From "The Simple/House Church Revolution" Book. The entire book can still be downloaded here.
REACH DISCIPLE GATHER EMPOWER MULTIPLY
The first principle we see for God’s going, missional people is the intention to reach out to others. This is not a project nor a program, but a way of life that involves an outbreak of Jesus’ love through us toward others.
As people are learning to walk with Jesus into the world, these types of “love-outbreaks” are happening everywhere:
• A woman visits the jail week after week to love, comfort, care for, cry with, and encourage the female prisoners.
• Several families move into a lower socio-economic neighborhood in order to identify with their needs and problems.
• A mother, whose own supply of rice is limited, regularly shares her food with a widowed neighbor.
• A young couple moves to Mongolia in order to learn the language and live among a tribal people.
• A family takes in several foster children that are in need of a home and caring family.
• A young teacher takes a position in an inner city school in order to love the most un-loveable students.
• Several young students regularly spend time looking for people with needs in the neighborhoods and marketplaces near their campus where they share in practical ways and prayer, expecting miraculous interventions.
Christians are re-discovering that the heart of the Jesus-way-of-life is not church-attendance and a smug attitude toward others, rather it is truly embodying the love of Christ—anywhere and everywhere—in a world that is desperately in need of this love. It is a type of reaching out that is marked by authentic concern for people.
God Is Passionate About His Purposes
God’s commitment to reaching lost people is described dramatically in Luke 15 where Jesus describes the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son. He uses these descriptions of losing something of value to help us connect with God’s heart to pursue those who are separated from him. Having lost a child (temporarily at an amusement park—a brief but terrifying experience), I have some sense of the intense focus that takes place while searching for one’s own child. Until I found my missing daughter, I had only one thing on my mind and heart: seek and find her!
In the same way, God’s heart and focus is consumed with his desire to find the lost. He has created us to join him in his missional passion and, deep inside each of us, is the sense that by joining him we become part of the great, epoch drama of eternity—reclaiming God’s own children forever.
We Reach and Love Others In Our Own Way
At the same time, we learn that He made us uniquely in the way that we join him in his mission. Most Christians will need to shake off old thoughts and ideas around institutional outreach in order to discover their own true passions and gifts and how they have been uniquely designed to partner dynamically with God and his purposes.
We have often been taught to think that outreach has to do with canned programs. This is the most misunderstood aspect of the Christian life. God has made each of us so uniquely that no one can follow another’s style or way to reach and love others. The real dynamic of the Christian life happens as we connect our special longings, gifts, abilities, and callings with the passionate purposes of our Creator.
The following are some principles to help in the process of reaching and blessing others.
Pray and Listen
Jesus said he only did what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19). The most important discipline for following Jesus dynamically is learning to listen to his voice. He wants to lead us personally into the adventure of partnering with him, so we want to develop our ability to hear his nudges and leadings.
Know Whom You are Called To
When someone enquired about visiting Mother Teresa to help with her work among the poor of India, she encouraged the person to find their own Calcutta. In other words, each of us must discover who it is that God has put on our heart to love and reach out to. This makes it personal and meaningful.
As we listen to God’s voice, we will begin to sense that we have a particular heart for a particular group, or several groups, of people. Jesus, in his human experience, was called to the people living in Israel. He knew his focus. In the same way, God has given a focus to each of us, and we will find great joy in our love-life towards others if we accept whom we are called to.
The most obvious focus for us may be those we are already living among: our family (church always begins at home), our extended family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and our friends. At the same time, we may have a particular concern for a nearby people group: homeless, youth, prisoners, children, elderly, etc. It may well be that God has put this group on our heart because we are specifically called to them. Finally, we may know the stirring for a people-group that does not live near us, i.e., the unreached of Africa or the inner city poor.
Knowing who we are called to and being willing to position our lives so that we can readily love those whom God has given us to love will allow us to begin expressing the passions and gifts that we were made for.
Live Among Them
Once we hear God’s voice and recognize those whom we are called to, it becomes natural to live among them. Perhaps we already are. But this requires that we give up our “separateness” and join them where they are. One of the greatest forms of love, as exemplified by Jesus, is to fully join with people and be among them. If the people that God has put on our hearts congregate in bars, then so do we. If they congregate in jails, then we obviously have to meet them where they are. If they live in areas of poverty, then we consider how we are meant to identify with them. If they are “people of our community” then we become involved in our community.
This may involve a literal move if we are called to live among a group of people that we are not already near. Or, it may simply mean taking the time to involve ourselves fully with people we are already living among: extended family, neighbors, or co-workers.
For too long, Christians have lived apart—serving and worshiping in club settings behind closed doors. As someone put it, we now have to learn how to live in the smoking sections.
This is neither a method nor a program, rather it is a way of life that is born out of love for those whom God has called us to. He will lead us as our heart for people grips us.
Although Jesus said that Christians would be known by their love, this is almost universally not the case today. We are more often known for our self-righteousness and judgmental attitudes. Furthermore, most un-Christians believe we care more about “making converts” than about them as people. I heard an atheist share that, having made friends with a Christian, he felt the need to ask him, “Am I truly your friend or am I just your project?” This suggests that people may have the perception that Christians tend to look at them as “objects to convert” rather than people that they care deeply about.
Yet, the joy that Jesus has called us to, is to is to simply love others. That’s it. No strings attached. When we recognize the people that God has called us to (including those we are already living among) then we are free to unleash creative ways to just love others genuinely and generously.
Discover Your Own Gifts and Passions
As we live among those we are called to, listening to God’s voice, loving those we are with, we can begin to uncover our own passions and spiritual gifts. We become more and more dynamic as our unique abilities are unleashed outside of the church walls. Many of us have been trained to use our spiritual gifts inside church buildings. How much more powerful to see those same gifts (and more) unleashed as we live a life that is engaging a lost world.
God’s heart is that all will know him. Our joy is to find our unique and created way to join him in that passion.
Reaching out to others and using our own gifts and abilities to love them reflects the very life Jesus lived.