My personal community in my meetinghouse has spent a good amount of time over the past five or so years discussing the role of the ‘church’ in the lives of attendees and the life of our community at large. We have also discussed our role in evangelizing and discipling others. We’ve talked allot about Kingdom living and what that means. It’s remarkable to hear the variety of definitions to these roles and concepts. I find any number of ‘groups’ of like minded people who share the same basic motivation. Some groups are large some number just a few.
Last night we met and continued in a discussion with a working title “Is Church for the Community or the Community for Us”. The dialogue was stimulating yet, I’m left, (as usual), with some level of discontent. I get frustrated when we as a ‘church’ feel the need to have this defined, clear concept as to what a Christian should look like. We take the great commission and call it our job. We use the object lesson of Jesus washing feet and call it our example, and therefore our objective and mission. We read the story of His life and look for commands and clues as to what to do. Sometimes I think we busy ourselves just to keep Him quiet. I find over and over again that those of us who are more ‘vocal’ share our passion and sound like we got it right. My poor Pastor friends have it much worse because the public thinks Pastors know what’s good for everybody, and by some screwed up definition of the role, are supposed to regurgitate God’s will for our lives. What a shame for them (in my opinion).
So, what alternative is there if it’s debatable that what I know Jesus tells me is the right thing for you, or for that matter, what He tells you is right for me? If I’m so stinking smart, what would I offer if I was in charge of ‘putting on the program’? I find the answer for me at this time (critical choice of words) in an exchange between Jesus and Peter that takes place just before Jesus leaves for heaven.
From John chapter 21 in the NIV Jesus is talking to Peter asking him three times if he loves Him, Peter says ‘yes’ three times. Each time, Jesus gives Peter instructions; “Feed my lambs", "Take care of my sheep," and "Feed my sheep”. Then he gives him a clue to his death and says, "Follow me!"
So here’s Peter talking with Jesus, getting information for (and about) his (Peters) life,
Then in verse 20-23 we read “Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."
Peter is often used as a good demonstration of ‘us’ and here he is worried about what is going to happen to someone else. I love Jesus’ response.
Niv: “what is that to you? You must follow me."
Message: “what's that to you? You—follow me."
King James Version “what is that to you? You follow me.”
Do we do the same thing? Do we hear from Jesus and start looking around at everybody else and worry about what Jesus is going to tell them? Can we just point people to Jesus and trust He will tell them what to do? In fact can we continually point people to Jesus and hammer over and over and over again that Jesus will lead them? He will tell them what to do? Can we trust that Jesus knows what is best for them? Can we stand to hear Jesus tell us ““what's that to you? You—follow me." Can a message that simple not get exhausted? It probably would once people ‘get it’, so now our ‘program’ emphasis becomes to talk about and demonstrate the massive variety of ways to follow Him (“the smorgasbord”).
I hear us being judgmental that perhaps people come to the community ‘for themselves’, that they should be ‘in service’, ‘in the world’, doing this that or the other thing to ‘be like Jesus’, or ‘love like Jesus’.
The Niv implores, “what is that to you? You must follow me."