With Christmas almost here, I’m once again reading through several Bible passages concerning the incarnation of Christ. Today I was in the first chapter of John and thought I’d tweak and expound upon a post from last Christmas. Beginning today, I’ll be posting a short series of notes (from John 1:14) on what Jesus’ incarnation means to our own ministries on earth.
The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14
The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us:
Jesus performed his ministry here on earth. He didn’t seek to establish his kingdom among us without being one of us. Christ didn’t attempt to save the lost without living among them. For a time he gave up equality with the Father — and the God-powers that come with that equality — and set out on a journey. When he arrived, he promptly set up camp and unpacked his backpack right here on earth, where we are.
As we seek to continue his ministry in our world, we too are expected to do so incarnationally, living among those we seek to serve and influence. We don’t live like them, but we live with them — we live blatantly spiritual lives into among them, so they see our good works and praise God, who is responsible for our good works.
If I’m not able to spend time with sinners, I’m not meant to be a missionary. If I have an aversion to lost people using bad language, my role is not that of an evangelist. If I expect everyone, Christian or not, to abide by God’s commands, ministry to the fallen world is not my calling. But I will go further — if these statements describe us, we are not living like Christ. And we’re certainly not living Christ into the world around us.
If all our friends are Christians, and every event we attend is a gathering of believers, we have no ministry that resembles Christ’s. We’ve adopted a man-made and man-ordained strategy to reach the lost — one which I believe, does not work.
A few practical ideas for “becoming flesh” to the lost around us:
- Get to know the people who serve you. Each of us frequents some store or restaurant. Make it a point to sit in the same waitress’s section each visit. Talk with her about her children or her studies at university. Do the same with baristas at coffee shops and greeters at Wal-Mart.
- Invite others into your life, not into a church building or a program. Ask them if they’d like to come over for dinner… or get a cup of coffee. Introduce them to other disciples who exhibit kingdom life.
- Don’t join a church softball league. Instead, represent Christ in the already existing leagues. Join a team with colleagues from work. Get pizza after games. Have the team and their families over to your house for a barbecue at the beginning of the season.
- Pursue intentionally redemptive relationships with your kids’ activities. Form play groups with non-church friends and carpools with neighborhood families.
- I want to stress local community gatherings, such as neighborhood events. These are the people with whom sharing life could be much more natural. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a Halloween party and costume contest every year, begin one. If there’s an empty lot down the street, maybe you could host a father-son field day with refreshments and prizes.
- Don’t have as your end goal an invitation to church. Have as your end goal this acquaintance of yours experiencing Jesus in your life and in your shared time. This is best done by simply treating them as Jesus would.
Sidenote — a few quick principles, somewhat related:
- We should think less about inviting others to “church,” and more about inviting them to Christ.
- We need to de-emphasize our own congregations and stress life in the kingdom.
- Stop concerning ourselves with attendance and “church growth,” and desire simply for others to experience true life and joy.
The next two posts in this series: robbing God of his glory and full of grace and truth