Much good work done in the culture and even, to some extent, in the church is performed in a way that is out of sync with the teaching and lifestyle of Jesus. Work done in Jesus’ name but not done his way is not actually his work.
The following 13 values seen in Jesus’ teaching and lifestyle are key to the way we lead, gather and carry out ministry and mission every day.
Putting faith in God moment by moment may be one of the most neglected aspect of Christian living in our day. Christian routines often take the place of actual faith leading people to trust a false understanding of God rather than putting faith in God himself (Prov. 3:5-6). In some circumstances, people end up serving the system and miss God altogether. Looking at the Bible narrative as it is clearly presented we can see the concern God has about this problem. Most of the book contrasts those who trusted God with those who trusted themselves instead.
Embracing the Lordship and leadership of God in everything is the heart of worship. Worship is not about what we do or even what we believe but who (or what) we love the most. Placing God at the center of every aspect of life will cause our lives to begin to take on a different meaning & purpose. Our lives will no longer be about ourselves but about God and others. This will change our very identity. Everything we think, feel and are passionate about will begin to find its proper place.
This is the New Life!
The Apostle Paul wrote that Jesus “died so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them” (2 Cor. 5:15). Jesus’ own and his lifestyle call his followers to live as he did; in service of all, as if we were serving God himself.
We see service as so central to the Way of Jesus that we consider it a Christian identity.
With this in mind, we miss no opportunity to weave a service mindset into every aspect of who we are and what we do. We anticipate each individual walking with us, each microchurch leader and member, each elder and board member, will pursue humble service as the basis for all their relationships and activities.
Any gathering we design will provide opportunities for all participants to serve and be served. Meanwhile, as we interact with the community, we’re doing all we can to bring positive value to the people groups we serve. We enter these relationships as if they are holy ground. We come as servants and never as authorities. Rhythms of service feed and support our claims to live as new creations (2 Cor. 5:17).
No amount of talent, intellect or passion will overcome a lack of sincere love. Jesus said we’d be known by our love. A life filled with Jesus is a life lived with the very love of God inside of us. As John succinctly put it, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus lived” (1 John 2:5-6). We must, by the very nature of who we are, love as Jesus loved, in real, everyday, tangible ways that bring real benefit into the world as a result of our having engaged it. Love motivates us to engage the world; and our engagement with the world must be marked by love.
The Good Samaritan steps into relational, physical and financial risk in order to care for an unknown victim of violence, a stricken human he happens upon while simply going about his normal daily activities. The Samaritan allows the suffering of a stranger to dictate the use of his time and resources – not just for one day, but as many days as it takes to bring about restoration. Jesus’ story compares this outsider’s choices with those of the two religious insiders who quickly pass by the victim, leaving him in his pain and despair. Jesus’ comparison of the three men is his answer to a critical question that a lawyer wanted to avoid: What does love for God look like (Luke 10:27)? The Samaritan demonstrates deep faith and love for God in the way he loves the stranger. The application for us as a church is obvious. God is deeply concerned with the way we engage our neighbors. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).
God created all human beings in his image to reflect him and fellowship with him. All humans are image-bearers of God and at no time should any image-bearer be diminished by another. God’s heart is that we push against every stereotype and every form of prejudice and injustice, that we should cross any man-made barrier, that we should do all in our power to build connecting bridges – human to human – irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status or political affiliation.
God is the ultimate example of power and privilege. Yet we see God, in the person of Jesus, taking all the privilege, authority and power he had at his disposal and using it to the benefit of the outcasts, the least and the powerless. Following Jesus means we must use whatever power and privilege we have been given to serve those who have neither in order to see them flourish and prosper.
We believe every human has been created to be in relationship with God irrespective of what any particular person may say they believe. We don’t view people as inside or outside, but we see everyone – including ourselves – as somewhere on a continuum of faith. Most humans are somewhere in the middle. We look to share life with people no matter where they fall on the faith continuum. As we do, we’re learning where each is and what they may need to take a step closer to relationship with God, what they need to inch closer to lasting faith in Jesus. Following Jesus, while ultimately requiring a heart-change, is nonetheless a learning process. None of us are experts. None of us has arrived. Each of us is a fellow-learner, all look to better understand and embrace Jesus and his way.
