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What Now? What Next?
Making Disciples in a Disrupted World
In the day-to-day reality of increasing upheaval and discord, how are Christians to think and behave? How do we anchor our conversations and attitudes when everything in us wants to either retreat or lash out in anger? In this new series, Chip provides a biblical path to allowing Christ to reign in us and work through us no matter what's going on.More from this series
Five years, ten years, fifty, a hundred years from now, if the Lord has not returned, people will look back at this year as a life changing, pivotal, change of era, change of epoch where the rules changed, power changed, life changed, how people communicated changed, business changed, geopolitical power was shifted. Technology changed. How people lived, how they responded. And they’ll look back and see that Christianity had a fundamental change. I don’t know whether it’s going to look back fundamentally great, fundamentally different, or fundamentally worse.
What I can tell you is, as you have on your notes, the definition of insanity, most of you know, right? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. And so, there’s a couple questions we need to ask is what have we been doing in the family, what have we been doing personally, and what have we been doing in the Church for the, say, last thirty or forty years? And then what are the results?
And there’s a lot of people that I hear it all the time, “I just, can we just get back to normal?” Memo: Normal is never returning, period.
A survey that came out, America is losing its religion. So, all I want to do is pause for a moment and say let’s look back at our lives as followers of Jesus and the impact at least in our country. America’s membership in worship communities has declined drastically.
The accelerated trends toward more secular America represent a fundamental change in the national character, one that will have major ramifications for politics and even social cohesion.
The United States’ religious membership, first was measured by Gallup, 1937, seventy-three percent of people in America went to some worship service with a basic concept of morality. For the next six decades, it stayed over seventy percent. Between 1998 and 2000, in only two years, the number of people who didn’t attend any religious organization grew by eight percent. In the last three years, it has grown by twenty-one percent.
The percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion is greater now than any time in America’s history. By way of detail, whatever their religious practice, Americans are increasingly rejecting the moral concepts found in most major religions. In 2017, Gallup found a significant majority of Americans believe that the practices of divorce, extramarital sex, gay and lesbian relationships are all morally acceptable.
The world has dramatically changed, morality has dramatically changed, the Church has dramatically changed, and I say this not as a condemnation, because I’m part of the problem, but it was on our watch. It was during our season of life.
Jesus said that you are and I am the salt of the earth. Salt preserves, it purifies, it makes a difference. You are, I am, the light of the world. The light exposes; it brings life. I would say we would have to confess that the salt has not been very salty in the last thirty to forty years, at least in America. And the light has not been very bright. So, the question is, what do we have to learn?
I’ve got three observations. Observation number one, is isolation is lethal. It’s lethal. It’s not hard, it’s not difficult, it kills. It brings fear; it brings anxiety. We desperately need one another. Human beings, not just Christians, we desperately need one another. I don’t mean just being aware of one another, I don’t mean chit-chat or superficial, we desperately need one another: heart to heart, soul to soul.
Observation number two about the Church. With rare exception, after thirty, perhaps forty years of what I call place-centered ministry. In other words, the Church became a place. Weekend attendance became the most important metric. Programs happening at the church. Our kids go to this; we have a meeting for this. Place-centric or emphasized ministry has increased church attendance, has had mega churches multiply around the country in the last thirty-five years like Walmarts, but it has failed in our ability to develop people and disciples.
Eight point five to nine professing followers of Jesus, whether they say, “I believe in the Bible,” or, “I’m born again,” or whatever phrase that we use, their lifestyle, their ethics, their families, their morality, is much almost no different from their non-believing counterparts.
We have been successful at growing churches, but being a Christian has changed in America to, “I go to a meeting,” down from just ten years ago of two point six times a month to now one point six times a month. “I listen to someone talk, I sing a couple songs, I try to be a little bit better person, and I live my life primarily focused by the culture, what “success” is, what makes me happy, and basically a general narcissistic view that life is for me and Jesus is my ticket to a, “great marriage, great singleness, upward mobility, and hopefully that all my kids turn out right.” And the results have been devastating.
What we have learned about American Christianity is that the adversity of the last year has revealed a Christianity that is more consumer than contributor, it’s more spectator than servants, and it’s more fans than followers.
