What Are We Aiming For…?

“We must stop being so worried about the “sustainability” of churches, and focus on the quality of the disciple due to their time in that community…”

A few days ago I mentioned I was going to continue with what I felt was one of the most important lessons we learned during our time in Las Vegas. To get caught up, Click Here to read the previous post…the following is among many of the things we have learned in the past two years, but something I have been thinking a lot about lately. It will shape & mold how we do things from here on out, and have a tremendous impact on how we will pursue “things” once we arrive in Austin…

Overall, I have determined that Christ is TRULY concerned with the individual Disciples who make up His body (the Church). He is concerned with the growth of those “parts”, knowing that if they are healthy then the body as a whole will be healthy. Many of us fall into the trap of caring/worrying/pursuing more about the “sustainability” of the new “church” or “community” that the health of the individual disciple can be overlooked. The fact is if the disciple is not healthy the church is not healthy. The truth is while most simple/organic churches will not (in many cases SHOULD NOT) be in existence for more than a couple of years, the quality of the disciple will live on forever no matter where they are geographically. (This has been our experience thus far)

As many of you know, at Intentional Gatherings we do like to see new faith communities birthed as a result of discipleship. However, we must constantly fight, and remind ourselves that these new faith communities are a means to an end; they are not an end in themselves. The hope is that they would produce and foster healthy, mature, and reproducible disciples. As disciples are reproduced the Body of Christ (Church) grows and is made more pure for His return. This is a beautiful thing.

I know what some of you are SCREAMING right now: “Aaron, are you saying you aren’t concerned with the actual church that is made up of those individual disciples, and are you saying Christ is not concerned with each individual church!?” I am saying that I feel Christ is extremely concerned with each individual disciple, and their obedience to whatever particular community of faith they are a part of for that time in their lives. We must remember that while there are individuals inside of different communities of faith there are also communities of faith that make up THE CHURCH. We must start with the health of the disciple. From there we will ALWAYS get a healthy community of faith (Healthy does not always mean it will “live” forever=), and thus a healthy body as a whole. If we skip the disciple and try to have a “proper” or “sustainable” faith community then we “chop the legs” out from under the Body as a Whole.

I’d rather have a church of 10-15 made up of extremely healthy kingdom-minded Jesus followers that lasts for 2-3 years than one of ANY number that lasts for decades. You see, I know that wherever those 10-15 go throughout the  rest of their lives they will continue to be that disciple, or potentially start a new church of their own.

“We must stop being so worried about the “sustainability” of churches, and focus on the quality of the disciple due to their time in that community.”

May we all begin, and continue to focus on the disciple more than we do the “entity” (whether big, small, mega, or house) in which we call, “church”. As we pursue individuals gaining a deeper understanding of the Gospel, and fall more in love with their Savior, Jesus, may HE do the rest…”build HIS Church”.

“Gospel Authority in the Upside Down Kingdom…”

I am currently in the middle of a series of posts titled, “All Mixed Up, Don’t Know What To Do”. However, the Lord has been teaching, and speaking to me through prayer, community, and one of my mentors about the authority of the Gospel in the upside down kingdom of Jesus. I will pick back up with the “All Mixed Up” series very shortly…

In the I.G. community here in our neighborhood we have committed to walking the streets every Friday morning at 7am to cover our neighbors in prayer. God has given us a desperate heart for this hood, and it’s sanctification. This is where we live, and we feel influenced to seek it’s welfare through deep relationships with those who live here as well. As we were walking the streets, and praying this past Friday the Lord gifted us with a beautiful realization about His authority, His Gospel, His Spirit that lives in us, and what that implies for those of us who call Jesus our Savior.

