I was reading a book a while back that made my jaw drop. The Tangible Kingdom, by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, a couple of church planters, focuses on creating incarnational community. All and all its a great read, from a couple of truly missional guys.
But back to my jaw dropping. At one point in the book they mention a young couple that came to their church, Adullam. A missional community, Adullam is highly focused on reaching people through intentional, incarnational community. So this young couple, on exodus from an institutional church in another state asks to get plugged in. The pastors at Adullam are much obliged, inviting them to enjoy community already present at Adullam. Some time later though, the couple comes back to the pastor letting him know before a service that they still were not plugged in, were feeling lonely and still hoping to find community. The next part is crazy. The dude tells them to find another church. Jaw. Drop. He went on to explain that while they were sitting in the pews waiting for the main event to start, the main event was already happening in the back of the room around doughnuts and coffee. This couple was looking for community and opportunities to reach the lost and both were standing behind them partaking in the normal rhythms of life.
Boom. That's the sound of a ton of bricks landing on my chest.
The guys go on to explain that all too many of us have lost our ability to be socially fierce. We've lost our instincts. Become tame. We expect other people to find community for us, feed us spiritually, and win our friends to Jesus. Its easy. safe. convenient. comfortable. clean.
But. Reaching people is often messy and very difficult. Loving people is blood, sweat, and tears. And meeting people is often awkward and takes time as we earn our spot at the table.
Is that not the way of Jesus though? Is that not the way of cross, the way He has called us to? Does not, "take up your cross and follow me," mean that in following Jesus' example we are to put in the hard, exhausting, sometimes frustrating, long suffering, painful, and dirty work of love?
Our life group recently took a small step in a direction sort of like this. We had served the homeless in downtown Austin for some time, but many of us felt like we were doing something good that filled a much needed, but temporary need. I think our efforts honored Jesus and honor him every day as people in our community take the step to serve those in need. Its awesome!! But we wanted to take the next step. We wanted to go further. So we partnered with this ministry to partner with a family that had been homeless for 8 years, but had recently gotten off the streets and into a trailer with their new baby. This family is so cool! I loved them the first time I met them. But, I think we're all finding that the kind of love that this family needs is fierce. Its the kind that keeps going in spite of frustration, misunderstanding, and awkwardness. Its the kind of love that doesn't give up when its inconvenienced or put out. Its the kind of love that fights through socio-economic and educational differences to develop true friendships. Its the kind of love to goes the distance. Its Jesus love.
Kerra and I are much like the couple described at Adullam, but we've both made the decision that we want to become the fiercest of the fierce or at least fierce. We're trying to unlearn so many of our millennial, instant gratificational, entitled tendencies in an effort become like Jesus. We're learning that those who really love well have the thickest skin and the dirtiest hands.
[God, increase my capacity to love fiercely}