It's happening all over America.
Something is stirring.
As I am traveling across the country, I am finding regular, ordinary people who don't even remotely know each other reporting the same sense that something is up. In places like Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta and Houston I am having the same conversation over and over again.
They have a "holy discontent."
A "disturbance" of their Christian status quo.
Jesus is messing with them.
Last week I was with my friend, Mike Ruhl (Executive Director of the Center for US Missions), in Columbia, Missouri. The next day we were scheduled to have a missional living training for 24 church planters from all over the state of Missouri. So we arrived the evening before to get settled and prepared for our 8:30 a.m. start time. Mike and I have known each other for years and when we get to work together we love to have a decent meal and then a decent cigar afterwards. We had had our decent meal, so it was time to have that cigar.
Outside of our motel, there was a picnic bench that would serve our purposes well. We had just started our cigars and our conversation, when out of nowhere a gentleman about our age comes around the corner with an already-lit cigar. He asks if he can join us. We say, "Of course!"
Truth be told, I don't really like cigars all that much. They make me smell and they often make me green. But the one thing I like about them is that you can't smoke them fast. If you are lighting up a cigar it's because it's time to slow down and relax with a friend.
And so, as we sat there enjoying the cigar, we had nothing but time to sit and talk with this new friend. I will save you all the details, but suffice it to say, after about 60 minutes of getting to know each other, it was clear Jesus was messing with him, as well! A random guy, traveling around mid-America for a company, shows up with an already-lit cigar completely unaware that he just invited himself to sit down with a couple guys who Jesus is messing with, too.
As it turned out, he did the church-thing. He tried to live his life as Jesus wanted. He was even a confirmed member of his church. But something was up. Something was missing. It wasn't that he was going to stop going to church, but... Was there something else? Something more?
We suggested, "Like actually following Jesus in daily life?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I think that's getting at it. But how do you follow Jesus once you leave the church service?"
And that's the crux of it. People are stuck for how to actually follow Jesus once they get outside of their religious services and programming.
As I am meeting people across the country, it is as if Jesus is taking the same kind of walk He took in Mark 1. "As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 'Come, follow Me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed Him."
Today, Jesus is literally walking up alongside more and more people and inviting them to come with Him. And, like my new friend in Missouri, we don't know how. We don't know how to leave our nets and follow Jesus outside our religious services and programming.
We have been "discipled" to think that following Jesus is synonymous with studying Jesus or going to church and worshiping Jesus. Both very important practices, indeed.
But clearly, when we look at how it actually happened in Mark 1, Jesus wasn't inviting those guys to study Him. He was inviting them to come with Him.
"Join Me on My adventure."
The first disciples worshiped Jesus. But they also went with Jesus. They joined Jesus on His redemptive mission.
That brings us back to the 5 Practices. The 5 Practices help us follow Jesus in daily life. In this latest series of blogs, we have been identifying 5 simple practices that regular, ordinary people like us can put into play in our daily lives. These 5 Practices position us to seek, recognize and respond to what Jesus is already doing, showing or asking of us in our daily lives.
In our last blog, we talked about the first practice, which is Seeking the Kingdom. Today, we focus on the second practice, which is Hearing from Jesus.
If we are going to follow Jesus in daily life, we need to get to know Him better so that we can recognize Him out there. That's why the second practice is about re-engaging the Gospels so that we can put ourselves into position to hear from Jesus in fresh ways. This practice centers on simply opening the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and joining the crowds following Jesus around. We put ourselves into position to again begin listening to what Jesus actually says and to watch what He actually does. We ask ourselves, "What if Jesus actually means this? How does He want me to respond?" We allow ourselves to wrestle with what He is telling us and showing us and inviting us into...
Because He is inviting us into something... each day. Not just to think about, but to do.
Because while He invites us to gather for worship, He invites us to more than worship.
And, He is the only One who can show us what that is.
So, we take up the practices of daily watching for Him and hearing from Him so we can get up and take off after Him, too.
When we come together for our Missional Community gatherings, the "Hearing from Jesus" practice is supported by the second question of the 5 Questions: "What has Jesus been teaching you in His Word?" There are several ways we can ask that question:
- What does Jesus seem to be asking of you this week in His Word? (What are your first steps in response?)
- What is He inviting you into?
- How is He messing with you?
- What is He asking you to believe?
- What did He show you in His Word that you need to pay attention to this week?
- What did you find out about Jesus in His Word this week and how do you think He wants you to respond?
By asking these kinds of questions, we give people a very important opportunity to articulate what Jesus is doing in their life through His Word. By articulating what is going on in their life, they will come to the clarity and conviction they need to take action on how they believe Jesus is inviting them to respond and what they are learning as they respond. This is the "how" of actually "leaving their nets and following Jesus."
I am often asked by Pastors (or Bible Study teachers) something like, "How does Bible study fit in?" During the Missional Community gathering, as people are given the opportunity to tell their Kingdom stories (which is what the 5 Questions are intended to do), Pastors (and traditional Bible Study leaders) find that there is not enough time to study Scripture with the people in the manner the leader is used to. I hear things like, "We don't have time to study the Scriptures people bring up because we want to hear from everyone." Correct.
We need to remember, the Missional Community is not the place we "study" Scripture, per se. Dwelling 1:14 advocates that traditional "Bible Study" happen when the congregation regularly gathers for worship and Bible Classes lead by gifted, educated teachers. A Missional Community is the place where we have the opportunity to tell our story of what we have learned when we have put Scripture into practice in our daily lives. Think of it this way: In the Sunday morning Bible Study (or the sermon), a gifted, educated teacher unpacks for us what we do not yet know about the Scripture passages we are studying. They give us correct insights and accurate interpretations. On the other hand, in the Missional Community, we have the opportunity to talk about the Scriptures we DO understand and how Jesus is asking us to respond to it.