I was with a friend, a major podcast in the last couple weeks, and on it was a Wheaton professor who just kind of did an overview after everyone had talked and futurist and Christian leaders. He said, “Basically, the pandemic in America has revealed an American Christianity that has poor theology, shallow faith, and is basically consumer Christianity.”
I think it was Max De Pree, he said, “The first goal of leaders, whether you’re the leader in your home, leader in a company, leader with a small group of people, it’s to define reality.” We have all been in denial for a long time. We have measured the wrong things.
It’s not how many come to a church gathering, it’s what kind of people are leaving the church gathering. And are the kind of moms and dads and single people and employers and employees whose first and foremost loyalty is to Jesus, who have a winsome morality, not an “against the world”. And whose lives are dynamic and loving and kind and, are you ready for this? A lot like Jesus.
That was the game plan. And that little game plan was a grain of wheat that fell into the earth and it turned the world upside down. But that changed in America, and Jesus became a means to the end, a means to make us happy, a means to be fulfilled. It happened gradually, and it’s very interesting, Max De Pree said, “Once you define reality and know where you’re at, now you’re in a position to make a change.”
This pandemic has been devasting in many ways, but I think there is one silver lining. It has been the greatest wakeup call that I think we have ever had. I don’t know how you’re living, I don’t know how you were thinking, but whatever you were and however it was, this is a moment to say, “We can’t keep doing life the way we did it in the past.” That’s true for us individually, it’s true for families, and I think profoundly, I think it’s true for the Church.
So, what must our perspective and practice be moving forward? Are you ready? I’ve got a few words for you to fill in.
Number one is our focus. Our focus has to be Christ, the very person of Jesus, not causes. And by “causes” I don’t mean just the sex trade or foster care or racism. All very important causes. I mean causes like, “Am I happy and is life all about me?” First and foremost, Jesus calls us to Himself. The apostle Paul would say, “I gave up everything. More than that, I have considered the loss of everything as nothing, as superfluous, as rubbish compared to knowing Christ my Savior.”
The passion of the early Church was that they would know Him, enjoy Him, worship Him, follow Him. Jesus can’t be a means to anything. He is the end. So, our focus is on Christ, Romans 12:1 and 2. A surrendered heart, a surrendered life, is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow.
Second is not just our focus, is our response. Our response in this era has to be on healing, not hostility.
See, when your faith becomes about you and my faith becomes about me, when the Church is about our turf and what we do and this is our place, when things change, a lot of Christians got very mad and very hostile.
There’s a lot of hate, a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear, a lot of blaming, and a lot of harsh, harsh words that I don’t think Jesus would recognize as, These are My followers.
But, see, when someone starts to mess with your life, we get mad. Peter would write to an early Church under Nero, “It has been granted to you for Christ’s sake, that you could suffer with Him.” “We have this pattern in Christ that you should follow in His steps, that although He was reviled, He reviled not. He didn’t trade insult for insult.” It doesn’t mean that we are passive, but there is a way to make a difference in a culture without attacking people and blaming people.
The third it’s not just our focus or our response, it’s our priority. Every church around America and places all around the world are trying to figure, “Where do we go from here? What do we need to do?” And if we are not careful, we will unconsciously think we need to get everything going that we used to have going.
Which will, by, are you ready for this? Create exactly the same results that we have had. Is that what you want? You want sixty-eight or seventy percent of our own children say, “Mom, Dad, pastors, staff members, church, you know, I don’t know what you all believe, but it doesn’t look real enough for me. I’m opting out.” These are our own kids.
So, what needs to change? I’d like to suggest it needs to be about relationships and not real estate. And when I say “real estate” I don’t mean it as literal as it sounds. Over time, churches began, and it’s here and it’s true all around the world, churches began to consciously or unconsciously probably more, think that success is, Wow, we are growing. We used to be in a house. Now we need a little building. Now we need a bigger building. Now we need a building with a gym! We need a building with a climbing wall! You know what? You should see our church! We have our own bowling hour! We’ve got a bookstore! We’ve got a coffee shop! There’s Christian music now! There’s Christian books! We have become a whole subculture.
With diminishing, diminishing, diminishing impact. And so, over time, going to an event, how many people showed up instead of what kind of people were leaving became the metric. And the Church, by and large, is now viewed by culture as angry, hateful, filled with celebrity pastors; tragic, tragic moral failures among some of our greatest heroes of the faith, even in the last year or two.
