So I've clearly taken some time off from the blogging world. I think I've just needed a rest for a while, and I haven't really been sure where to go with this. But I know I need to be writing, and I do hear from people who have read or have been reading from time to time, asking me about the blog and whether I still have things to say.
I've also had a request from the church I'm now attending to send some blurbs each week about reaching out and building relationships with people outside of the church. I'm thinking I may, at the very least, post those same things here. Some of it will be iterations of ideas and thoughts that are already here, on different posts. Other posts may be new.
So the question is still how to live as the disciples of Jesus in a way that we can also be the disciplers that he calls us to be. You know by now that the passage that has called me since my earliest years is in 2 Corinthians 5--we are Christ's ambassadors in the world. We are to live lives of integrity and love because in that way we reflect his character, but his desire has also always been that we be a part of reaching the world and inviting the world to worship and follow him.
So what I wrote for the church folks today is a much shorter and easier to digest version of the ideas that are in my book about building genuine relationships and allowing my faith to be a part of those relationships because it's a part of sharing who I am. But I have to also admit that I choose to build friendships with people outside of the church or who are hostile toward God and the church because I have a deep sense of calling to them. I want to be there because I believe that's where Jesus would have spent a lot of his time, and I long to see all of my friends know and follow Jesus. I believe that my life is better because I have peace with God, and I want others to have that same peace. So practically, I see this life of a dicipling disciple coming out of the following 6 things:
1. Be the person God created you to be. God made you you on purpose, and you can uniquely reach people who others can't. When you find your identity in Christ and live out of who he's made you to be, you will have more opportunities to have significant impact than you ever would have expected.
2. Create space and time to spend with people outside the church. It's really easy to become comfortable and secure in our relationships within the body of Christ. It's much harder to befriend and stay friends with people who have different values, so we actually have to work at it.
3. Build relationships. This works both ways - seek out ways to love and reach out to people, but also choose to be vulnerable with people who aren't from the church. Pursue, pursue, pursue--even when it's not comfortable and it takes a lot of energy. But also watch how the dynamics of your relationships change as you invite people to meet some of your needs.
4. Listen. Listen to the hearts and needs and desires of your friends. Seek to understand their circumstances and their point of view.
5. Love unconditionally and extravagantly. This is the way that Jesus loves you, and this type of love is almost impossible to find in the world apart from the Holy Spirit empowering a person to love in this way. Love and pursue people, not because of what you can receive from them, but because of how Jesus loves you.
6. Share your story and the stories of God. This must be done carefully and thoughtfully. But if you're doing all the other things I mentioned, opportunity after opportunity will pop up to share part of your story of relationship with God or stories of how God related to people in the Bible that feels totally natural and understandable within the context of the relationship. It's not about proselytizing, it's about sharing this important part of your life with your friends.
So my church-based posts for the next month or two will extrapolate on these thoughts by giving examples or further explanation of these ideas. But for those of you reading this week, I'd like to leave you with a couple of questions to think about and act on: Who are 2 people in your life that you know are hostile toward God or the church or toward you because of your faith? What do you know about the needs they have in their lives? What kind of blessings can you be praying that God will give them this week?