For a summary of what I’m hoping to accomplish in this blog series (in the third week of every month of 2018), I recommend reviewing my explanation here.
For Impact Campus Ministries, we are trying to grow in the concept of “starting with the why.” It’s a concept that comes from an old TED Talk by Simon Sinek. For us, we think the compelling reason for doing campus ministry is a foundational belief that if you impact the university, you impact the world.While we don’t think Jesus envisioned the American university campus specifically when he uttered the Great Commission, we do believe the idea of making disciples was one of Jesus’s “whys.”
Taking this idea, we believe that making disciples who make disciples is our purpose on the college campus. This isn’t ground-breaking rhetoric in the church world. It seems that everyone in the last twenty years has shifted towards an emphasis in disciple-making. Discipleship has become a buzzword in ministry. We use it so much that at times it seems to be nothing at all. This reality raises a question: When we talk about discipleship, what exactly are we talking about, and what do we mean?
This is certainly not a quest to find the “correct” definition of discipleship. Not only would that be an effort in futility, it would dishonor so many of the good things that happen in all kinds of ministry contexts. There are a lot of semantics at play in the conversation of discipleship. A lot of things have changed in the last 2,000 years; words take on new or expanded meanings.
When we sat down to define the term discipleship as a staff a couple years ago, the conversation ended up being rooted in a more historical understanding of what discipleship was to the people in Jesus’s day. In their day, being a talmid (Hebrew for “disciple”) was a level of the rabbinic process that very few people attained. Those who progressed to that part of Jewish education would be selected to “follow a rabbi” as his student, pupil, and apprentice. You would follow a rabbi and listen to his every word, but you would also mimic his every move. The goal was to “know what the rabbi knows, in order to do what the rabbi does [for the reasons the rabbi does them], in order to be just like the rabbi in his walk with God.” I wrote about these ideas a few years ago and unpacked a story where the principles are seen applied in a two-part post (here and here).
At the end of the day, we wanted our ideas on discipleship to be driven by our best understanding of what Jesus understood and meant when he said discipleship. And while our context is not the same today as it was so long ago, we still believe we can base the process on some of the same big ideas. On that day, we decided to say a disciple is someone who is submitted to Jesus and becoming like Him.
But how does one become like Jesus? To these ends, we wanted to define discipleship in a way that would mirror the ideas driving Jesus’s ministry. We defined it as follows:
Discipleship is imitating a mentor who imitates Jesus.
This means we need to be entering into intentional relationships where this can happen. For many of us, discipleship is often the equivalent to a one-hour coffee meeting on Thursday mornings. We realized that we would have to expand our understanding of what discipleship is. A one-hour coffee involves very little meaningful mentorship — and hardly any mimicry or imitation. If this was really going to happen, it would require a few things.
First and foremost, it would require that I imitate Jesus (and possibly even imitate my own mentors who are imitating Jesus). Second, it would mean “living life together” (just like the disciples and Jesus!) and not simply creating ministry programs; this focus would require significantly more time and resources to be done correctly. Finally, this is not something that comes easily; we have to pursue these efforts with a different kind of intentionality.
Thankfully, ICM had already been fertilizing great soil for this growth. For years, ICM believed we exist to pursue, model, and teach intimacy with God. Isn’t this a formula (and I use that term very, very loosely) for the kind of imitation we were discussing? It would seem that we weren't really breaking new ground at all, but simply expanding our awareness of how far our mission truly goes.
It’s a Saturday and it has been snowing… again… beautiful but a great afternoon to spend indoors.
So how did I spend it? Cleaning my Lionel train and doing some track maintenance. If that doesn’t give you enough of a clue, I love model trains. Lionel to be specific, and I have loved them since I was a kid. The set I have is comprised of the old set handed down from my brothers along with pieces I have picked up along the way. Usually part of what I have comes out at Christmas and it’s really the only time I spend “playing” because I don’t have a space that I can dedicate to a permanent train layout. But I am still a kid at heart and love model trains. (If you happen to have any model trains that need a new home I promise they will get used at my house!)