We are in a situation where we need to make a U-turn and our perspective and our practice about what will move us forward has to change. It can’t be just about, well, now we can meet again, now we can have our meetings, let’s get our kids in little groups.
It has got to change to relationship.
Why is this so important? Let me give you an overview of why relationships matter [more] than location, than size.
Jesus’ example. In Mark chapter 3, verse 13, He prayed all night. And after He prayed all night and He got a word from the Father, He chose twelve, that they might be – here are the two words – with Him.
When Jesus wanted to start a revolutionary movement, He didn’t start a publishing house, He didn’t start a school, He chose people that would live with Him, they would eat together, they would walk together, they would pray together, they would laugh together, they would work together. And those men changed the world, they and their families.
When Jesus was leaving, His last night, if you would look at His very last night, John chapter 13 through 17, what mattered? Where was His focus? What was His priority? Talk about a new epoch turning. He would die, then He would be raised from the dead, all history would change – what is the last thing do you say to those who are going to take on the baton of revolution to change the world that there’s hope, that there’s life, that there is forgiveness?
He said, “A new commandment that I give unto you,” after He – what? Washed their feet. “…that you love one another the way I loved you. By this the world will know that you are My disciples,” by the beauty of your buildings; by the PR and your programs - what did He say? “By this the world will know that you are My disciples, by how you love one another.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for the Church gathered. There’s a time for the teaching and the worship collectively that is very, very important.
But the world will see the reality of Christ by radical, others-centered, sacrificial relationships that happen seven days a week, not by just another group that has a weekly meeting, that everyone gives sort of a tip to their time, instead of it being the core of your life.
Jesus’ example, Jesus’ command, and I think the testimony of the early Church. When you look at this tiny group of twelve and then a hundred and twenty and then we have Pentecost. And, yes, they had supernatural power, but the Bible says the same power that raised Christ from the dead, it dwells in me, a follower of Jesus. It dwells in you if you know Him personally.
There’s power to overcome temptation, there’s power to respond good with evil, there’s power to love people you don’t like, there’s power to give away time and energy and money that you’re so afraid that if you do you won’t have enough for you.
That little church, Acts 2:42 to 46 – what? They met together from house to house. They ate meals together. They shared the Lord’s Supper. They prayed the prayers that Jesus taught them. And it says that the Lord added to their number daily. And they had not a bad reputation, but they had favor, both inside and outside the Church, because they were this radical, loving community.
When Jesus set out to revolutionize world history, notice the bottom, He did not buy a building, offer classes, or start a school.
He created – listen carefully – an authentic community of life-giving relationships that offered, notice, all of it – we like the first couple – that offered love, support, learning, accountability, and sacrifice to accomplish His mission.
I have a quick excerpt that I would like to read to you. “Authentic community,” underline this word, “is the prerequisite for discipleship.” Jesus is not looking for adherents. He’s not looking for fans. He’s not looking for people that want to use Him for anything. He is looking for disciples.
Disciples are people that learn the way of the Master and they want to follow His teaching and they want to follow His path or His lifestyle. The Greek word is the hodos. Jesus said, “I am the hodos, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” He called them, not just to believe intellectually and to agree. Yes, Jesus died for my sin and rose from the dead, but He calls us with the full implications to take up your cross, “Follow Me. I will make you fishers of men.”
Implicit in being a follower is the reproduction of other followers and it’s by the attractive love that you share with other people that those of us that didn’t grow up in the Church are attracted to the real Jesus.
Authentic community is something that we all long for. Authentic community goes way beyond simply being on a team or being a part of a club. Authentic community occurs when the real you shows up and meets real needs for the right reason, in the right way. It’s when the love of Christ is shared and exchanged with vulnerability and sacrifice and devotion.
It’s a place where you can be just who you are and loved in spite of your struggles, your hang-ups, and your idiosyncrasies. Isn’t that what we all desperately want? Right?
We spend all this energy trying to project that we are this person that we are not so that somehow, people will like the hologram that we are sending out. And as our teenagers do it, and especially, they get this idea that everyone’s life is better than theirs, and they are filled with anxiety, and they are filled with struggle, and their parents are too busy to talk to them.
