When my children were younger, we would read a book to them called Are You My Mother? At the beginning of the book, a bird is hatched, and it spends the remainder of the book looking for its mother. The young bird asks anything and everything it sees (a cow, a dog, even a power shovel), “Are you my mother?” The bird did not know what its mother would be like…
I think many Christians are walking around following “leaders” who are not really leaders. Why? Like the bird in the children’s story book, I don’t think most Christians know what a leader looks like. A leader among the church (according to Scripture, anyway) does not look like the normal business or civic or social leader.
This is how I ended the article, and this is the questions that I think we should all consider:
What if the people you view as leaders are not actually the leaders that God has placed in your life? How would you know the difference?
Please jump over to House2House Magazine, read the article, and leave me some feedback.
For the last several years, my family and friends have been praying for Becky Lynn Black as she fought cancer. This morning I heard that she finished that fight – a fight that lasted several years longer than doctors suggested – and she emerged on the other side victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom she is now celebrating.
Mrs. Becky Lynn passed away this morning.
If you don’t know her, she was the wife of my former PhD mentor Dave Black who blogs here.
I thank God for her life and for what he taught me through her, especially by showing me how to love and serve others. Over and over I witnessed her give to others, even toward the end of her life when many would have stopped.
I encourage you to read more about her and to join me in thanking God for his children like her.
Also, please pray for Dave Black, her family, and friends. They will miss her greatly in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. But, we know that God is able to comfort them and strengthen them during this time.
Dave Black is writing a new book about the church. He has tentatively (or maybe permanently) titled it Seven Marks of a New Testament Church.
Over the last few days, he’s shared several excerpts, and they’ve been really good. But the latest except was exceptional (to me) because he also refers to another book that I highly recommend.
Here is that latest excerpt from chapter 4 of his new book (from Monday, September 23, 2013 at 9:12 a.m.):
In this chapter we have seen some of the marks of genuine community that characterized the early church. What a magnificent picture of life together! Maybe theirs was an idealism that cannot be repeated today. We may talk about community, but if we continue to behave like a group of individualists, no one will believe what we say. The picture that Luke gives us of the earliest church should make us stop and think.
Joseph Hellerman, author of When the Church Was a Family, has some interesting comments to make about the vitality of the church (p. 143). “It is time,” he writes, “to inform our people that conversion to Christianity involves both our justification and our familification, that we gain a new Father when we respond to the gospel. It is time to communicate the biblical reality that personal salvation is a community-building event, and to trust God to change our lives and the lives of our churches accordingly.”
Our modern churches could learn a thing or two from the genuine love of the first Christians. Theirs is a shining example. And if we ask the secret of it, we do not have far to look: the secret lay in the presence of the Holy Spirit. His power is available to us all. And it is life-changing. Just imagine what the Spirit could do in our churches if He were allowed to have control. It could happen again.
First, I love the term “familification” that Hellerman uses in his book. It points to the fact that there is a change that happens that moves us from not being a family to being a family.
I also love that Black points out that this is a work of the Holy Spirit. If we are becoming a family, it is because we are submitting to the Holy Spirit.
And, if we are not becoming a family…
Justin and I began communicating via email a couple of years ago, and his story was well worth the wait. I encourage you to jump over and read the whole thing, but here’s a snippet:
My life was pretty typical of the average young person who is passionate about following Jesus and who feels called into full-time ministry. I was born in South Africa but I was living in California, church planting a cell church, when my freedom story really started.
I felt discipleship and worship had always been in my heart and was starting to feel like God was calling me into some sort of worship pastor type role in the church. (You’ll often hear me talk about God initiating things in my life, here is where he started with me). So I knew what that looked like, and I knew what type of churches had worship pastors, so I began pursuing this call. No problem right?
Well no sooner had I landed a call as worship pastor, my lawyer informed me that our visas weren’t going to be renewed/extended. This meant we had 2 months to pack and ship our lives back to South Africa. We were devastated, in South Africa the only churches that can afford worship pastors are the rich mega-churches, and our hearts were just not into that. I prayed and asked God what he was doing and he said “just go back and get a regular job, don’t chase a ministry position just for a pay check”. As it turned out this was God’s way of initiating a new journey for us, one I would never have conceived of or chosen.
Justin ends his story with this:
God then in the last year has been doing more of a constructive work in us as he has redefined for us what he means by the cross, prayer, the Gospel, bible reading, church, community, leadership, grace, calling, ministry, parenting etc. He has also been giving us language to be able to describe and share what he is doing with us. In the last month or so there seems to be another shift as I feel him leading me to engage other people along this journey.
