“…make disciples of all the nations…”
These words of Jesus stay with us and implore us as we serve out Christ’s Vision for Eastside Church of Christ.
“…share the good news of Jesus with and disciple a lost and dying world…” rings in our hearts and spiritual ears with the call of Jesus leading us to engage all those that don’t yet know Him and all He brings into our lives. Never have we felt more intentional. Never have we felt His call more urgent than now. That’s only part of what’s been going on at our Eastside Campus since we launched April 16th.
Since that time we have been challenged daily in our interactions with others, bringing Kingdom everywhere we go and asking for the Spirit to guide us moment by moment into places not many of us have been. It’s overwhelming and exhilarating all at the same time and -quite frankly- we love it as we have no choice but to trust God and I kind of think that’s the place He calls blessed. In that, Jesus continues to call us at Eastside to be a “frontline people” so to speak; a people who, with the gospel in heart, go out and intentionally reach the lost and make Eastside a place for the unchurched. This is His Vision. It can be uncomfortable for us, but the Lord is stretching each one of us to keep His Vision first in our thoughts and actions.
This Vision that Jesus gives us is what shapes and has to take shape of everything we do at our Eastside services, from eating together, table-discussions, style of sermons, the question time and even our time of singing, etc, all of it, because -it’s the Vision of Jesus for His Church- a Vision of engaging people right where they’re at and pointing them to Jesus, not in some watered down style, for that’s not us as a Church. But ensuring we get rid of all of our assumptions about people, losing a bit of our “Christianese” talk, making sure everything we do and say is accessible for others.
It’s truly the work of being a missionary in your own city with a culture that knows about Christ about as much as you and I know about Taoism. This IS the world we live in now and assumptions about people having a biblical background are a thing of the past. The clearest idea most people have about Christians is The Simpsons character, Ned Flanders. It’s time for us to rise up out of the ashes in a world plagued by words, brokenness and empty promises and live out Christ centered lives built on the hope and assurance Jesus alone gives. It makes me want to break out in praise with songs like “In Christ Alone” and “Cornerstone” for at such a time like this, with instability everywhere, Jesus is the anchor for our souls and He alone offers true stability by bringing the father-less to a Father who’s always loved them, and always been for them.
No one is like our God!
Our job as believers then is not to take people just to the Bible, but to take them to Jesus IN the Bible. He’s real. He alive and He’s their only hope.
In that vein, all of what we do at Eastside has to come through the funnel of evangelism and discipleship. This is what Christ has called us to, therefore this is what we must do-as He is the head of the church. We have to be intentional about this because it’s so easy to drift and the truth is, not many of us are used to living this way. We are used to Bible studies and, well, more Bible studies. The Lord challenged us directly and asked us “how many more Bible studies do you really need? DO what I’ve told you”
A couple verses from the Message a verse sum this up well (Colossians 2:6-7):
“My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it!”
So this is the “why” behind our call to be intentional with everything that’s going on with our own lives and everything we do over at Eastside. What’s so rewarding is getting to see some of the fruit already in those who are coming and in the lives of those serving. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” – and it’s happening, Our Lord Jesus is really touching and really beginning to change lives.
Some examples of that intentionality are with our Core Team, who pray daily for those God has put on their hearts. Why? To gain the Lord’s heart for those we know and to ask God to do only what He can do-soften hearts.
Not only that, but each week we reach out and look for ways to connect with these folks in some way and so we join Jesus who came to us and invites us into life with Him. This is not to say this is easy, in fact, it’s difficult at times to keep it real and keep asking the Lord to break our hearts for those he’s given us-to fill our hearts with His love for them, to show us how we might serve and love them into His Kingdom.
It’s difficult because there simply is no pretending. This Jesus life is not one that can stay in our heads; there’s no app for it (but it’s one that calls us and makes us alive to live out Spirit filled, Christ-centered lives- in the midst of a culture that makes every attempt to keep us self-centered). Jesus calls our every breath to attention, our every thought and every weakness.
In this way Sunday night (our service time) is not, for a team of evangelists, our main focus. Our main focus, given to us in prayer, is to connect weekly and build bridges into the lives of those that God gives us between Monday and Saturday. For if we aren’t reaching out and discipling from Monday to Saturday-there will not be a Sunday.
Another intentional movement the Lord has blessed us with is to consider how we are to disciple and reach out to others in the areas of everyday life. What I mean by this is… Consider how many times you eat a week… probably close to twenty-one meals, right? Why not invite someone into what you’re already doing? It adds nothing to an already busy life! In fact, inviting others in to what you are already doing enhances the activity. Join in Kingdom work by taking a few times a week to meet with someone you know who needs Jesus in what you are already doing. It might even be just going for a walk – why not invite someone on your prayer list along for that walk? By praying for these folks everyday and then meeting with them I have no doubt the Lord will use these meals or walks for His purposes.
We are beginning to see more and more folks coming who have no connection with Christ and it’s thrilling to be on this front line. But we have rightly and quickly discovered that this work Jesus has called us to do- we cannot do.
Yes, I say it again, the work He calls us to, we cannot do. It is Him, living and loving through us that makes us even adequate to carry out his work.
Like Jesus says about vines and branches in John 15, apart from Him we can do nothing! Our story is no different; God desires to do amazing and wonder filled things through us. Things only He can do. Things only He should receive glory for, because it’s His work from start to finish, and He’s invited us to join in.
We get to, by the Spirit, participate in His resurrection of lives from the dead. We are starting to see the buds of His life beginning to bloom in those who we get to share life with. But we are really learning at the feet of Jesus and taking His words seriously, with a sense of urgency with regards to evangelism/discipleship at this third site of the Grande Prairie Church of Christ called Eastside. We’ve never fully attempted this before. Any of us.
Overall, it seems that this is what we call “Gospel-centered living” and we at Eastside are in the midst of a huge learning and living curve.
May we know Him, and make Him known,