Tuesday Re-mix –
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:19a
I can remember pretty vividly how I felt at the births of both my daughters. Those feelings will no doubt stay in my memory long after the details of the events have left me. In both cases, God made us wait until long after we thought we were ready. So when they came, I was overjoyed and thrilled and excited and so very ready to be a daddy! With Elizabeth, my older, I can still remember taking her little hand for the very first time in Seton Hospital in Austin. I remember thinking, “What a huge responsibility this will be…I can’t wait to get started!” I had an attitude of extreme gratitude for the opportunity God had given me and of sober responsibility for how much work nurturing this child would be.
What if we in the church had a similar attitude about new friendships? What if we saw each new friendship in our lives as a God-ordained friendship and treated it as if God had given us a responsibility for it? What if we prayed expectantly for God to “birth” such new friendships in our lives and then jumped into them with both feet when He answered that prayer? Oh, how that would change the church!
We in the evangelical world often talk about “just sharing the gospel” and leaving the results up to God. I do think that is an important perspective. There is our part in that process and there is God’s part, and it agree that it is important not to confuse the two. But I also think that “just sharing and leaving the results up to God” lets us off the hook of the Great Commission. Jesus did not say, “Therefore go and share the gospel with all nations…”. He could have said that. But He did not say that. The task with which He charged us was, “Therefore go and MAKE DISCIPLES…” Isn’t that a taller order than just throwing seed out on the ground and walking away? Isn’t the Great Commission more than just publishing a blog post containing the gospel and being done?
As a consultant to churches in the area of conflict and relationships in ministry, I have come to believe that the biggest challenge to unity in the body of Christ today is not the brokenness of relationships, it is the widespread lack of any relationships at all. This is true not only at the global “body of Christ” level, but (even more troubling) at the level of the local church as well. The reality is, if you are an average American church-goer, there are scores, maybe hundreds, maybe even thousands of people in your own church with whom you have no connection whatsoever. Furthermore, if you are an average church-goer, you are not really even looking for new friendships in your life. So when they do come, you likely miss the whole “this is my responsibility” opportunity.
Think about this. For a revolution that is supposed to be all about relationships and forging new friendships, we in the church have gotten amazingly good at doing all the activities of church without having to mess with the responsibility of relationships. There are, I am sure, a myriad of reasons for this. Relationships are painful, they are messy, they require too much vulnerability, too much time and energy, they are inefficient and they are unpredictable. If there is a way to do all the activities of a busy church and keep relationships–especially new relationships–at a minimum, we will do it. And we have done it. And we have done it pretty well.
But that is not what Jesus did. That is not what He modeled for us. As I read the gospels, it appears to me that He spent virtually every waking hour either in prayer or investing in relationships. Every day, every night, walking among people and making new friends. He woke up each day hoping and expecting that God would “birth” new friendships in His life that day. And then He nurtured those friendships and grew them, at least as much as they would permit.
So here is a dare for you this week: I dare you to pray for a new friendship in your life, either at work or at school or at church or at your bowling league or your yoga class or somewhere else in your week…and when God brings you that friendship, I dare you to treat it as a newborn baby and, with gratitude in your heart, begin to nurture it and grow it and marvel at how God uses it. And then I dare you to do it again next week. And again the week after that.
Go ahead. I dare you to actually become the church He intended us to be. Watch what happens!