That being said, it has been a few years since I really took time to clean the track. During Christmas I had it set up under the tree in such a manner with two trains and two Lionel Christmas trolly’s that we really couldn’t get the wrapped presents under the tree. What I did notice was my track was loose fitting and the trains weren’t getting a great connection. So today, I decided to clean a bunch of the track, tighten the connections with a pair of needle nose pliers, and put it together to give the engines a chance to run for a while.
Track maintenance was the best thing because I knew it would improve the performance.
And that got me to thinking about my spiritual life.
How often do we let ourselves run in life without a bit of spiritual maintenance? We pour into work, family, friends, and maybe even Facebook friends who have posted prayer needs. All of these are good things, except for when they drain us and take the place of spiritual renewal.
In Mark 1 Jesus has called his disciples, began preaching and teaching, and even began healing people with all kinds of issues. “That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak because they knew him. And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (32-35)
Jesus took the time away from the noise, crowds, and even his own disciples to spend time with his Father. But we think we have to stay on the go and not let up. When we slow down enough to stop, read the Bible, pray, allow our minds to clear, breathe, focus on a Bible verse, let God drift into our consciousness, he can speak even when we are cleaning train track with rubbing alcohol and a piece of fine grit sandpaper.
Read daily, pray daily, think about the good things of God daily, allow time to refocus on Christ daily
It really does make a difference, at least it does for me if I take the time… I do find life easier to deal with on those days.
For a summary of what I’m hoping to accomplish in this blog series (in the second week of every month of 2018), I recommend reviewing my explanation here.
Administration. It’s probably not the most inspiring part of my job, and maybe it’s an odd choice for where to start for this series. But honestly, if you were to ask me what I do every day, I feel like my (slightly cynical) response would be, “I answer emails and create agendas — all day.”
That’s certainly not accurate, but it can feel like it. The never-ending tide of responsibilities that come from managing a national non-profit with over 20 staff can be overwhelming. What I do love is that all of this administration fuels such awesome work; the long-term benefits from our investments are worth the administrative slog and all of the meetings.
A large part of my job in the administrative department is casting vision and guiding the organization down the path God has for us. This means I am the one who is tasked with creating many (but not all) of the agendas for those behind-the-scenes leadership discussions. I spend on average 4–6 hours a week on agenda creation and another 3–4 hours a week in the meetings themselves. Quick math tells you that this portion of my job alone accounts for almost a quarter of my work week.
Like anyone else, I have those typical administrative tasks: answering email and submitting expense reports. I also have seasonal demands like budgets, annual reports, and staff conferences; each of these seasonal events has their own set of administrative responsibilities. None of this touches the basic ministry administration of working with my students: planning our activities, promoting for attendance, scheduling and communicating the plans, deadlines, and involvement needed.
I have often heard people comment about how everyone wants the finished product, but nobody wants to do what it takes to get there. Well, administration is certainly a big part of the finished product of campus ministry. Without it, we would never Impact the U. Impact the World.
Embedded below is a video diary I made of some of the administrative tasks I have (and the physical context for where all the magic happens).
For a summary of what I’m hoping to accomplish in this blog series (the first week of every month of 2018), I recommend reviewing my explanation here.
As we begin our look at the Top 12 Blog Posts of Covered in His Dust, we’re going to begin as any good countdown does — at the bottom! Let’s start with my twelfth-most-viewed blog post. It happens to be “The Redemption Cycle,” a post I published on December 26, 2013. It discusses the big ideas undergirding the book of Judges, and I contest the idea that the cycle represented there should be described as a “sin cycle.” You can read the post here.
In this series, as we look at each post, I want to ask three questions: why, what, and what else? Why do I think this post got so many views; why were others drawn to this post? What do I hope people found when they got here; what do I hope they heard? Finally, what else have I learned about this; what else would I say about these ideas?
WHY THIS POST?
To be honest, one of the things you are going to get every time we do this is a very cynical and objective look at why people hit this post. The truth of the matter is that most of these page views are coming from web searches from people’s favorite search engines. Chances are good that many of these views came from people who were doing an image search for “cycle in Judges” and happened to click on the image that is linked to my blog.
