This article serves as a call to action, for us as Christ-followers to imitate Him through seeing those in all kinds of physical, emotional, relational and spiritual need around us, and engaging with them to provide comfort and healing. Discipleship is not only about lessons learned but very much about steps taken in faith and shared with others. If our disciple-making lacks an outward vision for our community and desire to share the bread of life we enjoy, then we miss a large part of the gift we’ve been given.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col. 1.15-20, ESV)
Here we see God’s mission making peace through the cross for the whole world. This includes the dense city blocks, sprawling suburbs, familiar towns and open countryside in which you and I live. There is not one place or people on earth that Christ didn’t shed His blood for, in order to redeem them from sin and bring them into peace with a holy God. Christ is the visible earthly expression of God’s majesty and fullness made known to us through the incarnation. We carry that expression in us as His ambassadors who are made righteous through His sacrifice.
How do we then carry this fullness and pass along the best news anyone has ever heard? As we follow and pursue Jesus; He leads us to cross paths with many image-bearers of God who are pursuing various dead-end roads. Some hectically pursue worldly success, others are hopelessly lost, still others wander in despair and are considering giving up, and then there are some who are so hurt, harassed and helpless that they’re unable to take any step whatsoever.
As ambassadors of Christ, we have one message to all fellow sufferers of the Fall – a light has come into the world and the darkness has not prevailed against it. However, this message often falls on ears blocked by deception and doubt, as well as pain and pride.
In order to break through such resistant spiritual deafness and blindness, we must embody and practice what Christ showed us perfectly: love in action. Love and action alone are inspiring – from epic poems to modern films we see tales full of truly heroic efforts and undying affection. However, the pinnacle of both are found in Christ’s willingness to lay down His life for us who scorned Him. As we get to know Him more, and become more like Him through discipleship, we take on His character and choose to lay down our comforts, conveniences and trinkets for the needy neighbors, busy colleagues, and cantankerous community members we see daily.
“But Jay, I don’t love these people,” exclaimed a lady in our core team a few years ago as we laid out the vision for a new church plant – we are a group who love God and seek to be a “plus” for our neighborhood. She paused and went on to say, “But I know God really does love them and He’s put me here to share that love with them. My love isn’t enough, but His love IS.” This is where we see the connection between disciple-making and serving a community beyond the church walls most clearly – when we lean into God in faith and clearly see our own lack of love. We are grasped by His grace to grow in love that we haven’t earned. We gain access to the God-given capacity to share that same love with others by joining them where they are, often outside the body of Christ. This often looks like giving practical and personal comfort, ministering to them deeply in compassion, and pointing them to the one who can heal and redeem all.
As stated above, this article serves as a call to action – to sound an alarm for the majority of us Christians who meet regularly to read Scripture, pray, discuss and produce genuine spiritual fruit in His Spirit. If we are not sharing that precious fruit of a redeemed life with God’s children outside the discipleship group or church, then beloved, we are amiss.
Let’s instead envision the following scenario: a vibrant group of growing disciple-makers in each local community across Europe, actively pursuing Jesus and then sharing the power of a transformed life through loving action. Neighbors, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances who receive fellowship, needed assistance, peace, wise counsel and coming to know Christ.
This means that even those in your community who do not believe in Jesus can see and express the value you add to the neighborhood. In other words, if you and your group/church were to cease to be, you would be sorely missed. The goal is for everyone in your area to know they can get real relief or be referred on to an expert for the genuine problems in their lives, regardless of whether they belong to the church or not.
We envision the Kingdom of Christ in its people, and that the grace and peace they receive are practically and relationally demonstrated through meeting the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of the community. That love and action cojoin to become a lamp radiating the Light that has indeed come into the world, and together witness powerfully that the darkness has NOT overcome it.