I’m hoping this means that he plans to write more about God’s constructive work in his life and about the people that God has led him to engage along the journey.
If you’re interested in sharing your own journey, please send me a link at alan [at] alanknox [dot] net. Or, if you don’t have a blog or website, send me the story, and I’ll be glad to publish it for you.
Earlier this week, I published a post called “Making a Difference” in which I pointed my readers to a family who stopped focusing on “church-stuff” in order to actually make a difference in people’s lives.
In the last few days, I’ve run across other people who are also living out this concept of making a difference as the church.
In Kathleen’s description, I love the fact that people seeking to serve addicts soon find that the addicts are serving them. What a concept! God working through the broken…
In a similar (but slightly different) vein, Jeff at “Virginia Tenor” wonders about serving others to “make a difference” in his post “KWOL in the Rolling Ridges.” I love that Jeff is concerned that his desire to serve others will turn into just another example of “church-stuff.” I think that’s a good concern…
So, please read those posts… and ask God how he wants you to make a difference in someone’s life.
Several years ago, I ran across a blog called “A Future and a Hope.” (Actually, at that time it was called “Pure Christianity.”) I haven’t linked to the site lately, but a recent post called “We are not ‘BIG,’ but we are great” caught my attention.
More than many other posts that I’ve read (or written) recently, this one really encapsulates and describes what I’m beginning to understand (and live) concerning the church.
This is part of the post:
Firstly, a little history. Johnny & I moved to Kenya to make a difference. After two years of preaching, teaching, and trying to make a difference in the typical missionary fashion, we realized that it wasn’t working. We knew we needed to just do it and be an example ourselves. We had to be willing to walk the talk and so we took in orphans into our personal home expanding our family from just the five of us at that time to sixteen, and ultimately, I believe, we are changing the face of how orphan care should be done.
Today, the church focuses so much on doing church-stuff at church-times in church-places with church-people… But, there’s so much more to following Jesus Christ.
Kate’s post (and please take a few minutes to read the whole post) reminds me so much of what I read in Scripture concerning how believers are to interact with the world around them. (For one example, read Titus 2 again.)
Think seriously for a moment about this statement: “We knew we needed to just do it and be an example ourselves.” The church would be so much different if every follower of Jesus Christ understood that this was their calling… to live the gospel of Jesus Christ at all times in every places before every person who enters their life.
The appendix is supposed to sit quietly in place. If it gets noticed for any reason, then it should be cut out – removed.
Dan at “Cerulean Sanctum” thinks that many Christians today feel like an appendix… and I think he’s right. In his post, “The Church’s Appendix,” Dan says that (like the appendix) many followers of Jesus do not understand what role they play in the body of Christ.
At one point, he writes:
I suspect that many people in our churches today feel like the Body’s appendix. Or at least the appendix of old, when we thought it had no real purpose except to go bad and become life threatening.
I think of the person with the prophetic gift that goes unused in a church that ignores the prophetic. Or the person with a gift of words of wisdom but who is not a church leader, so he or she is given no opportunity to practice that gift in the larger church body.
Unfortunately, I think Dan has offered a great analogy.
And, I would take it further. Today, people rarely notice that they have an appendix. But, when the appendix becomes noticeable… we rip it out… surgery… get rid of it.
Is this what happens among the church when an “appendix” becomes noticeable? Is that “appendix” suddenly considered inflamed… irritated… infected? If it doesn’t go back to it’s rightful (quiet and unnoticeable) place, then it will have to go.
Yep. I think that happens far too often.
And, guess what? That “appendix” actually plays an important role in the body of Christ. The church is actually LESS healthy after the “appendix” is “removed.”
Earlier (Sunday, July 28, at 5:15 p.m.), Dave had explained that for the first time the believers he gathers with shared a single loaf of bread and a single cup as the Lord’s Supper. I love the fact that Dave celebrates the small steps that a group is willing to take. As we read his further thoughts, it’s easy to see that he would love to change the “Supper” among that church even more. Well, he doesn’t want to change it… he wants to see God change it.
Here are some of the observations that Dave makes concerning the “Lord’s Supper” (from 1 Cor 11 primarily, but also from 1 Cor 10 and Acts 20):
1) The Lord’s Supper is the centerpiece of the Christian assembly.
2) The supper is superbly Christ-centered (“Do this in MY remembrance”).
