment required for making and growing people for the sake of the kingdom.

Resources

Few Christians would argue with the truth that God calls us to be generous with our finances. Whether or not you agree with tithing is irrelevant. Sacrificing your resources in the context of GCMC goes far beyond giving 10% of your income to a local church. Sharing your resources is the practice of maintaining an open hand with ALL God has blessed you with. We can look at Acts 2:45 and see Christians selling everything and doling out the proceeds to people according to their need. This was a generosity in which the Christians divorced themselves from ownership of property that would appear to be theirs, and viewed it as God’s. Because of this view, they were able to honor Jesus by decreasing others’ burdens.

Self

We can use any number of scriptural references to talk about sacrificing ourselves for the sake of our Christian community. However, we must recognize the most important aspect of self-sacrifice is love. Jesus, and later the Apostles, continuously exhort Christians to love one another. Self-sacrifice will always spring out of love for Jesus, and by proxy, our love for each other. When we sacrifice ourselves, for the sake of our brothers/sisters, we identify ourselves with Christ and His sacrifice. One of the best descriptions of love like this is in Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

How is this Biblical

A heart of sacrifice is easy to see, in the early church, when we read Acts 2:42-47. Verse 45 is the clearest evidence of the early Christian’s willingness to sacrifice. In that verse, we read they “were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” This verse makes clear that they viewed their resources as a means to diminish the needs of those around them, both believer and unbeliever. We find their commitment to growing as a community in the time they invested into being with each other. Verses 42, 44, and 46 tell us that all the believers were together every day, attending the temple and sharing meals.

The time they invested was a sacrifice. They gave themselves up to grow others in Christ, and advance the Gospel. And to what end? For the sake of making disciples as Christ commissioned them to do. And that was their purpose. All of their charity, generosity, invested time, and willingness to give themselves for the sake of Christ drew people to God. Their commitment to cultivating disciples had a noticeable impact as “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

photo: Don Caywood

Hurt People, Hurt People. (2015)

hurt-peopleIn Part 1 I made an obvious statement, that there are people in the world, lots of them, who are hurting. But that wasn’t the point. Stating that fact isn’t any more helpful then saying there are hungry people in the world. It’s nearly useless. So the point wasn’t to draw attention to the seemingly never ending supply of hurting people. The point was to understand that there are those among the hurting that are drowning in a pool of deep despair. Those that no matter how hard they try, just can’t seem to make it to the edge to hold on, so they can find relief, if even for a moment, from the waves of hurt crashing into them. They feel helpless and that only makes hurt worse. That was part one.

I’m not a counselor or a social worker. I’ve provided counsel at times, but I’m no professional. I haven’t done clinical work and the only understanding of psychology or counseling I have comes from a high school psych class and two master’s level pastoral counseling classes. All that equates to just enough knowledge for me to suggest that you pay a counselor if you need that kind of help. I do know that one of the more common responses to hurt is for the person to hide it away, pretend they’re fine and quietly struggle with it. Mostly this is a defense mechanism to prevent any further hurt. What I’ve also seen is that hurt people hurt people. I know that because I’ve been that and I’ve seen others in that place. I’m sure that it isn’t always intentional, but that doesn’t lessen the sting of it. That’s just the way it is. People that are hurting tend to hurt others that come close to them. Because I’m not qualified to give legitimate reasons why this might be, I’ll speculate for a moment. Maybe the saying, “misery loves company” is truer than we want to believe. Maybe some hurting people hurt others because they need or want others to feel their pain. Or, maybe some hurting people are so consumed by their hurt that they’re oblivious to how others are affected. Maybe it’s on purpose, maybe it isn’t. Since I’m not a professional, I’ll defer to the one thing I do know and believe to be true; scripture. I think hurt people, hurt people because “hatred stirs up strife. If I can postulate that, then pain stirs up misery. If anger begets anger, then hurt begets hurt.

