After two whole months we have finally finished reading our first book of the month. Some of you may still be catching up if you haven't finished already, and I hope that as you finish you begin to have a better idea of what you want you life to look like as a disciple of Jesus. I had watched a video series that Jeff Vanderstelt had done on everything covered in this book, so in some ways I felt as if none of the information was new. And yet, being familiar with the material didn't lessen the impact it had on me while reading these thoughts for the second or third time. After I watched the videos (about twenty-five in all) I remember thinking, "How can I get every person in our church to watch these videos?" It is such good stuff, but with each video being twenty minutes long it would take quite a while for an individual or a group to get through it all. This book helped answer my question.
After reading the entire book I can wholeheartedly say that this is a wonderful and helpful book. It is a somewhat condensed summary of the best parts of that video series and so I am very happy to be able to recommend the book for those who don't have enough time to watch the videos. I hope that many of you read, but if not, please pick it up and take some time to take in the content of this book.
The final part of the book, The Everyday Stuff, was by far the most challenging for me personally. So many stories were shared that were both moving and unsettling. The commitment that the people in Jeff's missional community (ie. small group) had was really something that at times made me feel uncomfortable. I had to ask myself a number of times why I was feeling that way, and it may come down to the fact that we just don't see people living that sacrificially and that on mission very often. When we do, they almost seem like they are in a cult or something. When I read about what Jesus had done through ordinary, everyday circumstances I was definitely affected. I hope that you all were too.
When we follow Jesus, everything matters and everything counts. The small parts of how you live and the large parts of how you live. It can all be a tool for taking the good news of Jesus to others. It doesn't need to be a spectacle. You don't need to be amazing. You just need to be willing to do to others as God has done to you, loving them with the truth of Christ. What I appreciate is that Jeff tells us what we all know, and that is that this will not be easy. He writes:
By the way, this “everyday life on mission” stuff can be unpredictable or messy. I often share that if it isn’t messy here and there, you are likely not yet on mission. If you are becoming friends with people who don’t yet know and love Jesus, you are going to be invited into experiences that may be very different from what you’re used to.
Is it worth it though? Is it worth it to be so intentional about your schedule, money, time, etc? Is there something bigger than just our own day-by-day life maintenance that we do, trying to hold on to what we have? The answer to these questions is yes, but it is hard to move forward. Do we live in a way that demands a "Jesus explanation" as Jeff writes? Are we being lights in a dark place, not just because of what we say, but because of what we do? These are all questions that these last chapters have brought up in my mind.
We need others around us to help us to live this way in the world. I don't think it would hurt if our small groups had covenants that they made together regarding how they want to live, who they want to serve, and who they want to reach. I don't think it would be a poor use of time to spend more time together eating, celebrating, praying, and serving. Even the idea that these communities (small groups) have a laid out mission plan for a specific people is a great idea. It is far too easy to just become internally focused and saturated by each other rather than do both that and saturate the lost with the message of Jesus.
There are a lot of obstacles that we face that would keep us from really living lives for the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel. How do we do this with young kids? How do we do this when all we do is work, work, work? What about "me time"? What if I'm an introvert and seeing people all the time would wear me out? These are all valid questions, and yet I hope that we can apply to faith to all of these obstacles and believe God for the things he wants to do through normal people like ourselves. There may be things we have to say no to in this world in order to say yes to God, but much of our lives can probably still exist.
Even the idea of living the normal Christian life with other believers and bringing unbelievers into your world has ramifications. It will create awkwardness, and it may even make some of you feel like you can't be yourselves. Remember, we want people to see and experience Christ through us, and we can do that through typical things. We don't need to do extravagant things together. We need to learn to follow Jesus and help one another to do that. If an unbeliever is a part of that, who knows what God could reveal to them through your little group?
As we wrap up here, I want to quote Jeff a few more times and end with his words:
...now is the time for us to get serious about Jesus’s mission together, and we need all ages in this game. Church has to stop being about us. It’s time for us to get back to what Jesus lived and died for. We need everyone in the game! If not, Jesus saturation will not happen. Can you imagine what would happen if all those in retirement who know and love Jesus were to partner with the younger generation in this? Think about the thousands of missional communities that could be started all over the United States and around the world—and the thousands of people who would come to know and love Jesus as a result! Stop and consider your life. How will you spend it, and for whom? Please take Jesus’s call to make disciples seriously. What are you going to do with your life? It’s never too late. Don’t waste it. I hope you’re open to stepping out into what I believe Jesus is calling his church back to—Jesus communities on Jesus’s mission, disciples who make disciples, together, not alone, in every place and in all of life...
...Too often, we focus on the spectacular activities of a few prominent Christians, leaving many people feeling as if what they do in everyday life doesn’t really matter. But the everyday stuff, done with gospel intentionality in the name of Jesus, changes lives as well. I have found that when we love and serve people like Jesus loved and served us, it gives great evidence to how powerful the gospel is to change lives. Then, when we proclaim what Jesus did in serving us, people who hear also see Jesus serving them through his body—through us, his church. They see normal people on Jesus’s mission getting to experience extraordinary life together!...
...Surrender to Jesus. Devote yourself to his mission. Remember and live in light of your new identity. Get on mission with a small group of people. Covenant together to sow seeds to others in the everyday rhythms of life, and watch the movement ripple out of your life until the whole earth is saturated with the good news of Jesus.
I look forward to what the Lord wants to do with this book for those of us that read it, and I hope that the heart of it spreads through our church. We may not do missional communities in the exact way presented in the book, but it's important to look at the principles behind it all and say together "this is what we want."
If you are interested in using the Story of God that Jeff mentioned in this final section you can find that here.
We will begin the next book in July, and I think it's going to be a helpful one. More information to follow.
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