One of the common themes threading through Simplechurch.com is, "I've stepped away from the institutional church! Can you help me find a group nearby?" Or, sometimes the self-introduction of new members to this site includes a descriptor such as, "Looking for like-minded followers of Jesus, to experience organic life together." My wife and I are among those who wanted to be a part of a group of Jesus followers who desire to be aligned more deliberately with principles of the Kingdom community, but we did not have a ready-made group to move into. Now we're glad that no such group was available! It left us with even greater motivation to learn how to engage people in our neighbourhood and see what God would do with that, to bring people into His life.
Our motivation and direction came from what we see in scripture as the call to "Go". Starting "from scratch" has brought us more quickly into being a community with a missional lifestyle than what we're seeing more broadly in the simple church movement. The orientation of the group that has developed on our street, especially that of the newly-baptised, is to engage other neighbours and co-workers so that they can enter life too! I'm suggesting that being without a ready-made group may be just the opportunity that God is providing to learn more of Him than we ever expected!
This is a brief synopsis of a primarily NT call to us, and to any who belong to Him:
A lifestyle of engagement:
In Scripture, the words “go” and “send” speak the urgent love of a longing Father. Perhaps the most frequently quoted missional charge is the post-resurrection injunction of Jesus, “Go … make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Before he uttered the words, He had modeled their meaning. The predominant missional practice demonstrated and taught by Jesus was going, engaging people on their turf, in the places where their lives were unfolding. It’s also the practice generated and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, incarnate God, did what He calls us to do. He became flesh and dwelled among us, so that we might see the Father. We find Him in Matthew’s house, “eating with tax-gatherers and sinners” (Matt 9:10-11), and in the house of Zaccheus, a chief tax collector (Luke 19:1-10). His scandalously gracious initiative toward a Samaritan woman leads Him into a harvest within her village (John 4). The pattern of deliberately engaging people where they live is crucial to God. Love embraces people wholly. People generally experience the Truth through God-lovers before they understand verbally expressed truth. So Jesus discipled the twelve to seek extended engagement within a household rather than flit from house to house (Luke 9:1-6). He did the same in sending out seventy followers in pairs (Luke 10). He works through relational networks!
The Holy Spirit constantly speaks “Go”! Mission consists of the Holy Spirit sending followers into situations and relationships that He has already been developing! That’s the central aspect of mission! After an angel gets Philip onto a particular road, the Holy Spirit tells him to “Go and join this chariot” of an Ethiopian traveler. The travel talk results in a baptism (Acts 8:25-40)! In a vision, Ananias is told to, “Go … inquire at the house of Judas … for a man named Saul (Acts 9:10-19). There is another baptism – of the apostle to nations and kings! When the Holy Spirit tells Peter to venture into an uncommon social setting, the house of a Gentile, the visit results in not only an entire household of believers (Acts 10), but also in new abandon among the larger church, to follow God into the Gentile world (Acts 11). Before very long, Paul and Barnabas are “being sent out by the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:4) on an amazing journey of extending God’s kingdom where they had never dreamed.
The kingdom of God was coming on earth through His people! They were so captivated by the compelling account of Jesus that they could not keep quiet about it wherever they were! They possessed a prayer-nurtured discernment of the Holy Spirit’s prompting and presence. They exhibited a wildly bold confidence to go wherever He directed, even when it was unconventional and puzzling. Their engagement with people was more “along the way” than rehearsed. Their compassion shaped their encounters, so that they extended God’s grace toward personal needs (Acts 3:1-10; 8:7, 18-24; 9:36-43; 16:27-34) as well as proclaim what God had done to open the way to Him.
As faltering and flawed as we are, His missional program of choice and the source of His greatest impact seem to be such things as our unique kingdom-shaped worldviews, our lifestyles, our relationships, our dispositions, and appropriate words spoken in timely moments! (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:6-7; Ruth 1:14-18; 1 Kings 10:1-9; Isaiah 62:2; Daniel 4:19-35 and 6:16-28; Matthew 5:16; Acts 2:47;1 Peter 2:9-12)