Listening carefully and truly observing someone’s life and needs is at the heart of our ability to show love and compassion. We can’t begin to understand & truly serve if we don’t listen well. So much of what passes as Christian ministry is some leader’s idea of what might be best for a particular group of people. Truly seeing people, knowing who they are and taking the time to hear them out is a critical piece of love. We see it as critical to daily ministry that we understand the culture people live in everyday, track with their personal histories and the current drama of their lives.
In contrast to much religious practice, we look to avoid producing any sense that acceptance with us is earned with compliance to a standard of practice. Such compliance is false religion and in direct contrast to the message of the gospel, that our acceptance comes solely through the work of Jesus. That Jesus-earned acceptance allows us to live in open, transparent relationships in which we know each other deeply and love each other anyway. Deep relationship doesn’t occur over a pew for a few minutes on Sunday morning. We value relationship that happens in actual life, in shared life that reveals true need. The revelation of true need is the beginning of restoration, and restoration is a core purpose of Jesus’ mission. If we are not seeing gospel-based restoration in the lives of people, we are not living out gospel-based church, we are simply living a religious facade. We’re not interested in empty religion. We expect what we believe will influence and dominate the way we live and anyone we contact in the course of daily life.
We believe place is critically important to God as he plants us in a place and expects us to serve in that place for his kingdom purposes.
The ministry of the Church in the New Testament appears to be decidedly local. Disciples of Jesus came out of the local community. Their leaders came from that same community. Talents, resources and gifts found within the body were dedicated to God for the good of the community.
For this reason, we are dedicated to encouraging and supporting local leaders who creatively explore local ministry and mission that work best in their specific context.
People spend far too much time alone these days, pursuing our personal agendas. It’s our God-given identity to live in community. And as the church, we are called to live as the body of Jesus and as family. Yet we’ve bought into the radical independence of our culture; a double-sided lie, which shouts, “You can do it alone!” and then reminds us, “You have to do it alone!”
But God didn’t create us to live that way. He created us in his image as communal beings. We are meant to thrive in intimate, close-knit units. We see it as a key mandate of living in Jesus that we do all we can to deny the desire for social independence. We’re establishing microchurches that are small enough to be radically intimate. Everyone is known. Lives are open to scrutiny and the need we each have for the life of Jesus and power of the Spirit is obvious. Everyone interacts regularly. Everyone serves and everyone is dependent. Everyone is valued.
This is church!
Jesus’ calling for each of his followers is disciple making. While not every image of a missionary that comes to mind is likely helpful here, it is helpful to imagine a missionary lifestyle. Like missionaries, we go and become part of a foreign culture, we orient our lives around those others, we learn their culture and language, and we become known as their friends. In this way, when we speak the truth of the gospel, it more easily finds a home in the heart of the listener. It is not making a once and done declaration about what we believe. After all, everyone believes something and feels they have good reason. Rather, it is a lifestyle, a daily intentional behavior. To make a disciple, a disciple-maker must walk out the life of Jesus in front of a person for a period of time. They must sacrifice, they must serve, they must set aside selfishness – this means a willingness to make that lived-out testimony about Jesus so important that we set aside our own loves and choices in order to see it through. This is what followers of Jesus do to proclaim him.
Since the fall of humanity, humans have been driven by an internal regulator that tells us all we have to strive to be acceptable to God, to others and even ourselves. Adam and Eve fell into self-improvement when they sowed fig leaves for clothes. Cain’s mistake was similar as he was consumed with producing his own acceptable sacrifice for God. Ever since, religion has followed a similar pathway. Religion that springs out of human ambition and striving is idolatry. In direct contrast, the first duty of faith is to rest in God. Our first priority in ministry is pointing people to find deep rest and acceptance in God. This is the constant message of the Scripture demonstrated in bold relief in the gospel message: Jesus died to make us acceptable to God. We are learning to look to him alone for our sense of well being, believing his acceptance of us is of greater value than any accolade we could receive from what we do. Out of that rest, we experience renewed energy to serve and love others.