If Luke Wrote About Your Church

In our small group leadership training plan, we ask the question, if Luke were alive today to write about the impact and effects of the Gospel in your community, what would he say?

Some Context

When Luke wrote the second chapter of the book of Acts, he began it with the spectacular inauguration of his new family. The Holy Spirit of God, full of divine delight, was freed to accomplish what he had ached to do for millennia past — to fall upon us and sweep us up into wedded bliss and power and union with Jesus. The church was consummated and what a celebration it was; complete with heavenly wind, fire, and good news proclamation in all languages. In fact, it was such a powerful and joyous occasion, some hardened onlookers thought Jesus’ bride was drunk!

Then, Luke writes in Acts 2:42-47 about the happiness of the bride and her honeymoon as it were in those first weeks of her union with Christ. Look at how filled-up she is with the mission and heartbeat of Jesus and look at some of the things Luke celebrates:

  • They eagerly devoted themselves to hearing and learning more about their groom with the apostles’ teaching.
  • They shared all that they could with each other and invested their earthly resources in each other.
  • They spent time together and invited others to join them.
  • They were in the marketplace telling the Good News message through selling items of value and property for the benefit of others. (quite possibly at inopportune times to sell their goods for the “highest value” for themselves just to be able to benefit others.)
  • They praised and adored God both publicly and privately. Worship became integral and contagious.
  • They ate meals together in Jesus’ name.
  • They were socially winsome and found favor among all the people.
  • They were welcoming in whatever they did in their homes (house-to-house). So, their homes became centers for community and moved away from being personal castles.
  • They saw answers to their prayers abounding as the Holy Spirit delighted to shower them with love through his special signs and wonders.
  • There was no line or barrier between “my church life” and “my regular life”.

Did you notice how different these things were from the first part of chapter 2? Married couples don’t have a wedding ceremony every day. Luke is highlighting how ordinary life with Jesus was filled-up with purpose and power that stretched into the spiritual and the eternal. The church is not dating Jesus in a paramour relationship. No, He is her everything.

Back to the Question

Now, how much do we recognize the integral and united nature we have with Christ while living in our communities? You see, our goal is not to replicate what the early church experienced in Luke’s list. If we do that, we turn our marriage relationship with Jesus into something mechanical and heavy by thinking that if we can just copy what they did, “church will work!”

Instead, Jesus will orchestrate all kinds of new gospel gestures, sacrifices, activities, and rewards to impact your community right where you are. So, imagine if Luke was walking around your church this month.

• How would he celebrate the gospel happening among you?

What might he write in his list to show how Jesus is orchestrating the impact of the gospel in YOUR everyday lives?

This is a great exercise to do right now personally and/or in a group of friends. If you sense that Luke wouldn’t have much to say, then you might be experiencing more of a cultural Christianity than a vibrant, communal, gospel-fueled Christianity. At that point, it would be wise to evaluate if you really understand the gospel and especially the Ascension of Jesus. And, it would be wise to deeply ask what has been radically transformed in your life and the lives of your church community. What can we celebrate as evidence of the gospel in action?

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The Fishin’ Mission

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One of the first actions that Jesus does when he enters his ministry is to go fishing. You can find him in the boat with Peter in Luke 5. Jesus was definitely a God-man on mission; the Master of the seas in carpenter’s guise. There on Galilee, Jesus draws Peter (James, John, & Andrew too) and catches them in his net of awe and compassion.

Peter crumbles and responds most adamantly, “Get away!” because he knew he was in the presence of overwhelming holiness which had invaded his helpless little business-in-a-boat. Jesus graciously replies, “Stop being afraid…” which in this context has the emphasis of his sins being pardoned and his person being accepted before God. This is what it means to be drawn and caught by Jesus. There’s a radical recognition of who Jesus the Christ really is, which in turn causes a total surrender, which in turn leads to the realization that you’ve already been caught – by Grace himself. But you are caught for a reason.