If you would read the book of Luke, here’s a little challenge, read the book of Luke as fast as you can and every time He’s eating with someone, just mark it down. And you will find, by the way, Luke is written to a Greek audience, in other words, Gentiles who don’t have the Jewish background, and you’ll find that He is either eating with someone, leaving where He has been eating with someone, or on His way to eating with someone, throughout the entire book.
You want to reach your non-Christian friends? Quit inviting them to things, except to dinner, to lunch. And by the way, you don’t have to preach at them. They can be any gender, any background, any color, any sexual preference, and just eat a meal with them and just ask them questions.
“Tell me about what it was like growing up. What are the biggest challenges in your life? What are the things that make you happy? I’d just love…”
And you know what? Just resist putting on your little cap about what they need to know and how you think they are and where they came from. Jesus calls us to hospitality, to invite people into our world.
Now, what I have done is give you what I’m going to just characterize as the apostle Paul, here’s the Chip Ingram theory. So, this, you don’t put this in your notes. This is a theory. This is me, so part of it might be right, part of it might be wrong. But I believe it, so you should search the Scriptures and see whether what I’m saying is true.
But as I keep reading through the gospels and I see what Jesus did in a Jewish culture and how He developed, and then you see the apostle Paul gets tapped on the shoulder, and he is told by Jesus, “I want you to take this message to the Gentiles.” Well, Paul had this phenomenal mind, great education. Will Durant says he was the greatest intellectual mind of the first century.
And Paul had a great upbringing in multiple ways. He was brilliant; he was educated. And he had a really Greek mindset and so, so much Jesus did this, Jesus said this, and then what you find in the epistles of Paul in a didactic, clear way that most of us think, he says, “This is the what, this is the why, this is the how, and here’s the practical how to do it.”
That’s not how Jewish thought goes. And so, what you’ll find, so often, is you get the Sermon on the Mount from Jesus and Paul will come over in Romans 12 and say, “Let me show you how, in a simplified form, this looks like in your relationship to God, in your relationship with the world, in your relationship with yourself, in your relationship with those that are believers, and relationship with those who are not.”
And in Romans 12, verses 9 through 13, he literally, are you ready? He will tell you, “Do you want authentic community? You want deep, other’s centered, life transforming, loving, accountable, sacrificial relationships that change you?” In fact, he will go on to say in the book of Ephesians that just like we see little green worms, right? And they get into a cocoon and they become these beautiful butterflies, the apostle Paul would say that just as little green worms need a cocoon to be transformed, he would say followers of Jesus need the cocoon of authentic community for you to become the beautiful person that He has made you to be.
And so, notice verses 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13. In verse 9, he’ll say the real you needs to show up. In verse 10, he’ll say you’ve got to meet real needs, not just superficial ones. In verse 11, he’s going to say you have to do it for the right reason with the right motive. And then in verse 12 and 13, he’ll say you need to do it in the right way.
And by that, what he’s going to say is out of the resources of God, not out of your own energy or your own flesh. Follow along as I read. “Let love be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing,” or, “pursuing hospitality.”
If you had time to study that very, very carefully you would find there are thirteen imperatives. That’s a big word for “commands”. They are participles that have the force of, “These aren’t options.”
And so, he says, first, the real you has to show up in relationships. He says, “Let love be sincere,” literally, if you have the New American Standard, it says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” The word was used in ancient Greek for a mask.
It was a mask that was worn in the Greek theatre. In the Greek theatre, all the actors were men. And so, they would have different masks that would portray a woman, an older man, a younger man. You would learn to throw your voice and be able to be three or four characters. You would go backstage, put on a costume, put a mask, and then you could create this persona. And the apostle Paul says, number one, take off your mask, stop projecting, stop trying to impress. Let the real you show up with the good, the bad, the ugly, the background, the family of origin, the former addiction, the former abortion, the former divorce, the current struggle, the vanity, the pride, along with all the strengths, the intellect. Get rid of the false humility. Let the real you show up.
Now, you do it progressively, you do it wisely, and you don’t do it with everyone. But he says, “The real you.” He says, “Take off your mask.” And then notice he says not only is it a matter of authenticity, but it’s a matter of purity. “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
The reason we project so often in our deepest relationships is we have hidden sin and hidden issues that we don’t want people to see. Purity is a prerequisite for authentic relationship. It’s true in our marriages; it’s true in our friendships.
