the word became flesh

image courtesy of michael belk and theundergroundsite.com

 

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.

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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


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34 Comments

Filed under incarnation

34 responses to “the word became flesh

  1. David Robinson

    “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.”

    something I’ve been thinking and talking about a lot. I don’t know who told me that a church invite was my goal, but I never felt comfortable with that. Loving people IS the goal. We’re on the same page dude!

    another practical idea is to pick up the TK primer:

    http://missio.us/store/tangible-kingdom-primer

    It is an entire “study”/experience to lead you into doing some of the same things Brett mentions above. Written by my buddies Hugh and Matt

  2. I love this Brett! “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.” The problem in living this out is the ”judgement” by out brothers and sisters. Once we can get past that, and just live it out as Christ would have us do, then we will be winning others for the Kingdom and not just bringing them to the next church or event. {{saygin this with a chagrin, as I knit an ugly sweater for a Hindu lovin neighbor’s “Ugly Christmas Sweater party” we are going to tonight…..}

  3. hahahaha, I didn’t realize I was signed into my old wordpress blog of non-existant posts!

    • if i may so ask, why the switch from wordpress to blogspot? i would’ve thought the opposite would be the better move…

      • I ask myself the same thing. It really was a matter of ”style” choices at the time. As a novice blogger, all the blogs I was reading were blogspot, so I felt left out of the crowd. It also with my Picasa web-albums…etc…
        I am trying to move back to WordPress for I like it’s simplicity but, there is not enough time in the day to fiddle when you are busy making ugly sweaters!

  4. “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.”

    This reminds me of how I grew up in a church that was introspective. It is a beautiful reminder that ministry is mostly done outside the context of the walls of the church.

    Thank you for a beautifully written post Brett!

    • thanks, thich. good to see you again. i hope all is well there in canada — and that you have a great christmas. and a very good canadian new year — on what day do you guys celebrate it?

  5. Well said, Brett. It’s about representing Christ in all we do. Hanging out with the entire community, loving and serving. Even washing some feet.

  6. JMF

    Brett–

    Great post.

    The church growth thing is challenging for me, namely, because we are dealing with that right now. If we don’t grow soon, several people are going to get fired. If we don’t grow in the next 3-4 years, we’ll be looking at far more drastic changes.

    I can’t help but consider that (t0 me) this is the necessary result of paying our preachers, etc. Money gets in the way of Kingdom decisions.

    • i personally am not a fan of how we pay preachers and pastors and the like. i’m not against it; i just think we should do it differently. not only does it often get in the way of kingdom decisions by the church as a whole. but, in many cases, it prevents the preacher from preaching exactly what the bible teaches — because his family’s ability to eat is riding on him keeping his job.

  7. Fantastic thoughts Brett! My WOW thoughts focus on this statement: 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. Like…Holy mackerel! That about says it all. Good challenges and while I have no children to network with others about, I do still try (even though I am a pastor and sort of “marked”) to meet others and spend time with others. Thanks for the great post.

    • thanks, bill. one of the things i think oddest about christianity today is how offended we get when non-christians act like non-christians. i just think that’s so strange. of course they’re going to use bad language and get drunk and sleep around. why would we expect non-christians to act otherwise?

  8. Bernard Shuford

    Dude. I. Love. This. Post.

  9. Eagle

    So in other words….get to know agnostics like me!! 🙂

    I’ll get back to agnosticism in a second…but you made a reference to a church softball league. Man…when I was an evangelical Christian I helped put together and coach a team at my church in the upper midwest. I was shocked by what I saw…fighting, cussing and swearing at different church members. It could be the nastiest when a church that split played the church they parted from. It was an eye opener…

    Okay getting back to agnosticism….you know what I have observed in going to a few secular humanist meetings and getting tot talk to a few humanists. There are a number of skeptics, agnostics, or atheists who were Christian at one point. Something happened…horriffic church experinece, made a mistake in which the church pounced them…deeply wrestling with doubt in an atmosphere where everyone was so certain about everything!! It’s interesting to know how many agnositcs were Christians at one point…and how they were created by the church.

    • eagle, i think christian softball teams have for years and years demonstrated how entirely unlike Christ many of us are. it’s sad.

      and we’re bound to disagree on this — and that’s okay — but i question the validity of both of those groups you’ve called christians. i’m not saying i know; i don’t. i do know, though, that a group of christians who “pounce” on someone who is doubting in his faith or struggling with a sin are not acting at all like Christ. but also, neither is the christian who gives up on faith because others abused it.

