This is the fifth in a five-part series on where God is calling me next. The first post can be found here.
They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved. – Acts 2:47 (CEB)
Several years ago, I started a program at church called Peanut Butter and Jesus. It had this name because we made peanut butter sandwiches at the beginning of our time together. This program was for elementary students and was expanded to preschool in the second year. Each week during the summer, we ate together, read the Bible, and engaged in an activity before the weeknight worship service.
I wrote the curriculum for this program – and this became the first of many. I’ve written curriculum and classes for children, youth and adults. God has gifted me to create education programs in the church that we can use to nurture our members and invite other to.
But what if Jesus would rather have us go out rather than invite others in?
I don’t think it’s one or the other but some balance between the two. However, I think we’ve gone way too far on the side of staying in. This wasn’t a problem 50 years ago when the church had a respected place in society and most people considered themselves Christians. But we’re not in that place anymore. No time of the week is sacred for church activities. And the last place many people want to go – when they don’t know anyone, don’t know the building, don’t know the do’s and don’ts – is a church building.
The third strand in the DNA of this new worshipping community is incarnate discipleship. I believe it could look like this:
We seek to be a Community who are doers of the Word. The world is quick to promote short cuts and the easy way. We desire to be a Community who walks the narrow way. We realize the most impactful learning is that experienced. Like Israel, we will talk about the Scriptures as we are sitting and when we get up; when we go to sleep and as we go about our daily lives; telling our children how God has brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, performing great and powerful deeds that we have seen with our own eyes. We want to live out Jesus’ call to proclaim Good News to the poor, feed the hungry and visit the sick. We will serve in the community as a Community – always with time and presence before money. This means:
- We nurture and live out our discipleship through Community and service in the community rather than programs in the church.
- We will redefine the tithe by participating in God’s economy with wholeness, rather than simply giving financially.
- We will use money as a means of grace rather than as a commodity or a master.
- We live with an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity.
Is there a place for our traditional programs? Yes. But the actual location of the place shouldn’t be restricted to our church buildings. Is your church doing a VBS this summer? What if you did it at a neighborhood park rather than in your church? Yes, it will increase your logistical issues and you’ll need to be willing to let people join you that aren’t registered. BUT you are going into the community to where the un-churched (or de-churched) people are.
Should we have Bible studies? Yes. But what if that study happens while you are serving at the local food pantry? No, you won’t be able to sit in a nice circle or use PowerPoint and cool video clips. BUT you are making Jesus’ words incarnate in your actions and this will stay with you more deeply than if you just talked about it.
The last part of incarnate discipleship has to do with the tithe. Please don’t hear me say that you shouldn’t tithe your income. I’m not saying that. What I am saying is that God’s abundance in our lives is found in places other than our checkbook. It can be too easy to just “give at the office” and think you’ve done your “duty” to God. But this isn’t a joyful response. Likewise, if you can’t feed your family, I think it’s OK not to tithe your income. Instead, embrace the wholeness of God’s gifts as you consider what your joyful response should, and can, be.
It’s time to let the captives go free and leave the church building. It’s time to live Jesus’ words rather than just learning about them. And this may be scary. I will always be more comfortable in place I know, with people I know. But Jesus calls us to more – and is calling us to follow him out into the world.
What do you think?
What does it mean for your discipleship to be incarnate? In what ways have you joined Jesus outside your church building?
What would it look like if you tithed 10% of your time to God? Is this easier or harder than tithing your income? What if you tithed 10% of your house and belongings for someone who needed a place to stay?
Deuteronomy 6:7, 21-22; Luke 24:13-27; 1 John 1:1-4
Matthew 14:13-16, 25:34-40; Philippians 2:3-8
Isaiah 58:6-12; Hebrews 10:2-24; James 1:22-27, 2:14-26; 1 Peter 4:11
Luke 10:29-37; 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Leviticus 25:19-22; Numbers 11:21-23; 1 Kings 19:18; 2 Kings 4:43-44; Psalm 23; Matthew 14:13-21