In man’s kingdom the word authority has a particular meaning. Many of us, myself included, are a bit rebellious by nature, and have had “issues with authority” throughout most of our lives. (The words of my amazing Dad!) Some of us relate the word to a husband & wife in the context of marriage, though often times not Biblical. We think of teachers, police officers, judges, managers, and bosses as having authority. Many of us are under the authority of someone, but also have authority over others. Regardless of which of the above examples we subscribe to the underlying theme is that of a power, or influence over others through control. The dictionary definition of authority is, “the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.” Whether accurate, or inaccurate this is the view many of us have in regard to the word authority. The thoughts we have on words like authority are the result of our upbringing, culture, technology, country, education, and so much more. Sadly, this default meaning for the word authority we have acquired has tainted our ability to understand the authority that Jesus speaks of in His upside down kingdom. This is something that we will forever be handicapped by as we seek to pursue ushering in the kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven.
When Jesus walked the earth He challenged all the norms, thus we have the phrase “upside down kingdom”. There are many examples of how Jesus did this throughout scripture, but we will focus on His view of authority. As we saw earlier, man’s idea of authority stems from influence by control. We can all agree that our bosses have some degree of authority over us. They control, or influence the way we do things in many ways. A police officer has the authority to pull us over, ticket us, or arrest us. Jesus submits a different idea of authority in His upside down kingdom.

What if authority was not through control, or causing someone to submit to us, but rather something that was naturally awarded us as a result of love and service? For example, I submit to Christ, and His authority in my life as a result of His love for me. Jesus extended grace to me, and served me on the cross. My response to His actions are a willing submission to Him, and His authority in my life. He does not have to twist my arm, control, persuade, bribe, or compensate me to gain my submission to Him, which is not the case for most relationships we are in where someone has authority over us. We submit to our boss’s authority because he will fire us if we do not. We submit to our teachers because they have the ability to fail us. We submit to the police officer because he has a gun, and to the judge because he can put us in prison. Jesus’ authority is not a result of control of, or power over our individual lives. His authority in our lives is a result of us responding to Him, who He is, and what He did for us.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.Mark 10:45

This is how the triune God chose to gain authority “over” His children; by being under them. (Kneeling to wash the feel of His disciples & accepting a punishment for people who didn’t deserve it to gain them access to the creator of the universe.) He did not put His thumb on our heads, and push down. He came to serve us, and die for us to complete a task that we ourselves could not; He raised the bar, and set the standard for how we are to live. That is the authority He has in my life. My deep appreciation for His grace causes me to submit to his authority. He did not force authority, or control.

This is the authority that we are invited to have in the lives of our neighborhood if we emulate the actions of Jesus. The Jesus inside of us kneels down to serve, and “wash the feet of our neighbors”. We serve, love, and build a relationship with those who live around us. We, through humble service, earn a voice in the lives of those we have grown to love; those who have also grown to love us. We have now not only sought to share the Gospel in words, but with the actions of our lives. Hidden agendas are non-existent, and ulterior motives nowhere to be found. Through modeling the life of Jesus we have now, by accident, gained authority in the lives of our new friends. Actually, the Spirit of Jesus living in us has now gained authority by our obedience, and submission to Him.

These realizations are what led to our prayer for the neighborhood this past Friday morning. As we walked down Lorilyn Ave. I prayed that the Gospel, and love of Jesus would have authority in the lives of those who live in this neighborhood. I prayed that we, by the power of the Spirit of God living in us, would be made able to love and serve the people in this neighborhood in such a way that would cause them to respond appropriately. I prayed that the authority of Jesus, His Spirit, and His Gospel would reflect the upside down kingdom. We do not desire to have an oppressive, controlling, consequence fueled, and forced authority in this neighborhood. We begged the Lord to show us ways that we can come not to be served, but to serve our neighbors. We truly believe that as we move forward and reflect the upside down kingdom of Jesus that it would place a bent towards Jesus in the hearts of those who do not know Him as Savior.

Jesus, may Your Gospel have authority & power in this neighborhood not through control, but through your followers humbly living out that Gospel. As we live a Spirit led life, may it gain a supernatural authority, presence, and voice in the lives of those who do not know You as Savior. Amen.”