If you’re hurting and reading this, this post isn’t for you. Keep reading, though. I want you to know what you should be looking for, but the rest of this isn’t intended for you. If you are hurting, I’ll just say this. I’m sorry you’re hurting. God doesn’t want you to hurt. Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” I hope and pray that there is someone in your life that can help bring relief and can introduce you to the One that will. I suppose the entire series is written for those that aren’t currently hurting and more specifically, Christians. We’re the ones with the responsibility for proclaiming Hope to the rest of the world. I think delivering that message starts with those who are hurting.

As Christians it’s important to understand that hurt people hurt people. People that are hurting, especially if the church at large contributed to that hurt, may say or do things that appear hurtful. Mostly it isn’t personal. Even if it is, our response should be to reach beyond the “hurt begets hurt” cycle and offer a gentle response. We exist for the purpose of healing not hurting. Paul sounds it out clear when he says, “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” God helps us through our hard times so that we can help others through theirs.

Even though we’re commissioned by Jesus to love others, we can’t force it on them. We may well know that what we have in Jesus is for the hurting heart, but that doesn’t mean that the hurting person will always welcome you as their hero. It takes patience and continued gentleness. I’m not saying that YOU personally are the answer to the answer to the world’s woes, that’s Jesus, but you can be the answer to someone’s woes. If someone in your sphere of influence is hurting, be patiently gentle with them, offering your hand to help and your shoulder to cry on. And try not to be shocked or offended if it’s rejected. It probably will be initially, remember that they’re hurting, so be patient with them.

I’ll end with this, we don’t cause hurt. Using The Word to belittle or demean someone is wrong, even if you do it under the guise of “calling out sin.” I’ve written a lot on that topic, but calling out sinful behavior has to start INSIDE the church. The bible wasn’t given to push people from God. It was written to reveal Him to ALL of humanity. If not for all, then it’s useless. If hurt people hurt people, then healed people heal people. We’re healed people. Healing is as much our game as love, grace and forgiveness are.

3 Things the Gospel Isn’t

FalseThis blog has been around for a few years. During those years, the structure and my writing style has change a few times but my heart for why #ApproachGod exists has remained the same. But, it wasn’t until recently that I started really being able to articulate what #ApproachGod is for. Here it is: I want #ApproachGod to encourage conversations that will help build communities that cultivate love, so that people can see that they’re invited, through Jesus, to approach God the Father. The most important part of building communities that reflect Jesus, is the Gospel Message. Actually, without understanding the Gospel Message, a love cultivating community that is pursuing Jesus, doesn’t exist. I think that a lack of understanding the Gospel is one of the main barriers keeping us from having genuine communities where people are loved to Christ.

I could just tell you what the Gospel message is, but where’s the fun in that. And, I’ve written that so many times (I’ll also include it at the end of this article). Here’s three things that we typically twist the Gospel message into, but that it is most definitely NOT

A Means to Condemn Others

We’ll start here, mainly because I constantly see articles and stories with Christians shouting about what others are doing that doesn’t line up with scripture. Right off the bat Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” In that passage of scripture Jesus is explaining God’s great love for the world and how He fits into it. He does say that those that don’t believe in Him are already condemned. The implication is that all of us are already condemned, but those that chose to believe that Jesus is who He said He is, can be saved. The point is, Jesus came to save people out of condemnation. Is it important for people to understand the link between their condemnation and the salvation Jesus offers? Yes. But, our commission wasn’t to condemn people’s sin. In being Jesus’ witnesses to a dying world, we’re to address their unbelief of Him, that is their primary sin. Conviction, not condemnation, for any other sin is the job of the Holy Spirit.

We can’t be hell fear mongers and hope dealers at the same time.

 Tweet: We can’t be hell fear mongers and hope dealers at the same time. #ApproachGod | http://ctt.ec/ZefcD+

How many people do you think actually turn to Jesus by being told, by a stranger, that they’re a horrible sinner? If you do a quick Google search for statistics you’ll see that the declining numbers in the church suggests that technique works on very few people. What does work is loving and serving people. It’s the reason that Jesus acted and taught the way He did. It’s why He said he came to serve not be served, told us to love your neighbor and your enemy and to pray for your persecutor. It’s why He begged God to forgive those that were crucifying Him. He knew that love was a far better invitation than fear. Oh, and that’s why John said that there is no fear in love. We can’t be hell fear mongers and hope dealers at the same time. When we use Jesus, the cross, or the bible as a means to generate fear in others, you’re not teaching the Gospel.