In a similar fashion, I think many page views came from a Google search that had to do with “cycle” and “book of Judges.” As people were looking more into this idea, they were looking for additional material. Particularly on Google searches, my Google-based blog host is one of the first hits, and away we go. So let’s work with this idea: the people who ran across my blog were studying the book of Judges and the idea that there is an ongoing cycle within the literature.
WHAT DO I HOPE THEY FOUND?
I hope they found an idea that challenged the assumptions they were being handed from other sources. By saying this, I’m not suggesting that I hope they heard the right answer in a debate against what they had been taught. I simply mean to say that I hope they encountered an even bigger idea and that it made them think critically about the implications of the theology that serves as the foundation to our biblical interpretation — let alone our doctrine.
When I was handed a worldview that focused on the sinfulness and depravity of man, I found myself stuck in a theology that wasn’t compelling and didn’t inspire me to take up the mission and partner with God. Instead, I found a lot of despair and hopelessness for humanity. The idea that God simply “puts up with us” and with a roll of His eyes He forgives us — yet again — was portrayed quite clearly.
There are many things I can applaud in what I was taught. The fact that Bible teachers were able to show me a literary tool being employed in Judges was fantastic. At that stage of my learning, I hadn’t been exposed to many literary tools; but being handed such a clear and noticeable example launched the beginning of a very critical journey in learning the skills necessary to examine the Text. It was all of the doctrinal assumption that I hope people found critiqued when they got here.
WHAT ELSE WOULD I SAY?
This post really expresses things quite thoroughly and I can’t think of much I would add. I would say I have learned how much scholarship (progressive textual critics, in large part) sees the book of Judges as a parallel record of history to the book of Joshua. What they mean when they say such things is that a redactor later pulled these two stories together and made them read sequentially, but they probably preexisted as different takes on the same period of history. On the one hand, you have the book of Joshua, which tells the story of obedience (for the most part) and God’s help in absolute conquest. However, another historical perspective tells the story of disobedience and God’s incredible patience. These serve as two sides of the historical narrative. For some of us, this may be a bridge too far, but I have been learning much about these theories and find them informative in my ability to think critically about the Text and wrestle with authorial intent.
I would also be remiss to exit this post without recommending Make Your Mark, a book written by a fellow teacher and friend of mine, Brad Gray. While the book focuses on the story of Samson, I find its contents to be helpful as I wrestle with the implications of the stories found in the book of Judges.
We set out in January to make our theme for the year “FORWARD.” If you’ve seen our annual report, then you already have an idea of what this has looked like. The big idea that we wanted to make steady progress in a forward direction, letting God determine the speed of movement and the distance covered. Personally, I didn’t think it seemed like we were moving all that fast, but looking back now – wow.
When I was first asked to serve in this role, the Board of Directors had given me five areas of focus for our organization. The Development Team has come to call these “the Big Five” and they serve as a gauge for me personally knowing how we are doing.
FUNDRAISING: How are we doing as an organization in creating financial sustainability? This has been a great area of slow growth. We have created some new systems, adjusted some old ones, and tried new things to raise more sustainable funds. We continue to learn and plan and really feel like we are slowly turning a corner in this regard. A big thanks to our administrative voices who help us here; Ellen Luke has been a rockstar as we have made those adjustments.
RECRUITING & EXPANSION: Are we finding more campus ministers for more college campuses? This is hard work; some of the hardest work we do! It takes a lot to prep the soil, plant the seeds, water the crops, demonstrate patience, and let God produce the growth. But we are seeing all kinds of movement with new recruits and great excitement about possible new locations (Boise, Cincinnati, California, Florida, and Texas – just to name a few). What will the harvest be from all of this farming? Time will tell, but Lowell Kosak has been incredible in this area.
PARTNERSHIPS: Who are we partnering with to make us/them better? Quite frankly, we are better with other people. It’s not the easiest approach to growth, but it might be the healthiest. We work hard to partner with other organizations like the Association of College Ministries (ACM) to help connect us to other organizations that help us learn, grow, and share what we have. Jeff VanderLaan is the champion of partnerships and his work makes us a better force for good in the world of campus ministry.
