Posts Tagged ‘followership’

the tenWhat is your take-away in the negotiation between Abraham and the 3 “angels” about the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Abraham: Please don’t be angry, Lord, at my boldness. Let me ask this just once more: suppose only ten [righteous people] are found?
Eternal One: For the sake of only ten [righteous people], I still will not destroy it [the city]. [Genesis 18:32, The Voice]

And there it is, the ultimate question and answer, “Will God sweet away the righteous with the wicked?” Those who study the end times have all kinds of scenarios about the final destruction, the great apocalypse. But in the end, don’t we really wonder, would God cast all away in one full sweep? Abraham wondered the same thing.

The answer was that God would save the city for the sake of the ten . . . but ten could not be found.

Ten could not be found.

How many are enough to save the Earth? or our nation? or continent? Will God stay the hand of destruction for the sake of the beloved? Am I one? Am I enough to make a difference in my world’s fate?

followershipToday, at our church’s “Code Red Revival,” the last of our guest speakers [Daniel McNaughton, from his book, Learning to Follow Jesus] laid out a clear context in which any believer must be operating in the world:

  • Learn to be with Jesus (like any mentor and mentee relationship, you must hang out together).
  • Learn to listen (it takes practice to hear God and there are many places where that can happen: in a large group like a church setting; in a small group like a bible study or micro-church; in a one-on-one relationship with another person; or simply alone with God).
  • Learn to heal (for this is modeled by the Christ and healing is promised, whether physical-mental-relational).
  • Learn to influence (being the salt of the earth or light in a dark place).
  • Learn to love (for God is love and until we step toward people in love, even those we “hate,” nothing changes).
  • Learn to pray (it is a dialogue built on respect and trust in which we can intersect with the divine).
  • Learn to manage God’s resources (work with the gifts we are given, now and along the way).

This is how we can  be one of the ten or twenty or 10,000. Thanks be to God.

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Want to experience authentic Christ followership? It’s the opposite of everything imaginable: love enemies, serve to lead, sit to stand, humbleness for glory, just to name a few. The key to all faith paradoxes is trust and confidence in the God who operates outside of natural laws, basics, like gravity.

I Peter 5:6-7
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Grace is a paradox too.

I’ve been captivated by paradox within my faith for the last three years. I can’t seem to get away from it, as though this one understanding is waiting to be fully embraced, as though I am on the precipice of really “getting it.” Something inside me keeps saying, “once this truth is broken apart, I will be stepping into the deepest places where faith, trust, hope, and love are the norm.

It would be a spiritual Sadie Hawkins life when those seemingly opposite behaviors would be natural. Expectations would no longer drive my emotional responses; disappointment wouldn’t overpower faith; fear would be a memory; anger wouldn’t be a useful tool to get my way; and controlling words would be unfamiliar.

If I could “cast my anxieties” on Christ, there would be nothing to carry.

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Acts 19:9a
But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way…

“The Way” is an old term that appears several times in the New Testament referring to following Jesus (way of Truth, way of righteousness, etc.). It’s a simple phrase that speaks powerfully of direction. If someone says to me, “here’s the way,” I understand it’s a type of revelation or discovery of the path that will lead me to the right end point. Either this “way” has to be clearly marked (like a trail in the woods) or a leader needs to show the way. And if I come to a fork in the road, I must determine or decide, “which way” is best or shorter or more scenic or safer.

Some of the post-moderns and emergents have adopted this term, describing their faith as “the way of Jesus.” This, they use, as an alternative to “Christian,” which now seems to carry a lot of extra baggage that is not necessarily related to following Jesus alone, e.g. political, economic, and social assumptions.

I also like the phrase because it reminds me that I am on a journey. Following the Christ is a process, a way of living, a string of encounters and learning. I think some Christians do a disservice to new believers by putting so much emphasis on the destination (heaven) and not enough emphasis on the path itself.

Being on the Way with Jesus is an adventure. I have never appreciated that truth as much as I have in the last few years. It makes so much more sense to invite people to join me on this exploration, to walk with me and run with me and discover with me what it means and what it takes to stay on the path together. And if there are “lions and tigers and bears” along the way, we can do battle side by side. And if one grows weary and falls, the other can lift her up. And if one becomes ill, the other can stay alongside until help comes. And if one is blind, the other can see. And if one becomes discouraged and tries to turn back or take another path, the other can say, “Come, this Way.”

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…if he [Saul] found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

Saul started out as a great persecutor of the followers of Jesus. He considered them a threat to the traditions and laws of Israel. They were undermining the faith. How were they doing this? How would he recognize these disciples?

Back then, what did a Christian follower look like? How did a Christian follower behave? How would Saul have identified those followers in his time?

The question is no different today. Am I on the Way? For years, it’s been a pop question: “Is there enough evidence to convict you as a Christian?” I think there’s even a song that asks the question. Funny, after 2000 years, we’re still asking who’s on the way.

Certainly, it would not have been an Ichthus symbol on a bumper or Christian music blaring from a car radio or a creche in the front yard. It would not have been a well-worn bible or marching on Washington for some worthy cause or wearing a cross or crucifix.

