Pulling From the Source

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Recently, in the Twitterverse, I came across a post on a blog site titled: “Missional: Is it Religious Gentrification?” by Tyler Tully. Having just moved to Sacramento, and am in the thrust of joining with my boyfriend (there’s got to be a less “cheesy,” more fitting title – just saying), Chris, to start a church in Midtown, and having heard the word “missional living” tossed around, much like the word “discipleship,” of course I was interested in hearing someone’s take on this “movement.” Our mission at Midtown Community Church is “leading people to live Christ-centered lives every day.” We want to live as missionaries to the people of Midtown and to be the church to them – to love on and serve them – to do life with them. The question I’m always asking myself is what does that looks like in my life.

Having grown up in the church in the American culture, I don’t think I was ever encouraged or taught what the true posture of a Christian is – and I was blind to it to a certain extent. Being a Christian who follows the Great Commission and the Great Commandment requires a deliberate, intentional and disciplined way of living and thinking. Living missionally is most definitely not natural or easy. It’s not an extracurricular thing we do every so often – it encompasses and touches everything and who we are – because this lifestyle is how we’re called to live as Christ followers.

Back to the blog post I came across. There was a portion of it that really leaped out at me, and got a culmination of thoughts whirling around in my head that I decided to work out by writing down. Here’s one of Tully’s comments/perceptions on the missional movement:

The last 10 years have shown more buzz around the term missional, although many of us are still scratching our heads about what that really means…While we’re trying to understand, worship, and participate in building the Kingdom of a marginalized 1st century Galilean, we are still operating from a place of access, privilege, and homogeneity – and we need to admit that the missional movement conversation has been dominated by the Dominators, if we are to see any meaningful Kingdom building. In other words, the missional movement needs to repent.

My brain is like a ping pong match between his words and my own wrestling with what it looks like for me to live missionally – to be the church, making disciples, getting outside your “comfort zone” and pouring into the people around you. All of that is so heady and sounds amazing. There’s this stirring in your soul, much like the reaction Lucy, Peter and Susan had in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to the statement: “Aslan is on the move.” It wells up when you read about men of God, like Daniel, or books like Crazy Love, You Lost Me or Tangible Kingdom. You say to yourself, “YES. I want to be a part of that. I want to live that way.” And then the inevitable “Ok, so now what do I do? What’s my role?” If I’ve discovered anything about human nature, and myself, I find there’s this subtle, easy tendency to live vicariously through other’s testimonies of how they’re living missionally – it sounds so grand. It’s that innate desire for a tangible kingdom – for something more than what this world has to offer. But, like bystanders at a sports game, you really have no stake in it – it’s not your victory or loss. You didn’t train, sweat, struggle, get pounded, or make the winning play. Fans may take it personally, but it’s definitely not physically affecting them.

I’ve come to realize that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s complicated. That’s my problem – I tend to overthink because I’m a recovering perfectionist. I want to immediately know what I need to do, how to do it, and have “missional living” down overnight. Boom. Reality check. In asking “How do I do this?” “How do I get results?” I came to realize that I was stopping with “I” – that I was dependent on myself to find “solutions” and to make this missional thing happen. It’s rather exhausting, because, let’s be honest, we’re the worst saviors ever. After I arrived at this realization, I was struck with a “light-bulb moment” from a conversation on Psalm 1 this past Tuesday. This was it: It all boils down to the SOURCE of your approach to “go forth and make disciples.” Because here’s the truth we all know: Anyone and everyone can and does plug into their community (this fever among the millennials to belong, yet not commit), whether it be an intermural league or social club of some sort.

It’s a good to pour into others on their turf, but here’s the question: What source am I pulling from to pour out? If it starts stops with just me and my own willpower – well I already know that only takes me so far. It’s like a kid putting on a firefighter uniform. They can look it, wish it, but they sure aren’t it when it comes to putting out fires and saving lives. They don’t have the training and experience. Ah, now I’m getting somewhere (maybe). This is where we look back at my earlier reference to Psalm 1. Verses 1-3:

“How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinner, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands; he meditates on his commands day and night. He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. He succeeds in everything he does.”