When it comes to unbelievers, they need to see Christ acted out and active in our life. It’s for that reason that Peter reminds us that we ought to honor Christ in our hearts and be prepared with an answer for the hope that is in us. He was saying that people will see and ask. When that happens, the focus for Christ’s goodness ought to be by the word of our testimony for what He’s done in OUR sin filled life. Then we can talk about how that translates to humankind. It isn’t our responsibility to identify the sin in an unbeliever’s life. 1 Corinthians 5:13 relieves us of that responsibility. For the believer, if we’re in relationship with them, the Gospel is still meant to draw them to God, because we’re still “being saved.” If we’re in community with them, we’re called to loving correction, not chastising condemnation.

A Way to Excuse Your Behavior

I think this gospel is for many Christians, the preferred one. I know that it used to be mine. I used to hinge my entire religious experience on the idea of God’s good grace. Honestly, it was the only reason I walked into church after a weekend of partying and drinking. I had this illusion that I could choose to act however I wanted and God would forgive me. While it is true that God forgives all sin, choosing to sin and expecting forgiveness is actually an abuse of grace and not at all what it means to follow Jesus.

When the religious leaders brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, He not only made the point that her condemnation isn’t theirs to deal in, He told her that He doesn’t condemn her, then said “go and sin no more.” After extending His mercy, He offered her grace and expected that if she decided to receive it she would need to stop doing the very thing that landed her at His feet. But, it wasn’t an expectation that she’d simply change her behavior, it was an expectation that His response to her need for love would so impact her heart that it would change her understanding of how that need was to be met.

The Gospel is not our get out of jail free card. The simple fact that you said a prayer (me included) at some youth event when you were 12, doesn’t give you carte blanche to act however you want. Following Jesus is the continued submission to the pressing of the Holy Spirit on your mind and heart. The Gospel played out in your life is the continual acknowledgement of God’s love for you, thorough the daily confession of Jesus, by the repeated submission to the Holy Spirit. The Gospel isn’t meant to provide you with a way to live any way you feel like, it’s meant to provide you with a way to live better than you can imagine and in a way that invites others into the same joy.

A “To Do” List

It just isn’t this. The Gospel isn’t a list of correct ways to behave. It isn’t behavior modification. The message of the Gospel is not “do this, this and this and you can get into heaven.” It’s about heart transformation. It’s the shedding off of the old you and the putting on the new you, through the work of the Holy Spirit. I used the word shedding intentionally. If you’ve ever observed a snake shed it’s skin, then you know it’s a slow process. But, as the old skin comes off, the skin under it is new and so much more vibrant. It’s the same with us. As the Holy Spirit brings conviction in a particular area, we begin the process of shedding it off. It isn’t without difficulty, and sometimes pain, but the new underneath is so much more vibrant. So much so, that it’s actually life-giving; others are moved toward Jesus by the change that the Holy Spirit prompts in us.

If the Gospel is anything close to a “to do” list, there’s only two things on it: Believe and confess. If we believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord and confess with our mouth (and this isn’t just the “sinner’s prayer,” it’s so much more, but also another blog), we’re saved and we can start the process of being saved and living in His kingdom. When we simply make the Gospel a list of ways to behave, we burden ourselves and others with the same thing that Jesus accused the religious leaders, of His day, of doing. We make following Jesus too burdensome and heavy. But, Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden if light; so we ought not add anything to that.

What It Is

It’s John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The Gospel turns hearts to loving God, loving our neighbors and loving each other. The Gospel is God’s love poured out, in the person of Jesus, so that we can be with Him. It’s meant to heal the one relationship that matters above all else, so that we can be vehicles for healing others’ relationships with Him. We use the Gospel to introduce people to the One that closes the gap between them and their Father.

*I‘d love to dialogue with you. But, I want to dialogue with you only if you’ve actually read what I said. If you chose to comment, please start your post with “Timey Whimey” Thanks.

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