Please login to continue
Forgot your password?
Recover it here.
Don't have an account?
Sign Up Now!

Register for a New Account

Choose Password
Confirm Password

Practicing The Jesus Way

August 1, 2018
by Matthew Rawlins

Illustration showing pieces of papers with different words with the focus point on a piece that says Jesus.I’ve spent a significant amount of time in the last 25 years studying culture. In doing so, I’ve realized the importance of understanding my own culture and how it impacts the way I read Scripture, relate to Jesus, do ministry and interpret everything around me. Don Smith was formative in my thinking and through him I began to see some of the cultural values that shape me. In his book Creating Understanding, I learned that, as a North American, I see the universe as a machine. Not only that, I see it as something that I can manipulate and control. What? Ok, stay with me here.

Does that make me a maniacal super-villain bent on world domination and control? No. I’m typically not even aware of these deeply held values as I go about my day-to-day activities. Neither are most North Americans and many western cultures who also share these unspoken values. It’s actually much subtler than that. It shows up in far less sinister ways through our need and desire for productivity and efficiency. If we just bring the right team of brilliant people together and throw enough resources at it, we’ll “crack the code” to this whole unreached people thing.

One of the problems with this thinking and way of living is that we seem to be just as far away from seeing this world reached as we’ve ever been. We live in a world of unprecedented technological advancements that have made us the most productive and efficient people in history.

We have stores filled with apps for bettering our lives and making them more efficient and productive. We’ve been so busy building our strategic plans, checking the boxes on our to-do lists and running at a frenetic pace that we’ve not had time to notice the irony--Our efficiency has actually turned out to be really inefficient. Our productivity hasn’t led to the fruitfulness we anticipated.

When I take a look at Jesus’ life in the gospels, I see a very different way of life and ministry. Have you ever noticed how often Jesus seems to be disappearing just to get alone with His Father? There’s a major decision or event about to unfold and instead of running around doing stuff, he leaves the scene. When He returns, He knows what to do since the Father has told him what to do. There appears to be a pattern of doing less before some major event. This is the opposite of our normal approach and is counter-intuitive to many. Is it possible that fruitfulness comes as much, if not more, from being than it does from doing?

We must be radically committed to listening to and obeying one teacher—King Jesus.

The Gospel of John certainly emphasizes this idea in chapter 15. Attend to the vine, not to the fruit. You can’t attend to both simultaneously. If you really want to see Jesus fruit, focus on Jesus not the fruit. So why do we tend to do this backwards? We put so much attention on productivity when Jesus said we won’t produce fruit unless we simply abide in Him. I’m wondering if at the root of this, we’ve forgotten what it means to “be” disciples of Jesus.

Most missions that I’ve worked with have discipleship as one of their stated values. The assumption is that if it is one of the values, then it will permeate the organization and ensure that its members are committed to making disciples. In theory that sounds like a great idea, except that values don’t shape us. Our practices shape us. Our practices, planned and unplanned, point to the things we value. If we want to live into an aspirational value, then
we must have practices to shape us accordingly.

I would submit that we really want to see discipleship as a value of a community, mission, church, etc., then we must have intentional practices of being disciples. We must be radically committed to listening to and obeying one teacher—King Jesus. Disciples are intended to order their lives and daily rhythms around these practices. As a friend of mine recently pointed out, we tend to order our days around ensuring productivity, and our King has to interrupt our day to get a word in.

How might our lives and ministries be different if we stopped to listen together and did only what King Jesus tells us to do? And what if we did this without regard for productivity and efficiency?

To this end, our Reach Beyond community here in Colorado Springs is doing our best to live into that reality together. In my first opportunity to share in chapel last fall, I expressed my hope and prayer for Reach Beyond—that we would be known as a community of people who are shaped by the practice of listening to and obeying Jesus. This is the Jesus Way. One of the ways we are practicing this as community is to “push pause” on whatever we are doing. All throughout the building, we gather together to read the Word of God and pray for our people. We stop and we listen. We re-orient our day. We re-center on Jesus.