  10. loved this post man – i like the shift from the goal of getting them to be a Christian to simply doing everything on your end to show the love of Jesus to them. Fantastic stuff.

  11. Pingback: robbing God of his glory | aliens and strangers

  12. These are great points. Many excellent comments too. Your readership is a wise group!

    Poor church staff has no choice sometimes if they are to stay afloat other than to make their primary focus promoting church growth. It’s tough. But it often comes across as fake and contrived – the constnat ulterior motive lurking behind every good deed. I don’t know of any answers though – do you? Do you have ideas for how ministry staff might be compensated so they are free to be kingdom oriented rather than congregation centered?

    I hope one of your posts in the near future will share some thoughts on what you mean by living blatantly spiritual lives. How do you define that, in a practical way, as we are spending time with people? I would love to hear!

    • “Do you have ideas for how ministry staff might be compensated so they are free to be kingdom oriented rather than congregation centered?”

      tisha, i suppose i have a few ideas — the problem is that i just don’t know if they’re good OR if they’ll work. but ideas they are.

      basically, i think we shouldn’t hire guys from outside to be our pastors and preachers and ministers. i think that, instead, each congregation should function as a body together. the preacher should be a member of that church who’s gifted at teaching. the shepherds should be those guys gifted in caring for and nurturing the flock. etc. don’t we trust the Holy Spirit to bring up leaders from within the body of Christ?

      and when a church has a guy from within who is using his giftedness in such a way that the church (and even non-christians in the community) would benefit from him cutting back on his secular job hours to do more “church” work, then we ask him to do just that. and we pay him half-time. or maybe even full-time. [but i think this system of hiring guys out of college because of their grades or their smarts is broken.]

      so we hire a guy who is part of our church family and is using his giftedness in such a way that God’s presence is more known and kingdom life more prevalent and the church as a whole more mature. this guy’s not going to be about the growth of budgets and numbers, because God doesn’t gift people to focus on that; people with business models and dollar signs in their eyes focus on that. this guy was paid to quit his secular job because he WAS kingdom-oriented.

      that seems like win-win situation, all around. it also dispels the canard that every church must have ‘x’ number of paid staff. or any, for that matter.

      here’s a related post i wrote a while back. sorry to keep dumping these on you:
      preparation and payment for preachers and pastors

      • Thank you. I enjoy the links and appreciate them. I know it takes a lot of your time to answer questions.
        This is a subject that has bothered me for a long time…ever since we had a pastor teach through the book of Revelation from a perspective he did NOT believe, but it was part of his contractual agreement to adhere to and promote the docterine of the denomination. It seemed so wrong. I much would have preferred to hear his actual point of view whether I agreed with it or not.
        Your thoughts on this topic are good ones. It seems like your approach would be liberating while promoting authenticity and accountability.
        Thank you again.

        • tisha, you’ve said ‘thanks’ on a few occasions when i’ve replied to your comments — which is fine, and a great attitude to have. but i want you to know that i appreciate your questions and ideas at least as much as you appreciate my replies, probably more. [and now i’ll take way too long to explain why…]

          when i first decided to start a blog, i had only a few reasons for doing so:

          1. i simply felt the need to write, especially concerning bible study and what i’m learning from God. i’m a teacher at heart and i don’t so much have that role in our ministry in tanzania.

          2. i knew there were some friends and family members who would like to be able to keep up with our family and ministry a little better than my monthly / bimonthly work reports. christie does a good job writing about our family and life in africa, but i wanted to talk a little more on the bible and missions side of things.

          3. i longed for conversation. i’m an extreme extrovert. on the tests we took before moving to tanzania (personality and the like), i scored the highest score possible on the extrovert scale. and, yet, i have two other families besides mine in geita with whom i’m able to speak in english. i was really hoping my blog would become a place for conversations and discussions about life and Godliness and sports, or whatever else.

          my first two desires for blogging were easily satisfied. but my third is often not. there are comments, which are great. but there still is not always a lot of back-and-forth. so i want to thank you for the questions and conversations. really. i appreciate it so much.

  13. Pingback: full of grace and truth | aliens and strangers

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