By the time Saul was on his rampage, the believers had gone underground. They were meeting together in secret. This was one of the foremost clues: they met together often. They chose to be together because of what they had in common. They broke bread together and everyone shared in what was available. None went hungry.

What else did they do when they met together? They shared stories about Jesus. They sang. They worshiped. They waited. They prayed. They encouraged one another. It was a simple life.

Were people healed? Were there miracles? We don’t really know. But the implication is that those on the way, that is living as Jesus lived, were doing the same things He did.

In the end, Saul probably found out about followers because of a snitch. He was told where they would be meeting together. They would be collected and arrested as a group, not so much as individuals.

To be on the way is to be together with others on the same path. I have struggled with this concept my entire Christian life. Going to “church” on Sunday morning isn’t the same thing. That has become a “passive” experience. There is no sense of journey at all. It’s the small group, the cell, that can operate with true mutuality. It’s the place where we can be authentic, transparent, and united on the way. It’s where we can struggle together over the questions of faith, trust, and disappointment.

If I am not in fellowship with a group on the Way, then, no, there is very little evidence that I am a follower of Christ. An isolated follower will elude detection for a long, long time. And so I have done.

God forgive me.

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Acts 7:33
Then the Lord said to him [Moses], ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground…’ [Stephen to the Sanhedrin]

I have always thought Moses was told to remove his sandals because they defiled the ground. But today, as I read this passage, I see something new: it was important for Moses to actually feel that holy place with his feet. There was strength and truth and power that would touch him through the ground, that holy earth spot.

I don’t have much experience, background or tradition of holy places outside the church or in various para-church settings. But I think there would be more experiences if I would open myself to them. I too often cocoon myself away from seeking out holy places.

In the same way that Moses stepped onto holy ground initially in sandals, I clothe myself in tradition and limiting expectations. It’s time to take off my shoes…. again.

Some years ago, I was on the cutting edge of worship. I was listening to the Vineyard and Hillsong and even Maranatha before that. I was standing on the charismatic bandwagon and riding up front. I was dancing and praising and jumping and shaking and laughing. I was speaking in tongues and singing in the spirit. I was prophesying and interpreting. I was on fire.

But I don’t think I was standing in bare feet on holy ground. Not really. I was going through the motions (and emotions) of what it might mean to touch holy ground. Actually, all I did was put on a different pair of shoes than the more traditional churches were passing out to their congregants.

Today, there is another generation of believers who is trying to take off their shoes and experience God’s holiness. For some of us, it’s too different. They are getting their feet very dirty. They are slopping through some weird stuff, but they are persisting through the swamp and on to higher ground. They are loving God and loving Christ Jesus and loving their neighbors. They are emergents like the Emergent Village, they are Christianity 21, they are Catalyst, they are in “conversation.” They are connected virtually and face to face. They are Solomon’s Porch, Apex, House of Mercy, Ooze, Axxess, Sublime Remix, Boaz, Headspace, Cedar Ridge, Water’s Edge, Tribe, Resonance, Three Nails, Mars Hill, and ReIMAGINE, to name just a few. They are embracing Christ in our culture and sharing His relevance with those who have long since worn boots in all the holy and unholy places.

For the naysayers against this new brand of followership, I remind them of Gamaliel, “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” [Acts 5:38-39]

Lord, take my shoes this day and help me touch holy ground. Give me insight and transforming power. Give me courage to walk in this new place. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll dance again.

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Acts 1:20
“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, ” ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and,” ‘May another take his place of leadership.’

And then they prayed, cast lots, and replaced Judas Iscariot (one of the twelve who had betrayed Jesus) with Matthias.

Only after Jesus resurrected did the disciples begin to realize they were no longer just followers of Jesus, they were now the de facto leaders of those who had been following Jesus throughout his ministry (upwards to 120 people were gathered that day alone). Jesus had not just selected them to be his close friends and students, they were being trained for the ongoing task of bringing his kingdom to Earth.

Jesus spent a lot of time showing them what it means to be a leader. It is not about having the seats next to Jesus or sitting in the place of honor at table [Luke 22:24-30]. A leader must first learn how to follow and how to serve before he can effectively lead.

In recent years, the idea of Servant Leadership has become a business buzz phrase and espouses the same principles. Another phrase, Leader Follower, is very similar. Jesus had both of these ideas down pat.

I think I am doing pretty well with these concepts until my feelings are tromped because I haven’t been acknowledged for a job well done or when one of my good ideas is adopted by the organization without recognition. Then, I am smacked in the face by the personal myth I have created about myself. I am no better than the Zebedee brothers hoping to find favor above the others [Matthew 20:20-28]. But Jesus chided them saying they did not realize what it meant to be his kind of leader… there must be a willingness to sacrifice, to let go, to be misunderstood, to be unappreciated, to be faithful to truth, to be humble, and to trust God through it all. This is the cup of leadership. This is the cup of followership.

Guide me this day to lead with humility and follow with promise.

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