Week 11, Day 5: What's Next?
Today we will look forward at what’s to come. As you look at your own life, consider:
What were some of the questions that arose, which you’d like to dig deeper into?
Did God challenge you to be baptized or to commit to regularly spending time with him or even giving your life to Jesus for the first time?
What areas of life is God asking you to invest time and energy into?
Perhaps one of those areas relates to community. One of the reasons I wrote Learning to Live was so that people would participate in this soul-shaping, character-forming experiment in the context of a church body, a group of folks who were likewise committed to learning to live as Jesus would if he were in their place. After all, it not only helps to be around others heading in the same direction; it seems counterproductive to do otherwise — try training for a marathon with someone who is actively trying not to run!
So perhaps God’s invitation to you for the season ahead is to engage or re-engage in a church community. I obviously carry some bias as a pastor — you might argue that I have a vested interest in more people being involved in church; and that’s not untrue. But I’ve also gone through seasons where I questioned my faith and wrestled with my doubts, there were years where I was away from the church, and there’s still church hurt that I continue to bring before God and ask him to heal. And yet what I’ve realized is that healing can be found in the midst of God’s people; I’ve realized that, while we should absolutely go where that healing needs to happen, sometimes the healing happens as we allow others to minister to us and as we minister to those around us.
The author of Hebrews wrote to their readers, “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25). More and more, regular attendance at a worship gathering is seen as optional; in fact, even the definition of regular attendance has decreased from every week to almost every week to two times a month. Podcasts mean that we can listen to the message from our beds or at our convenience, and sticking with our friends means we don’t have to navigate those tricky situations where we’re in relationship with someone we may not completely agree with.
But, as hard as it can be, I don’t think there is a substitute for flesh-and-blood gatherings, where we get to be to one another the hands and feet of Jesus, giving hugs and shaking hands and sharing communion. I don’t think there’s a substitute for a diverse group of folks getting together in a place, unified — sometimes only — by their love for Jesus and his kingdom, and their commitment to learn to live as he would if he were in our place. Coming together to worship God can be a grounding, reorienting practice; it has certainly come to mean that for me (again).
The same applies to being in a small group. This is just one avenue in which we get to engage with others in the church community. And I’m hoping, by this point, you already see the benefits of being in a small group! These are vital ways to make new friends, to hear different perspectives, and to see how God works in a multiplicity of ways.
Volunteering in or with the church community is a tangible way of resisting consumer culture. To love is to give of ourselves for others; Jesus was our ultimate example of this. So find opportunities to give of your time and energy to build up the church community of which you’re a part and the neighborhood in which God has placed you.
And finally, financial support for your local church is key. Money, if we have it, is one blessing God has given us to bless others. To support our church financially is to support all of the various efforts we press into as a community, from ministering to kids with Kids City and Teen City, to blessing our neighborhoods at the H Street Festival and the Rosedale Halloween, to funding our outreach efforts with the DC Diaper Bank and the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, to supporting our partners such as DC127 and their efforts in adoption and foster care in DC, to the partnerships we invest in at Miner Elementary School.
Each of these practices, which are geared to efforts beyond ourselves and which are by no means exhaustive, are countercultural opportunities that help us grow in our relationship with Christ and display the love of God in tangible ways. It should be no surprise to you that my hope for you as you come to the end of Learning to Live (like Jesus) is that you would commit yourself even more deeply to the Way of Jesus, in loving God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbors (and even your enemies) as you love yourself.
REFLECT & RESPOND
Commit to rooting yourself in a community of faith like Christ City Church by deciding to take up these practices (worshiping regularly with others, being part of a small group, serving on a ministry team and in the neighborhood, and giving consistently to the church) for the next year; or reaffirm your commitment by keeping up these practices for the next year.
Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess, Thou hast given me: I surrender it all to Thee to be disposed of according to Thy will. Give me only Thy love and Thy grace; with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more. Amen.
- St. Ignatius of Loyola
Sometimes healing happens as we allow others to minister to us and we minister to those around us.