ORGANIZATIONAL VISION: Are we creating new resources that help us better understand and pursue the vision of ICM? This was the year where we began to pursue creating some of these resources. This is very life-giving to me personally and I love to create, teach, and inspire. We’re just getting started, but I’m excited to see the influence of prayed-over vision being communicated clearly.
ALUMNI: How are we making our alumni more connected and more mobilized? This is one of the areas that will be affected the most by our pursuit of organizational vision. Having said that, it is really exciting to watch God affirm many of our thoughts about this by bringing new people, partnerships, and recruits that share a common goal. I really can’t even imagine all of the things that God has already planned to do through efforts we haven’t even begun yet. Maybe some of those efforts will start in 2018…?
As always, we thank you all for your partnership with our ministry. Your financial investments, prayers, and encouragement enable us to become more and more of the organization that God desires us to be.
Luke 2:1-14 In those daysa decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 And in the same region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!
Cave used as a stable in Israel
It may have been in a cave much like this one we visited in Israel where we would find Jesus laying in a manger. Smelly, unclean and with the remnants of animal manure, caves such as this one were natural stables for shepherds.
I love to think on the birth of Jesus because it is a humbling reminder that Jesus was born as a human in the poorest of conditions. So significant the announcement of his birth was made to the lowest of society… shepherds. The Son of God born in the flesh.
It is in Matthew where we read about the visit of the Magi, wealthy outsiders.
As if God is saying “I am sending my only son to you, the lowest of society, the highest of society, the outsiders, and everyone in between. He is a gift to all.
And he is human.
Jody mentioned in his sermon today that Jesus knew temptations, poverty, frustration, weariness, disappointment, rejection, sorrow, ridicule, loneliness, and pain. We tend to think of Jesus as a superhuman, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but we forget he was as human as you or me.
Philippians 2:1-11 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
God is for us, he knows us, he knows the pains and the joys of being human. Reflect on it today, as you begin the week and take comfort in a God who is for us all.
And finally we wrap up my introduction to what is coming, starting in January. It’s only a few weeks away.
We’ve chatted about how we’ll be using the first week to review the top blog posts from the last five years. We’ve talked about how the second week will be a time to invite you into my life as a campus minister and as the President of Impact Campus Ministries. Last month, I introduced you to a little bit of the history behind ICM and our mission, vision, and values; we talked about the third week being dedicated to casting some vision around our common language and culture at ICM. So what is going to be the topic in week four?
We all love good stories. Stories enable us to see a great idea in action. There is something unbelievably powerful about taking a concept and wrapping it in the flesh of human experience. And so, whatever idea we talked about that month (from the previous week), I’ll be finding a story to write about or share with you so we can see the idea with feet on it.
When we take time to talk about the process of discipleship, I want to find a story about someone who engaged in that process. What did discipleship look like to them? How did our definition find life in their experience? What pieces of advice would they give?
When we talk about our commitment to pursue (intimacy with God), what example can I find of someone who created space to pursue God passionately? What fruit was borne of that pursuit? What can we learn from those stories of success (and even failure)?
When we pull apart our value of excellence, who embodies our idea of excellence? How do they (and we) balance the tension between letting God bear the fruit and putting in an effort of excellence at all times? What does it mean to do our part and trust God to do His?
The fact of the matter is that we are surrounded by these stories every day. As campus ministers, we ought to be sharing the stories with others. The truest testimony to whether or not something works is just that: testimony. An idea is just an idea unless it becomes real in the life of another human being. A product is just a product unless it really proves itself useful to others. Nobody cares about whether a culture or belief system is right or wrong unless it becomes compelling to others through the lens of experience.
Stories are the most powerful teaching tools we’ll ever have. God believed in the power of story; He worked through Elisha to tell Naaman to “go in peace,” armed only with his experience to change the world of Aram. Jesus believed in the power of story; he turned down an eager applicant for discipleship, telling him instead to go home and tell others his story. These are instances where people lacked any training in theology or management. They were not equipped with what the world might have called “conventional wisdom.” But they had their story.