It doesn’t say the blessed or godly man is defined by all the things he does, but by who he is, why he is blessed – and, in turn, how that shapes his everyday living. What’s his source? He takes pleasure in doing God’s commands – he fills up his mind and heart with knowing God’s Word. It correlates with the tree (“down by the river!!”) in verse 3. This tree can withstand any season and whatever that season throws at it because its roots are pulling directly from an unending supply of water. It doesn’t stop there though…with just the intake of water. The water causes something to happen to the tree. You see this outpouring and harvest of it bearing fruit…so others can taste and see God’s goodness. But the tree couldn’t have, in and of itself, produced the fruit or survived without the river/water/stream. Relationships.

I am praying for myself, each of you, and Midtown Community Church, that the Lord will give us more of a love and delight in pursuing Him, reading/memorizing His Word, obeying Him. Not that I don’t find delight in Him now, but I want more…and to do it better, more consistently and faithfully.

There are many things in this post that I could break down further, but it would become a book.

Bottom line: If I don’t fill myself up with Him, I have nothing to give to begin with.

Let’s guard against our tendency to make everything technical, legalistic or a 10-step process.

Believing is Seeing

“We must get over wanting to be needed – this is the hardest of all temptations to resist.” – C.S. Lewis

Today was just a C.S. Lewis type of day (note: after writing this whole thing out, I discovered all the quotes I found somehow fit perfectly within and complemented my post). It all started when I was sent this quote as a way of encouragement:

Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.

I had read/heard of the quote before, but it had slipped my mind. Then in my Bible reading plan (Soul Detox from YouVersion) complemented that quote when I was assigned to read and study Psalm 27. Verse 14 stood out to me:

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

I don’t know about you, but some days in my heart it feels that the world is ending, even though, in reality, the sun is still shining. I grappled with this verse. Ok, Lord, I can wait, which is agony enough, but “be strong”? There are so many times I feel so weak that I feel I’ll snap in two. I’m ashamed to even write that, knowing my “hardships” (see, I even have to put that in quotes) are minute. But then I realized in really chewing on this verse that waiting on the Lord – trusting in His faithfulness, having an eternal/godly perspective, clinging to Him, basing your hope and joy in Him – DOES produce a strength you cannot conjure on your own. It’s a different kind of strength than we typically think of.

Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd.

It’s ironic – sometimes I have to write these blog posts out to realize the depth of my sin, the narrowness of my perspective and my lack of faith. But on the flip-side of that I see the humbling mercy of God in Christ, the riches of His love, His pursuit of me despite my wanderings and how much He has blessed me with. It’s so easy to fall into being self-centered – some struggle with that enslaving downfall more than others. Let me encourage you, as I encourage myself, to strive for holiness in seeking to fulfill the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-39):

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Because I find the times in which I serve and love on others, some of the most beautiful and richest moments of my life because my focus is no longer on me.

This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.

So, if you think about it upside down (which is really right side up) you’re really showing yourself some love….and I want to be careful here….this is what I don’t mean….I don’t mean that you should love others to get something from them. What I meant by that statement is despite what the world and your sinful side tells you about how you shouldn’t do this or that for a person or they deserve this or that and not your love/grace…..DON’T listen to those lies. Know that you may suffer and maybe you won’t “gain” anything on earth, but I’d encourage you to look at Christ’s life on earth and what you have to gain eternally.

Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even agony into a glory.

Perspective is such a key word here. It’s SO hard and I know I fail often. Don’t beat yourself when you fall down. Know His mercies are new every morning and that He has already forgiven it when He died for you (quickly insert Romans 6:1 here).

It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.

Let me leave you with this one last encouragement and commandment from Hebrews 12:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke