You still have time.
There are people you know all around you that are going to be by themselves on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They may not have family or they may be away from home. They may not be believers: They could be atheists, Hindus, Jews, or Muslims.
Regardless, no one likes to be alone, especially when everyone else is with family and friends celebrating. And this year, probably in a way that is different from many years in the past, it’s easy for people to feel alone in our culture even if people are all around them.
So, it’s not too late. Invite an international or a friend with no family to join you as you celebrate. It will be a great chance to love and serve someone. It will also be a great chance to talk about the greatness of Jesus and the reason you celebrate.
Christmas is in two days. But you can still impact a life. Invite someone to join you.
Today I met with a cross section of men from our house church network to talk about and work through issues that are affecting our churches. The discussion was great and one of the things that I loved about it was the mutuality. Quickly it became clear that there was no guru in the group and that everyone could learn from each other. And it was this back and forth, giving and receiving that allowed for hearts to open up, ministry to happen, and for us to be able to rely on each other a little bit more.
I’m continually amazed how much humility and not lifting yourself up above another allows for more ministry to happen, not less. So often the church thinks it needs to be the other way around. Most of the time we are caught up trying to prove we are at least as spiritual, if not more so, than the person next to us. When I try and prove how much better I am than others, not much ministry happens. And yet, when I humble myself and live from the place of being as weak or weaker than everyone else in the room, that’s when people become vulnerable and real service to each other happens.
During my day, I had the opportunity to share with a brother about some limits he was artificially putting on himself. And because we were listening to each other, I was able to hear his heart and he was able to receive when I gently pushed on him to reconsider some of the limits he was placing on himself.
Friends, we desperately need brothers and sisters like this in the body of Christ. We need people who know us, can see us better than we see ourselves, and can help us get out of the ruts that we sometimes find ourselves in. The body grows itself by learning how to speak the truth to each other in love. This is so hard to do but its one of the main ways the Bible describes us growing into the image of Christ.
Beloved, find friends who will tell you the truth in love. Find brothers and sisters in Christ who will call you forward into who God has called you to be. It’s a way forward in an age that wants to deceive us and isolate us. Don’t give in to the shallow relationships that are only about competition and vanity. Don’t settle for relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ that are only an inch deep. There’s transforming relationships out there that are rooted and Christ and they are worth pursuing.
It’s worth it. I don’t promise it, but Jesus does.
It seems kind of obvious. But it’s not.
Most people are hungry for community. They want to be accepted. They want to be loved. They want to be supported. They want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.
But if you look at any successful community, you will find one brave soul. This guy (or lady) wanted what everyone else wanted, but instead of looking around for a community that would serve him, asked a different question: “What will it take to make a community?”
Now the hard part probably wasn’t the sacrifice, though there would be plenty of that. The hard part was the fear: Fear of rejection, fear of being ignored, even fear of being successful. True community, real community only happens by becoming vulnerable. And vulnerability is scary. Real scary.
So the start of every true community is one person who decides to push past the fear. They make themselves vulnerable and in doing it they provide the freedom for others to do the same. Sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, people gather and begin to share in the vulnerability that this first person was brave enough to express. Jesus Himself modeled this for us. In the end it cost Him everything, but He left behind a community called the church which changed the path of civilization as we know it.
I believe God is looking for people like this all over the earth who do this for friends, family, and neighbors. Centered around the Gospel of Jesus and the reality that God has welcomed them as sons and daughters, they turn and invite others to a table, to a family, and to a relationship that will last longer than eternity.
Maybe, just maybe, if you could get past the fear, that might be you…
There is a way to guard yourself and your church from heresy. It’s called relationships.
Yesterday I shared the journey of how I came to understand that relationships centered around God’s word keep us from heresy. But different people need to respond differently to this idea. If you read yesterdays post, can I encourage you to do one of three things?
Some of those reading this post have no committed relationships with other believers. As my two year old daughter would say, “This is a problem.” You may be smart or well educated in the historical beliefs of the church, but I guarantee that if you aren’t in relationship with believers, you are opening yourself up to error, the least of which is pride.
It’s become quite popular lately to say that you can be a Christian and not go to a particular church, be a Christian and attend church on-line, or be a Christian and attend no church at all. But none of these will save your life from falling into error. Frankly, for relationships to preserve you and your church from error, you and those you care for must meet with other believers in groups small enough for others in the group to know you. And I mean *really* know you.
So, if you want to build in a firewall of relationships that protect you from heresy, begin to meet and build relationships with a small group of believers submitted to Jesus and His word. Let them know you. Get to know them. This is step #1.
After building relationships, it’s important to purge hierarchy from them. This may sound even stranger than “relationships protect you from error.” The truth is one major source of deception in the body of Christ is our constant appeal to something else other than God’s word. When a believer who is considered a leader believes a lie or practices sin, that believer, left unchallenged becomes a source for others to appeal to. He or she goes from a person caught in error to a source to be appealed to. “I can do it because Pastor X says it’s okay,” is the lie we tell ourselves.
