Not An Option: The Church Scattered

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This is a follow-up to a previous post titled ‘Not An Option: The Church Gathered’. You can read it here.

In the region of the country that I grew up in the church is an integral part of community life. This is especially true in the small towns that are spread out across the area. Sunday morning, and sometimes the entire day, isn’t something you mess with because it’s assumed that it is already taken up by activities at church. The problem is that often the spiritual conversations that happen at the beginning of the week don’t carry over into the rest of the week. It’s as if the building and the property are surrounded by some mystic force that doesn’t allow for discussion of spiritual matters outside of its boundaries. For whatever reason we find it difficult to have these conversations outside of the church sanctuary during the other six days of the week. The problem with this is that Jesus doesn’t call us to follow him only on Sunday but to be his disciples every day of the week. When Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission he gave them four distinct directives (go, make disciples, baptize, and teach) with one purpose, to bring the lost back to him.

Going by its very nature requires movement, changing locations and not remaining stagnant or complacent. This is especially easy to do in a culture that places a high value on comfort but Jesus calls his followers to do the opposite. This doesn’t mean that you need to pack everything up (or sell it like Jesus told the rich young ruler to do) and move to Africa tomorrow but that as we are living our day-to-day lives we are open to divine appointments that may arise and don’t shy away from faithfully sharing what Paul refers to as “the hope that we have” (1 Peter 3:5) with those who need to hear it. It’s an intentional action that’s integrated into our daily lives and not an activity reserved for special occasions.

Making disciples is often the part of this equation that we forget about but it’s arguably the most important. When I was growing up it usually felt like the primary concern was simply getting people to walk down the aisle and make a decision but I’m not sure there was any follow-up in terms of getting them the resources that they needed to begin the journey such as getting plugged into a small group or a discipleship class. I’m not saying that responsibility falls squarely on the leaders of the church in fact it’s quite the opposite. The Great Commission makes it clear that this is every Christian’s responsibility, to be actively discipled and discipling. We are to be mature ourselves and help others to be mature as well, eating meat and not milk.

There’s a lot of discussion among theologians and denominational leaders as to what it means to be baptized and the timing of when it should happen. The apostle Peter gives a clear answer in Acts 2:38 when he tells the crowd at Pentecost to “reconsider your lives; change your direction. Participate in the ceremonial washing of baptism in the name of Jesus God’s Anointed, the Liberating King. Then your sins will be forgiven, and the gift of the Holy Spirit will be yours.” (The Voice) The best way I’ve ever heard it explained is that the ordinance of baptism is an outward expression of an inward change. It’s us showing that we’re not ashamed of what Jesus has done for us and are committed to following him.

I need to make a brief disclaimer on this final point: not everyone is gifted in teaching and not everyone is called to teach. That being said every Christian is called to be able to relate the basics of the faith to those who are unfamiliar with them. Moses told the Israelites to “make the things I’m commanding you today part of who you are. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re sitting together in your home and when you’re walking together down the road. Make them the last thing you talk about before you go to bed and the first thing you talk about the next morning.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, The Voice) Faith was to be an integral part of their daily conversations and the foundation on which they formed their lives and the lives of those around them. In short, they weren’t supposed to keep it to themselves.

Jesus promised us many things but one of the things that he didn’t promise is that everything would be easy. He reminds us that he has “told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace. In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order.” (John 16:33, The Voice) Going outside the comfort of our faith circle won’t be easy but it’s required. Yes, you will be persecuted. You will be mocked. You might even be shunned or discriminated against. Take comfort in the truth that your victory is guaranteed. To quote the song ‘King of Kings’ (easily one of my favorites) “this Gospel truth of old shall not yield, it shall not faint.” The battle is won and the war is over it’s just a matter of making the celebration bigger. Let’s get the invitations out.

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