Well, the holidays are over. The past two weeks have been so good- great time with Christin & Jude with lots of time to relax and get revved up for 2011. Our biggest news is we found out that our baby due on May 6 is a… girl. We’re super excited, although I’m realizing I have completely no idea what to do with a little girl. Nothing like on the job training =)
With 2011 now here, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on God’s activity in 2010 and looking forward to what He has in store for us in 2011. I’ve especially prayed and thought about what is required of us to engage Burlington with the gospel. Much of what God is teaching and reteaching me is rooted in 1 Corinthians 9:19-27. Although this is an ongoing process and probably not new info, this has served as a good reminder of where my focus and the focus of our core group needs to be in the upcoming months. Hopefully, it will also give you some clues on how you can be praying for us and our work in Burlington. Maybe it will even help you as you seek to serve God where He has placed you…
REMINDERS ABOUT ENGAGING OUR COMMUNITY WITH THE GOSPEL
*Grow in our intimate (as well as our intellectual) knowledge of the gospel. This is a life long process which requires experiencing the gospel, studying the gospel, and meditating on the gospel and its application to our lives. Even if our knowledge may seem relatively small, it must be real and fresh in our own lives. If we don’t continually “preach the gospel” to ourselves, we can easily default towards empty religious moralism. Remember: most people’s objections to the gospel are personal in nature, not intellectual. This makes our own continuing personal experience in the gospel vital to engaging others.
*Develop a mindset of sacrificial service. Jesus said he came “not to be served, but to serve, and give his life a ransom for many.” He also made it clear that as His followers we have the greatest influence when we sacrificially serve others (see Matthew 20:20-28). Two brief thoughts on this topic:
- This begins with the spiritual family. We need to learn to serve each other in the context of Biblical community so that we are inviting others into an environment where sacrificial service is naturally modeled.
- This can actually become more difficult (although not impossible) to live out when Christians become a dominating force in the culture. All too often we see that power corrupts and draws well meaning Christians away from a service mindset. Exceptions do exist who display great humility and sacrifice in their leadership roles.
*Know the community. Know the culture. We need to know the needs, hurts, fears, dreams, beliefs, values, and spiritual temperature of the community and culture (including subcultures) where God has placed us. Secondarily to studying the scriptures, we need to study our community, so we can see where the two intersect. One of the greatest barriers to this happening is Christians becoming an insulated subculture rather than a force of transformation in the larger culture.
*Do life among the people. Discipleship happens life on life. From everything we see in scripture, discipleship often happens pre-conversion. This requires living a life that intersects with others- through work, play, raising a family, making a home, and purposely developing friendships. Studies repeatedly show that the #1 influence on people making a personal commitment to Jesus is close friends and family members. Living life among the people God has called you to serve allows you to share your life and the gospel in ways that doing ministry from a safe distance can never offer.
*Be purposeful and faithful with opportunities. We can sometimes try to do everything at once. Most of the time God desires us to simply be faithful with what may seem like the small opportunities He provides. We learn from the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 that as we’re faithful with what God entrusts to us (no matter how big or how small), He gives us greater responsibility. When the community around us sees us approaching the little things with excellence, we gain credibility, trust is built, and more opportunities follow.
*Maintain a marathon mentality. Very little that happens fast really lasts. We need to remember when scripture describes life and ministry as a race, it’s never depicting a sprint but a marathon. Everyone I’ve spoken to that has run a marathon says it involves a great deal of preparation, perseverance, and even pain. I’m sure a similar mentality is required by a hard working farmer who wants a fruitful harvest. Seasons of tilling the ground, planting the seed, watering the soil, and cultivating the young plants all precede the actual harvest. There is a reason scripture utilizes marathons and farming as metaphors for gospel ministry.
*Saturate everything in prayer. Bottom line: we do not have what it takes to accomplish what God has called us to do. Without His intervention, failure is certain.
As always, thank you for your continued prayers and support.