I trust you are comfortable. If not, grab a pillow or walk on over to that lazy boy (if you can move whatever device you are reading this on) with a beverage that you can hold on to for a few minutes – maybe a coffee or a tea. I want to take you on a journey. It’s one that you might relate to, one that I think most of us probably had as a kid.
The first day of school.
If it has brought some uneasy memories back to the surface, I apologize.
But maybe for some of us, it has brought to light – or even reminded us of – those memories where we felt like we could stand tall, on top of the world, with nothing in our way and victory in our sight.
For me, it was uneasy.
I was (what felt like) the shyest, most reserved and self-conscious kid on the planet and now I must get thrown into a room of 20 other kids (or these days it would be 30 – yikes!) and share my feelings, thoughts, and actually do things that my teacher will report back on?!?!
I think I’d rather hibernate. Maybe even try osmosis so I can stay home, but still learn somehow.
Then, I can come out of hiding on my own time, learn my own way, at my own pace, with my own people (which as an introvert means just by myself, thank you).
Why did it feel necessary to send me, as a 5-year-old kid, to school to associate with other people – some who might be smarter, more outgoing, more attractive, taller (…maybe) – that could do anything better than me?
Well, fast forward 25 years (now you can probably catch on to how old I am) and I can tell the 5-year-old me that it really was (and is) worth it in the long run.
Now I’m not as shy, as introverted, as self-conscious as that little version of me. Instead, I was given an opportunity to understand and learn things about me, the world, and life and grow a little bit along the way (yes, a little taller, too). You really can learn things from other people that fade in and out of your life as you journey onwards to bigger and better stuff. Maybe some of those people stick by your side through it all (for me, that didn’t happen!).
So, this is a nice story (maybe) and it was a relatable read (maybe) – but what the heck does it have to do with anything (specifically, Ecclesia)?
Well, friends. This is the moment. This is where everything is bonded together in one fascinating story!
Remember that first day of school for me, how it was intimidating and (just slightly) overwhelming (and I put on a good face to hide it from everyone – it’s what introverts do!)?
I had a flashback moment to that day about 5 months ago when I was approached to ask to consider being part of a church plant.
WHAATTT?!?!?!?! ME?!?!?!?!?! They do know I am introverted, self-conscious, and reserved……RIGHT?!?!?!
But I put on a good face. I probably looked really, really excited and honoured that I was being asked to be part of the future of an essential part of the Kingdom.
No pressure, though.
I remember coming back to my wife after hearing about it in the “recruiting” session and being excited to tell her that we were on the radar for this opportunity.
There is something that moves inside of us when we are called and anointed for Kingdom work that is much greater than all those barriers the world has determined we are.
Which really, at the end of the day, is each one of us – called to do Kingdom work (and it looks different for each one of us) and we are potentially our own barriers to that calling.
I can’t tell you why I was so excited or eager about this opportunity.
I can’t tell you why those underlying things (self-conscious, reserved, introvert) didn’t even show their face – not even to me.
I can tell you that when God has a plan and you are a part of it, He really plans on making you a part of it.
I can tell you that when the Kingdom is about to get a little bit stronger, and a little bit bigger, there is not a single wall, or barrier, or hindrance that can’t be broken down.
So if I could send a message back to me 5 months ago, that is what I would send.
I have learned about that so clearly over that time, but even more so over an 8 week study we did by Karen Wilk called Don’t Invite Them To Church.
Weird title, isn’t it? Isn’t that our “duty”? Our “obligation” as followers of Jesus? If we invite them to church, then our job is done. We’ve brought someone to Jesus and enhanced the Kingdom of God.
Isn’t that just like throwing that 5-year-old me into his first day of school and saying, “Have fun, Daniel, I’ve done my part – I brought you here!”
(from Karen Wilk’s book) “The Bible describes the church as the people of God, or the community of God with a mission. The biblical word for church is ecclesia, meaning “called-out ones”. We are called out, not to leave something, but to love and to be God’s presence where we are…that is what the church was made and meant to be, and that is what we find in the New Testament: a community of Jesus’ followers with the mission of bringing God’s blessing where they live.”
That’s my new pet peeve, I am certain of it – throwing someone into a church building that you hand picked off the street, or maybe an old friend or acquaintance because of that feeling of obligation as a Christ-follower to bring someone to Jesus. One more check on the list, right?
Does God do that? Does God hand pick us to be His child, then leave us to fend for ourselves?
If there is anything that has become so crystal clear to me as I’ve been on this journey – and the 8 week journey of our study – it is that everyone matters. I know that seems obvious. But part of making everyone matter also means putting forward an effort to love them. This also means that a relationship needs to happen. There’s no on the fence, um’s and ah’s, or conditions to it – it’s a necessity.
There is more work to be done outside the walls of a church building than there is inside.
Otherwise, what Jesus do we really represent? What Kingdom are we really living for? What are we really a part of? Why do we just come to church on Sundays and believe that’s it?
Aren’t we called to love our neighbour?! Surely that doesn’t mean just the person who sits beside us in our pew every week.
Being on the introvert side, I must say I can relate to those who feel uncomfortable when they hear the word church and walk through it for the first time (or maybe its just been a long time). Or even, if we are part of the church hearing those dreaded words “go out and be disciples to all nations”. But I also know that God can use an introvert to build His Kingdom. He doesn’t care what you are, He cares who and whose you are and whether you have a heart for Him.
Something happens to me when I let God use me as part of Kingdom work. I never would have told you I would lead small groups, lead worship, share my testimony, pray out loud (sometimes), or even that I would be a leader within the church, or preach, or help plant a church. When we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and let that move in us and trust that, amazing things can happen.
This is one of those things – the church plant. It is and it will be a journey. But the beautiful thing is that it is a journey that 8 of us (so far) are taking together, and God is at the centre – the heart – of it all.
And don’t ever think that God won’t teach or reveal things to you that are outside of the box of what it is you are doing. I’ve learned more about me, about others, about the body of Christ, about church, even about discipline (the discipline of study and commitment to the Word) than I could have ever imagined.
Here I thought I was being thrown into the wolves for a church plant.
Turns out God has been teaching me not to just see the church, but be the church.
That also means be Jesus. Don’t just see him.
A heart that truly follows Jesus can shake things up. Just have heart.
I guess it’s time to shake the Kingdom.
Matthew 5:13-16 says,
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
So it gives Light to everyone. We don’t hide “under a bowl” (or keep it inside the doors). Let it shine for everyone to see. So, be inside out people. Be an inside out church. Just like when you turn a shirt inside out – the label disappears, but the foundation colour is still there and it catches your attention, because people will ask you why, or tell you, your shirt is inside out.
So the same thing with church. Why are you outside your church walls? Why are you out here?
So this is an exciting time. We now, with people on fire and a heart for God’s Kingdom, can be a church that goes out, that does things a little differently, that wipes the labels away.
As a 5 year old introverted kid, I was content to sit in a corner and watch. But I wouldn’t have learned much, grown much, or challenged myself in any way.
Love is the biggest Light that cannot be contained, so just Love. If you’ve ever wondered what this all means, being a follower, being missional – just Love.
What does that look like?
Love over hate. Love over stereotypes, prejudice, racism, fear, religion, politics, violence.
Love for justice. Love for hope. Love for people. Love for the future of the world. Of us. For us.