Listen to Jesus. This requires a diligence in our study of the Word of God and a devotion to prayer. We need to love knowing the mind of God on each issue of our lives, and knowing the heart of God for His creation. In order to listen to Jesus, we need to open our ears, and quiet the many voices calling for our affection and action.
Do what He says. This is an issue of Lordship. Do I submit my will to the will of Jesus? Is he the king of my life? James reminds us that to hear from Jesus without doing what he says is a favorite tactic of the enemy, Satan. He would love that our minds get filled with good intentions and thoughts without any of them taking shape in life. Jesus calls us to obey his great commandments to Love God and Love our neighbor by taking action.
Help others do the same. Jesus commands his disciples to go make disciples of all nations. In that challenge, our Lord and Savior has given us a vital truth that all believers are to be disciple-makers, regardless of age, maturity, or situation. Each of us is to be about the work of helping others hear the truth of God from Jesus and begin to take action on that truth. The church exists to spur one another on to love and good deeds, that results in praise to our heavenly Father.
Long Island is a tough place to live. The pace of life is fast, the expenses of life are high, and there is little margin for error. One need only listen to people to find that they are tired, stressed and alone. People are lost. With only 4% of our population claiming to be evangelical, the church of Jesus has hardly penetrated our culture. In fact, the church is quickly becoming a reviled and marginalized institution. And frankly, I feel that as Christians we respond to that by hunkering down and waiting for Jesus to return, knowing that we will be saved. Some may even be glad to think that people will finally get what’s coming to them. But the kingdom of God is to be an advancing movement. We cannot be satisfied with scratching the surface. Honestly, we will not be genuinely satisfied in Christ when we leave the gospel on the surface of our own lives. For some in our congregation, the unsettled feeling you have about church, “Is this all there is?” “Is this what God wants from me?” “Is this how it is supposed to be?” is the prompting of the Holy Spirit to embark on a journey deeper into the mission of God.
Then, how are we to bring the gospel to a culture that hates so much of what they think the church is? How are we to break through to the hearts of the lost if so many of them will not set foot in our building on Sunday morning? The answer in the last 30 years in the church growth movement has been attraction. If we can do a program that is cool, edgy, relevant, and touches the felt-need of a person, they will keep coming back. Some churches have been effective at this, but that has not been our style. We value the sense of family above excellence, and our strength has been in being genuine above being polished. But that has not produced much growth either.
So what then is the answer for today’s church?
First, we must consider whether our lives really reflect the lordship of Christ. Are the expressions of our faith limited to Sundays, to church gatherings, and interaction with Christians? To follow Jesus is to follow him in the way you treat your family, your wallet, your co-workers, and your leisure time. When Jesus is Lord, the patterns of our lives will invite others into relationship with Christ.
Second, what God has impressed on me is that as believers in the Gospel of Jesus, we must think rightly about the church. We must no longer define ourselves by the building or service times. He has impressed on me that we need to become a church that excels in making disciples who make disciples. At the heart of the gospel is God’s desire that people come into relationship with Him through Christ, and that their lives are transformed to bring Him glory.
Third, I believe that our ministry has become so focused on programs at the church building that it has created a disconnect with the world, and even with the rest of our lives. We have built community around service and programming so much that we lack the kind of community that lost people in Suffolk County are looking for. They are busy, they are tired…but they are also looking for genuine community that is honest, and grace-filled. As we open up our homes as a base for ministry, and become intentional in inviting people into our lives, we will then have the opportunity to invite them to Jesus.
Lastly, we need to begin to model the sentness of our Lord by adding sentness to the rhythm of our own lives. Jesus, in sending out the twelve and then the seventy-two, reproduced his own sentness in their mission. Out of Jesus’ instructions people have created the BLESS movement. Begin with Prayer, Listen (to God and to people), Eat (with people to really know them), Serve (people according to the needs uncovered when you eat with them,) Share (the good news of Jesus with them.) When we look to bless our neighbors, we will be imitating the sentness of Jesus.
What if Dix Hills Free Church could live out the gospel in such a way that Jesus is present on Long Island wherever we go?
What if the rhythm of our lives was guided by the conviction that God genuinely loves and cares about each of the people in Suffolk County?
What if we believed that all of Long Island will be transformed by our obedience to Jesus?
What if we expected God to use each one of us each day to bring light and flavor to the people God puts in our path?
I am more convicted than ever that…
The Dix Hills Free Church is sent by God to help people listen to Jesus, do what he says, and help others do the same.
In order to accomplish this mission of God, we need to:
- intentionally imbed multiplication into all of our ministries, multiplying people, reproducing leaders and replicating the ministry itself.
- continually connect non-believers to growing disciples in life-on-life contexts through consistent gatherings in our homes, or where non-believers gather.
- become fluent in the gospel, being able to speak like Jesus to any person in any context in order to bring the Lord’s grace and truth.
- infuse personal accountability into all of our teaching environments so that we do not deceive ourselves by hearing the Word of God without practicing.
- Stop thinking of the church as a building or service time, but as a people empowered by the Spirit of God to in any place or time
- expect participation by every believer in worship, fellowship, and service.