Stories have changed the course of history more than once. Maybe we should put more stock in stories; maybe we should put more stock in our own stories.
Now, storytelling is something most of us have to get better at. It’s definitely something ICM is trying to get better at. Please don’t let me overhype what’s coming. We’re not expert storytellers, but we’d like to be better storytellers, so we’re going to try. Maybe we’ll struggle through and maybe it will be incredible. There’s only one way to find out.
So for week four, I’ll invite you to a new series: Pull Up a Chair.
We’ve now talked about my four-week rotation for every calendar month of 2018. We talked about how I’ll be using the first week of the rotations to talk about the Top 12 Blog Posts of Covered in His Dust. We’ve also spoken about how I’ll be using the second week to bring you a little series titled A Day in the Life. Now it’s time to talk about what we’ll be covering in the third week of our monthly rotations.
While I don’t think it’s a secret to my readers, my vocational calling is one where I serve as the President of Impact Campus Ministries. At ICM, we believe in the work of campus ministry because we believe that if we can impact the university campus, we can impact the world. We truly believe that tomorrow’s great leaders are studying on campuses all over this country; we believe there are students here that will be called to all kinds of international destinations and jobs to make an impact in their particular contexts. In fact, the largest growing demographic of students is the international student — what better chance to impact the world on the global scale than to shape tomorrow’s leaders on today’s campuses?
Here is a video we made that talks about all of that:
One of the reasons I love ICM so much is because of the culture and the vision of our organization. Some of that culture was built into Impact from its earliest years of ministry. Amazing people like Dean Trune planted a counter-intuitive belief in ICM that true success is developing intimacy with God. I love working for an organization that runs against the current of mainstream thought — thought that believes all we need is a little more hard work — and says that true success is a fruitfulness that comes from what God wants to do through us. And maybe it has to be “caught not taught,” but just listen to this definition of success that was written long before I ever worked for ICM:
Success is developing intimacy with God and community with each other through a living relationship with Jesus. We believe an individual, who is developing intimacy with God, in the context of Christian community, will make an impact for the Kingdom of God.
A team of individuals, who make an impact for the Kingdom of God, will have a fruitful ministry. Though we do not aim for “making an impact,” and we do not aim for “fruitful ministries,” we recognize that these two situations will supernaturally occur when individuals develop intimacy with God in Christian community.
Ministry is the product of our love for God, and an expression of a heart devoted to God. We must not allow “ministry for God” to crowd “intimacy with God” out of our lives. We cannot control “making an impact,” and we cannot control “fruitful ministries,” but we have absolute control over developing intimacy with God and being devoted to one another.
I love that!
Out of this core belief, those who came after Dean and before me created a mission that still excites me. We exist to pursue, model, and teach intimacy with God in Christian community on the American university campus. Out of this mission statement we built a “common language” that we believe, over time, helps foster a culture to make ICM great. ICM is indebted to the leadership of Bill Westfall for this guidance.
We created eight core terms we use to talk about the discipleship process; we also have a list of six values on which we build our organization. We wanted to have shared definitions of what these words mean to us as an organization because we believe words are powerful. We created short definitions for disciple and discipleship. We found it to be very beneficial to identify exactly what pursue, model, and teach mean as ideas. And we also decided it would be helpful to expound on the importance of message, mode, and milieu. All of this is built upon the foundation of our values: passion [for God], community, character, excellence, [the local] church, and compassion.
Now, it’s important for me to state that this is simply our culture at ICM. This is not some seminar on success or how you can follow our formula to greatness. We don’t travel around the country putting on conferences about these terms and why they’re so great — “and you can do it too!” In fact, the mentality of ICM runs against this big box, perform-and-impress idea about church.