And we always think, it’s so funny, we always think people will think so much less of us if they knew the real you. Let me, can we just be just here? Have you ever met some people that appear to have it all together? They’ve got the perfect body and drive the nice car and they’ve got the purse or the watch or the wallet or whatever that has the right logo and they seem to be so confident and have everything all together and feel really unapproachable and often, don’t – the response at first is, what? Intimidation.
What I can tell you is this, is people who have the strongest exterior presentation that they have it all together are among the most absolutely insecure people that you’ll ever meet in your life with boatloads of needs and hurts and struggles.
And here’s the question: do you really want to get to know them? Or have you sat down with someone, maybe at a party or maybe at church, maybe in a Sunday school class.
And you know in a moment, maybe you’re kind of weak and you don’t have the energy to put up anything, and you just say, “Man, I’m really struggling.”
And maybe it’s a little struggle, but you’re careful, you begin to share vulnerably about what is going on in your life. What happens the moment someone does that to you? You are drawn to them like a bee to honey. Why? Because all of a sudden, someone is sharing the same kind of stuff that you know and I know I have in my heart. And he says for the Church, pretense, posturing, image management, it just can’t be a part of who we are or what we do. So, the real you has to show up.
And secondly, it says that you need to meet real needs. It says, “Be devoted” underline that in your notes. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” It’s a really strong word. The word “brotherly love” here is that philostorge. It’s like they are family. This is caring about people deeper than blood. “Giving preference to one another in honor.” That’s humility. That’s authentic community.
It’s the real you showing up, not superficial needs, but real needs. Needs that cost, needs that you say, “Wow!” We learned this really early, and my wife is always farther down the road than me. It’s why I think I married her. And we were in seminary and our kids played next to these other kids and we were in these government subsidized housing with other students and people that didn’t have very much.
And the lady next door became a great friend and our kids played and her husband abandoned her. And she was going to get kicked out of her apartment, shortly after having a baby and a five-year-old.
And we were just barely making it. I was working full-time, going to school full-time, and our rents were about ten days apart. And Theresa came to me and she goes, “They are going to kick her out of her apartment. She has nowhere to go and she has a little baby. Chip, I think we should pay her rent.”
I said, “Wow.” So, I looked and I said, “Well, honey,” reality check, “if we do, we will have ten dollars to our name in checking. And in ten days, our rent is due and, you know, I’m on the straight commission thing and if something happens, it will be really good. And if something doesn’t happen, she’ll pay her rent and we can’t pay ours.”
Well, I won’t give you the whole story, but I think many times it’s not about some great feeling and being noble. You just say, I mean, I argued with God for three days. And finally, I go, “Okay, hey, I get it.” So, we paid her rent.
And, yes, God took care of our rent. But you know what it did? It was like, here you are in seminary preparing to – what? This is what “what” looks like. You want to know what the real education is? It’s not how many kids come to your class, it’s not how many people come to this, it’s not how many beautiful buildings we have, it’s not what the budget looks like. It’s the real you meeting real needs.
And then the key is for the right reason. The motive. “Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Not lagging behind in diligence. Literally the word means not slow to act. Fervent in spirit is a picture, I did a word study of, it’s like water boiling. It’s this sense that you are fervent, you are ready, you are prepared. The real you is showing up to meet real needs. But, boy, you are doing it for the right reason. It’s a prompting from God. I sense He wants me to do something.
Genuine service, notice, is characterized by diligence (excellence), and enthusiasm (passion). I love that last little line. You are fervent, but it’s not fervent so other people think you’re a great Christian. You’re fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.
About two years ago, in the midst of a lot of busyness and I was kind of working really hard at a bunch of stuff. And I was having one of those seasons it was early in the morning and this thought came to me. It was so convicting. And I thought I better write it down. And I remember writing down in my journal a couple years ago, “Chip, there are times when you spend more energy trying to look loving and look humble than you spend actually loving and actually being humble.” How about you? How about you?
That’s why you have to do some things silently, anonymously, so you break that power to look good.
Well, finally it says to do it in the right way. The upward focus is, “Rejoicing in hope,” it’s a picture of living with this eternal perspective of the Lord’s return, not rejoicing in circumstances going up and down. It’s persevering in tribulation; The word is hupomeno. It literally means to be under pressure or stress. Some of you actually pay money to be under pressure or stress. It’s called the gym. And you put some weight on and you do this and you do this and you do this. And guess what, you do it three or four weeks, they have to put some more weight on.