At the end of the great catch of both fish and men, we see Jesus beginning to walk away from the scene. Following him are his catch of men who are so fundamentally altered by his word that they “leave all their nets” and all they know. Actually, they leave almost all they know. Jesus tells them why they were caught, to do what they love (fishing) for different objectives (men). “From now on, you will be fishers of men.”

So, in a unique way, the “fish” have become the fishermen. Therefore, to realize that you’ve been caught by Jesus is to automatically be on mission with Him – simultaneously. Back down to the bottom of the sea with a type of Christianity that says, “Ya, I believe in Jesus, but I don’t have or need any community.” Drown the selfish idea that fish are only good for my consumption. Walk-the-plank with the practice of church attendance alone as the sum total of Christian living. And let the scales fall off that you’re dead in the water without an active fishin-mission in your life.

Do you have any more “Sea – analogies” that would call-out the false separation of Christian identity from Christian mission? (See how I’m baiting you to leave a comment?)

7 Lessons of Gospeltality

Jesus is invited to a meal where he takes the opportunity to disciple two sisters in hosting and communing. The story is found in Luke 10:38-42 just before he trains his disciples to pray. The intent of the passage is to have both sisters banqueting at the feet of Jesus. In this case, however, the quiet and resting Mary acts as a foil to her agitated and busy sister, Martha. And that is where we see the discipleship lessons of Jesus coming into play. The presence of the Good News (Gospel) coupled with the activity of teaching and training in a meal setting (hospitality) is where we combine the words to get Gospeltality. On a lovely side note, isn’t it great that Jesus is discipling women and also how he disciples them through their home and everyday lives? By doing it this way, Jesus went beyond the cultural norms (women weren’t discipled) and did it so that it wouldn’t be scandalous to others (informally at a meal setting). 

Our gratitude goes out to Sister Martha who represented us so well. We needed these discipleship lessons:

  1. We need to make sure that we understand who the host is correctly. Jesus said in verse 42, “…this one thing is necessary…” He is the one thing.
  2. We need to understand what is being hosted. The bigger picture of Jesus is why we serve. He is the living meal of God; the one, good portion that will never be taken away.
  3. We need to get our attitude right about our circumstances. If the presence of Jesus is there, then we need to recognize it and rest at his feet.  
  4. We need to forsake the kind of hosting that gives pride to our cooking, cleaning, and homes (our stuff). Otherwise, that will become all that we are about.
  5. We need to help people interact with Jesus. People should be able to see and hear Jesus when they intersect with our lives. If Martha doesn’t learn this, people will always see her. Mary got it.
  6. We need to give-way to Jesus to do his ministry in our every-day world.
  7. We need to allow the marginalized to host us. Jesus came to his own and was unwelcome (Jn. 1:11-12). There were plots to kill him. Jesus had no home, and he was poor. He also made himself the marginalized King by leaving heaven to be the friend of the broken and the least. And so, Jesus says, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:40).  We have so much to learn from those who are on the outside. We also have a great opportunity to be humble because we will be constantly surprised how Jesus enters our homes and our worlds. If Jesus doesn’t host us, we will always be the host, rival him, and make ourselves superior to others.

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Rival Hosting

Martha, the anxious hostess, invites Jesus the Kingdom-host to come into her home. She wants him to be around her house, but she’s not yet ready to surrender her life to him. Martha craves the admiration and affirmation of a powerful Rabbi. Instead, the events start to turn against her will and she breaks-down into anxious anger.

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What’s really happening is a small power struggle; a rivalry of hosting. Martha is in her “every-day-world” where she is queen; it’s her home. Hosting is where Martha shines. And like all of us, home is where “Martha is Martha.” The plot thickens when Martha invites the King into her world who is at home in all of his world. Who should impress who? Which one should host the other?

A quick discipleship lesson we can learn is that we can’t rival the host where it matters the most — in the center of our everyday lives, or what we call home. Otherwise, our homes can never be gospel homes. Jesus hosts, or we do.

Luke 10:38-42

 

note: for more information on this interesting photo and a Galilean family room, click here.