3) No believer is “invited” to partake of the supper; we eat and drink in obedience to Christ’s command (“Do this” is in the imperative mood).
4) The supper is a genuine meal, not a ritual to be “administered.”
5) The emphasis is both on remembering and anticipating.
6) It is a joyous celebration and not a sorrowful funeral.
7) The meal symbolizes the unity of the Body of Christ.
8) ALL are to partake, and ALL are to partake together.
9) The “unworthy manner” to which Paul refers has nothing to do with one’s spiritual status at the time of eating. It refers to eating and drinking in a divided manner.
10) Self-examination is a necessary part of the Christian life, but in 1 Cor. 11 it is not a reference to the preparedness on the part of the believer. It is a call to observe the social nature of the meal in which distinctions based on partiality of any kind are forbidden.
11) The one loaf of bread not only symbolizes this unity but in some sense creates it.
12) Because there is only one loaf of bread, we are one body no matter how many we are or how diverse we may be. “Many yet one.”
Can you imagine gathering with your brothers and sisters in Christ around a table of food? Can you imagine eating and talking together knowing that Jesus is present (because he is and because it’s his meal)? Can you imagine how much different the teaching, encouraging, serving, and fellowship would be?
So, what would be the benefits of gathering in the way that Dave describes above? Would there be any disadvantages?
Like me, Kathleen sees the benefit in “long distance” communication, like through letters, phone calls, even Facebook and Twitter. But, these cannot take the place of “face-to-face” communication. It seems that John recognized this also. (See 3 John 1:13-14.)
While there are several great parts of Kathleen’s post, I want to point out this paragraph in particular:
The world is desperate for true community. God’s solution is the church. Jesus commands us to love one another – he says this is how people will know that we are his followers. But how can we get to know each other and minister to one another’s needs if we don’t get to talk to each other or even make eye contact? How can we encourage each other, teach each other, and spur one another on to love and good deeds, if we can’t even see each other?
I’ll take this a step further. It’s difficult to comfort someone from a distance.
Last week, someone who is very close to me needed comforting. Unfortunately, she’s about 600 miles away. I could talk to her on the phone, and I could text her. I could pray for her and encourage her as much as I could from a distance. But, I could not sit with her face-to-face. I could not hug her.
There’s a difference. Yes, at times (such as this time for me), we cannot meet with someone face-to-face. But, that should be our goal whenever possible.
God willing, I’ll get to comfort her face-to-face later this week. But, for many believers, there’s rarely an opportunity for face-to-face fellowship of any kind. Why? Because the church tends to focus on one gathering, and that gathering offers very little opportunity for fellowship.
Yes, it’s possible for believers to fellowship at other times, but shouldn’t any church gathering be the normal time for us teaching one another, encourage one another, serve one another, and, yes, even comfort one another?
If you’ve read any of the comments on my blog, then you’ve probably come across comments by Randi at “Seeds in my Heart.” I often joke with Randi that her comments are often longer than my posts. But, I actually enjoy the way that she uses comments to “think through” various topics and questions.
Last week, Randi wrote a very good post called “Shepherding the Lambs.” The post is primarily about how she shepherds her children. However, there is much in her post that is applicable even to us adults.
She primarily sees her role as helping her children understand how Jesus himself is shepherding them. She writes:
To me, it’s just about creating opportunities for the kids to interact with Jesus…and to keep my eyes & heart open to God seeds whenever, wherever.
But, primarily, I want to point to a statement that Randi made toward the end of her post, where she writes:
The more I think about it, I really am not sure who is discipling who, really. This is so very humbling.
Yes, that’s it exactly. When we’re discipling one another – that is, when we’re helping one another follow Jesus – it’s often hard to figure out who is discipling whom. And, I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Why? Because, discipleship is the work of God through the Holy Spirit as he guides us and empowers us to follow Jesus Christ. He uses us, of course, but it’s his work.
And, who does God work through? Whoever is indwelled by his Spirit – that is, by all of his children.
So, while it’s definitely possible – and perhaps probable – that a mature follower of Jesus Christ will disciple a new believer, it is just as possible that the new believer will also disciple the mature follower of Jesus Christ – if they are both depending on the work of God through the Holy Spirit to help them follow Jesus.
I never worry about who is discipling whom. Because it’s always God discipling all of us by his Holy Spirit dwelling in and working through all of us.
The only danger, then, is if someone assumes that she/he cannot be discipled by someone else.