You mean you do it on purpose? Yes! And then you do this and you do this, and then you do it for three or four months, guess what, they have to put on more weight. And as they put on more weight, you do this and do this, and then what? Then pretty soon there’s some definition here. And you do this and there’s some definition here.
The way you get strong is not making life easy. The way you get strong is persevering through tribulation. It’s trusting God for little things and then bigger things and bigger things. And saying, “I won’t give in, I won’t give up, I won’t go to the refrigerator, I won’t log on, I am not going to take this pressure that I feel and go out and buy something to make me feel better, or log on, or watch, or eat.
God, what do You want to do? I want to stay sensitive; I want to be alive to You. And He will speak to you, and He will speak to me.
“And devoted to prayer.” Devoted. See, everything I have said so far, I don’t know about you, you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of doing - in your own strength. The life I have described is the life Jesus described. Jesus would say of Himself, “I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I see,” or, “as I hear, I do.” He would say to those disciples, before they changed the world, “Apart from Me, you can’t do anything.”
Prayers of deep intercession, raw, authentic time with God are the great evidences of humility. If you don’t need to ask God, if you don’t need to talk with God, and you can run right out the door, guess what, what you’re saying to the eternal God of the universe that knows everything that’s going to happen during today, you say, “Hey, Jesus, good to see You! I felt a little liver-quiver when I read that deep devotional. Yes. It was three lines and one verse. But I don’t need You. I got this.”
And I think God has said to many, many Christians, Okay. You got this? This isn’t very theological but, Good luck. Let Me know how that works out for you.
And it’s not His punishment. In His mercy, when I don’t live dependently, and when you don’t live dependently, out of the sheer love and mercy of God, He’ll cause a velvet vise of circumstances and difficulties to get your attention.
And in the words of C.S. Lewis, “Pain is God’s megaphone to a deaf world.”
If you want authentic community, the real you needs to show up and meet real needs for the right reason, in the right way. And I love, there’s an upward focus and then an outward focus, “Contributing to the needs of the saints.” You can study that carefully. It means giving money to people that need it or food to people that need it. Practicing hospitality, literally, are you ready for this? The root word is “pursuing strangers”. People that are marginalized, people you don’t know, people that you look at and you immediately think, Ooh, boy. I don’t think I want to get to know them. Pursuing strangers.
Is there anyone that looks kind of different? Is there anyone that looks kind of sad? Going to the grocery store and being in the line, over where you get your coffee. And looking around and saying, “Are there people around me?” And you don’t have to be Mr. External or Miss External to say, “Hey, how are you doing today?”
I always keep at least one hundred-dollar-bill, a fifty, and a few twenties. And I’m asking God as best I can every day, Is there someone that You want me to put something in their hands that will communicate to them that they matter, that maybe no one else cares about? And so, we are all at different economics. It might be five dollars for a student or ten or twenty or fifty - And you know what? I’m sure it helps them a little. It helps me a lot.
It just forces me to be thinking – and you know what? A hundred dollars is less to some people and a lot to others and maybe not much. It’s still a lot to me. And, boy, there is something so precious that happens when you see someone with a need and you qualify it and you love them. And it might be five dollars or it might be, “Come on in and I’ll give you a meal.”
Or it might be someone that you write thousands of dollars of checks because you know something about what has happened in their life or their business. And they never need to know, but you, because they are in the body. That’s contributing to the needs of the saints, without a tax deduction.
Application is: what is your next step toward authentic community? When you look at these that the apostle Paul has laid out for us, what would be your next step?
What gets in the way of you experiencing authentic community? Too busy? No margin? Religious activities? Disconnected from like-minded believers? Are you in a meaningful, growing, Christ-centered relationship with a handful of people? If not, are you willing to ask God what next step you need to take to get really connected from the heart? Declare war on isolation and superficial relationships in your life. Write down John 13:34 and 35 on a card. Read it over. Memorize it. Ask God to help you be it and do it.
Lord, would You help us to return to intimacy with You, with each other, that the cocoon of community would bring about the kind of life-change that we are in desperate need of? God, we all want to be loved. We all have struggles. We need one another. Would You grant us the grace to let the walls down? And in a reverent way, not really give a rip about what anybody thinks. And help us to engage. And we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.