Instead, regularly gather under the leadership of Jesus and in submission to Him and His word. Don’t appeal to another’s authority. Appeal to the authority of Jesus and the Bible. All of the areas essential to life and godliness are covered in the Bible, leaving little need to appeal to another believer. Your testimony and opinion are great, but they’ll never rival the message of God, which is living, active, and able to separate between soul and spirit. I have fundamental concerns about any believer who is swayed by someone’s authority but not by the clear teachings of the Bible. If someone isn’t willing to listen to God’s revealed word, your persuasion or “rank” in the body won’t move them.
Learn to Encourage/Challenge/Rebuke
Finally, it’s important for believers to learn to lovingly encourage, challenge, and rebuke each other. This is difficult, particularly if you come from an environment where an authority was the final word on every subject. But the grand vision of the church in Scripture is one where believers “speak the truth in love” to one another (Ephesians 4:15).
This is the most difficult step. You, while equal in your standing before God, with humility, begin to encourage them to obey God’s word or bring to their attention where they aren’t. This will also require humility on their part as well. But it’s in this way that we achieve the mutual submission that Paul spoke of in Ephesians 5:21.
This will require of you that you learn to be patient, loving, and forgiving. Others will get it wrong. You will get it wrong. But the benefit here is well tested thoughts about God and Scripture, along with well tested lifestyles that stand strong in the face of persecution from the world. Your life isn’t perfect in your eyes but flawed in everyone else’s. You know what you believe because it was formed in the crucible of committed relationships.
None of these steps are easy. They all take time and intentionality. But if you build these three realities into your life and the life of the churches you are part of, the result will be a stronger lives in the Kingdom of God.
Every week here at Pursuing Glory I try to bring together the best posts I’ve found that will equip the end-times church to operate in her God-ordained destiny. These are the best blogs, articles, books and other resources related to our purpose here at this site. Feel free to visit, comment, and make use of the resources found at each site.
This week marks the return of me to blogging after letting that part of my life slide for a few weeks. I’ve had a chance to hang out with some of the coolest people who aren’t part of our house church recently. However that time spent has taken me away from writing, so I’m going to try and get back in the swing of things. This post represents the best posts from the last few weeks. Enjoy!
I think that Jesus is most frequently the part of community that we leave out when we begin to discect a Christian community. Alan writes about Jesus’ centrality in a way that makes his whole discussions on the elements of a church more palatable than most similar discussions.
One of the things that gets left out of most discussions about discipleship is the necessity of being able to make other disciples. Here Ray writes about the paradox of following Jesus and leading others into following Him.
One of the shifts that I’ve seen help people move from a static church mindset into a movement mindset is discovering the spirit of multiplication that the apostles walked in. Here J.D. talks about how that happens with a group people who currently have no vision for reproducing churches.
One of the common misconceptions in the body of Christ is that house churches in the third world are effective because persecution happening around them fuels evangelism and discipleship. Actually persecution causes the church to return to her organic roots and when she does that, she spreads quickly and naturally.
With the house church movement in the United States as new as it is, little has been written about what mature house church networks look like. This post has an incredible visual that says volumes about how a network of house churches can function interdependently.
Every week here at Pursuing Glory I try to bring together the best posts I’ve found that will equip the end-times church to operate in her God-ordained destiny. These are the best blogs, articles, books and other resources related to our purpose here at this site. Feel free to visit, comment, and make use of the resources found at each site.From Institution to Communitas
Over the past several months we’ve seen our house church change from a community of Christ following families into something a little more bent on discipling the nations. The implications have been messy but well worth the change. Interestingly enough, a lot of the thought provoking articles from this week are around those very same topics. And now, on with the links.
Love Others Bob at Logan Leadership writes about what it means to be a movement that loves others. Bob’s insights are short and profound, but they can be summed up with one of the mantras I’m always sharing with believers in my life: “History is defined by those who show up.”
Should We Increase Community at the Expense of Being Missional? Felicity at SimplyChurch has been tackling the very real issue of community development vs. mission that so many house churches find themselves in.
From Institution to Communitas Ross at theJesusVirus takes a stab at the community vs. mission question with this post, drawing on insights from the phenomenal book, The Forgotten Ways. This post shows the progression of a church from an institution to a family to an army and is a needed concept among organic churches everywhere.
We’ve been talking a lot in our house church about what the future looks like. What does it mean to be a church made up of more than one house church? What does leadership look like in an environment like this?
“Brian McGaffigan writes,
The job of facilitator/change agent was described by Ifor Ffowcs-Williams when he asked the question: ‘Would you like a job that offers no formal authority; a high degree of uncertainty; no regular hours; and you will need to earn respect from skeptics; be proactive when the limelight fades; work with energy drainers; lead from behind – no ego tripping. The upside of the job is that you can break patterns; cross boundaries; build bridges across your community; be a hero finder uncovering talent; make things happen through others; influence people in and beyond the cluster; satisfy your hunger for Action; and make a dent in the universe?'”
Obviously there are a lot of character qualifications and Kingdom mandates left out of this description. But if you marry the kind of person Scripture says should lead with these characteristics, I think you get a much clearer picture of what Kingdom leaders look like.
What about you? What would you add to this list? How is this different than leaders you see in the world?