No, this is simply a conversation that means a lot to us. To be honest, I’ll be using this third week to write about these ideas for my staff and those connected to our organization. If Dean Trune instilled a definition of success — the spirit and DNA of ICM — and if Bill Westfall helped create a vision and mission for the future, then my job is to help us take ground and continue becoming the organization these great leaders dreamed about. And that means we need to keep talking about these ideas and pushing into them. Every day, every year — moving forward.
But these conversations are not something we want to keep secret. We want to share them with you. I will be posting a monthly article on one of our core terms and casting a little vision of what it looks like to pursue these ideas. If they bless you and help you in some way, we are excited and thrilled to be a part of what God wants to do in your life. If they don’t, that’s fine too. We have no plans for world domination.
So for the third week of every month, I invite you into the conversation of Making an Impact.
Abraham is a giant of our faith and the father of the nation of Israel but even he has moments where he does not always make the right decisions. We open the story up when God has made a covenant with Abram (later God changes it to Abraham).
Genesis 12:1 The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”
This is no small thing for Abram. This is a typical patriarchal society where the family honors the father of the clan. They worship his gods, they help provide security and help support the clan by working in the father’s calling. If the father is a builder, many of the males in the family, sons, nephews, maybe younger brothers and cousins are all builders working for and with the head of the family.
To leave is a big deal and yet Abram does as God asks and in taking all of Lot’s family, he is now the patriarch of his own clan along with anyone he has brought in to be a part of the family including servants, hired hands and anyone else. In this culture, anyone invited in to be a part of the family or mishpucha (Yiddish for family) was considered to be part of the clan and the patriarch became responsible for their well being.
Now comes trouble, there is a famine in the land and Abram makes the responsible decision to go to the only place where there are water and food, Egypt. Perhaps this is his first mistake but an understandable one. Abram doesn’t yet trust the story and takes it upon himself to provide for his mishpucha.
Now it is about to get dicey…
As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
Before we lay into Abraham about this, understand how the culture works. Sarai was beautiful and Abram seeks to use this to their advantage. By not claiming her as a wife, he presents her as eligible for betrothal, the patriarch is then given gifts and much wealth to win his favor. At that point, I think they would leave Egypt with all of it… except for one small problem…
Pharaoh takes first then gives betrothal gifts.
Abram had not considered this possibility. In the end, Pharaoh sends them away very wealthy and Abram has provided for his family but at a cost. They now have so much wealth and livestock that he and Lot must separate. From this point on Abraham and his descendants will turn to Egypt in times of famine, they turn to Egypt for their security, eventually, this will enslave them.
In who do I trust? Do I look to my own abilities? Where does my security come from? Where does my help come from? Do I look for it in God or do I look for it in Egypt/Empire? And at what cost?
I am very proud of our church and the volunteers that went to Texas for a week to help rebuild after Hurricane Harvey. Their story is not mine to tell, but I can say that this is what it looks like to bring the kingdom of God to earth. This trip was the church taking care of each other as they were able. I am proud, not because we did this thing, I am proud because 14 people followed God’s call and as a church, we chose to pour our resources and our love into the lives of others.
In Acts, we get a picture of the early church. The author (most likely Luke) writes “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” (4:32-35)
Christians taking care of Christians
The Christians had legitimate needs that the early church met and it not only brought the believers together in unity, but it also drew people to the gospel. I love what our people did in Texas because it brought peace and hope. It showed God’s love to people who so desperately needed to see it. And I know this because of the responses my wife received from those that lived in the area.
And this makes me wonder how many people would think differently of Christians if this is what they saw of Christians as a general rule, not the exception.
We live in a post-Christian culture, not a non-Christian culture. One of the significant differences is that many in the post-Christian culture are aware of what the Bible says, and they know about Jesus but aren’t buying it. Many of them have attended church at one point in their life, and I think to myself, would they return if the modern church looked more like the early church?
Christians united as one, taking care of each other is part of what drew people. It was a significant departure from the current Roman culture in which they lived.
Paul writes in Philippians 2:2-4 “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Take some time to pray and ask God to show you where you can make a difference. It may be hanging drywall; it may be changing someone’s oil, it may be providing food or other resources. When we serve in the name of Christ, God gets the praise and glory.
Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.