The word “encounter” has become a routine word for me of late as I’ve prayed over and thought through what God has called us to in His Word and in response to His Word. Look at the life of a friend or family member who you know is in God’s Word consistently and relationally, genuinely encountering God there in prayer and in listening and in making his or her requests before the LORD of glory. As we pass off the weight of our burdens to the Living God, we encounter Him in more intimate ways than ever before. As we TRUST Him with our cares and anxieties, His concern for those we encounter becomes our concern.
In our day-to-day lives, we encounter so many who want friendship, and they want more than just the material goods we think they want from us. Even our day-to-day interactions with friends can be more than just one hand washing the other, utilitarian interactions for the good of one another. They can also be more than just feel-good interactions of friendship. As we encounter those we call friends, let’s consider how to stir each other up to love and life on mission for Jesus. As we do this, we find ourselves absorbed with the Person and work on the cross and in our lives of the Redeemer Himself.
As the days go on since our move to Merced, CA, I’ve begun seeing a vision for this county and for Tuolumne County that I believe is truly biblical for any community. Imagine with me us truly taking the steps to form fast friendships with a few people and working hand-in-hand to live on mission for Jesus, to live all in and all out for Jesus! This could be a band of friends from the same local church or among believers who live in the same neighborhood or work in the same work place or have similar interests. I’ve narrowed down in my thoughts to three easy groups from which we could form small groups on mission for Jesus:
(1) People in your community group or able to form a community group with you in your local church;
(2) People in your workplace;
(3) People in a community context.
It’s purposeful to keep the categories broad initially as we seek to see a movement of believers living all in and all out for Jesus. We want to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as He opens opportunities for us to work hand-in-hand with other believers. Key in all of this is that we are less focused on formal ties and open to freely functioning with loose ties. There is definite benefit to formal ties, and these can more consistently form for those who are a part of the same local church. When you’re not a part of the same local church, you might as well pray about starting a home church if you’re doing much of your missional activities together week in and week out with the same friends. This isn’t a must, but it’s not a terrible idea. Get the blessing and oversight of one of the churches in town, and then start meeting and reaching folks around you with the love of Jesus. As we simplify our mindsets in some ways, we’ll find ourselves deepening and broadening in other ways. I truly believe there is a storm brewing of good and concerning risings of believers gathering in smaller contexts and living out what they believe they are called to live out as Christians. It is healthy and strongly stated throughout the New Testament that we submit ourselves one to another. We should not do life on mission totally in a vacuum or just among a couple of close friends. It’s helpful to have some oversight and mentoring from those outside your core group. That said, we could use more core groups in every pocket of our communities as believers. We become so stage oriented that we miss out on the pooling of believers in a more extra-local sense.
It takes time and a lot of mistakes and best efforts to see a move of the Spirit really take off in God’s children’s willing hearts. It’s not all easily controlled by any one spiritual leader. I know on my part, I’m just seeking to document what I’m observing in these two counties. God is at work in our communities whether we’re ready or not, and He is working in each of our lives as His Son’s redeemed and blood-bought Bride. May we be more willing this week to God’s banding of us together in smaller poolings of beleivers. Look around you and see where God has naturally given you some loose ties between you and some other believers. Look for how you could work together week in and week out to serve those you together touch the lives of, and pray together for God’s wisdom and joy in your labor. Maybe get a few meals together to kick some ideas around and game-plan, praying for courage to follow Jesus with more unity and consistency.
Please pray for me this week, friends, as I’ll be speaking at a fundraiser for Love INC of Merced, CA. Sherry Macias asked me to speak and I intend to share this vision of God’s people really living out our lives on mission for Jesus as a united front here in Merced County. My main focus right now as I prepare the talk is that we as believers should be making a margin in every day, purposing to be able to be interrupted, creating space in our lives to sense the Spirit’s promptings and really touch down in the lives of those we encounter. When we do this consistently, it’s amazing the kinds of encounters we have and how God shows up in wonderful ways. It’s like I’ve heard it said, there are divine appointments awaiting all of us every day. We just need to live with pure eyes and hearts, washed by the story of Christ’s death for us daily, and we will notice these appointments more readily.
Much love, friends!