Those who desire to live in a way that advances the kingdom of God are faced with many decisions. One key crossroad is the decision to walk alone or in a group, to set into motion as many people as possible or built a monument of self-accomplishment.
A bee produces 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime of roughly seven weeks. One bee doesn’t really accomplish much. But when it works in partnership with a hive under the direction of a queen, it fulfills its God-given purpose in creation.
A large part of my life involves helping people, most of whom are Christians, but I do not limit myself to believers only. I find ways to fuse their faith and passion together in order to fulfill their God-given purpose, or in the case of non-believers, help them accomplish their goals. In the process, I build relationships and opportunities to speak into their lives.
Jesus was sent to earth by a loving Father and lived in community with those the Father gave Him. He loved and taught them. They did things together. He sent them out to serve and debriefed them when they returned. Jesus prayed for them. When He left them, the Father sent the Spirit to comfort, empower and guide them. These ordinary men and women went on to turn the world upside down.
Jesus could have completed His mission alone, but He chose to live and serve in the context of community. Jesus did a lot of good “things” (healed the sick, loved the forsaken, etc.), but there was much more to His earthly work than just a series of good works. Jesus took an approach that set in motion what was to become the Church.
Paul had a similar approach. We see this life strategy in 2 Timothy 2:2 and many other places. Paul had lovingly poured himself into Timothy – teaching, praying, modeling and experiencing life with him. In this passage, Paul encouraged Timothy to continue this pattern with others. Timothy was encouraged to invest in others in such a way that the Kingdom of God would grow, expand and multiply.
I am trying to follow this same pattern in my life – with the saints God has gathered around me as well as others who are not yet in relationship with the Father. I am learning that I must maintain several key attitudes in order to be effective in setting others in motion to change our community and the world.
- Life is not about me. If we want to expand the Kingdom of God, we must walk like Christ, serving and encouraging others without self-interest (Phil. 2:1-8). Getting this right is the foundation for the other attitudes.
- Respect everyone. Sometimes people do and say things that cause me to wonder what they ate the night before. But the Gospel calls me to treat everyone with dignity and respect, even if I don’t understand or agree with them. The people in my world are God’s creation, and so important that God’s Son died for all of them.
- Listening is critically important. When I really listen to someone, I acknowledge the fact that God is working in and through him or her. Asking good questions allows me to learn about others, and from them. Only then am I in a position to encourage them. Only then can I serve them in a way that moves them forward.
- Help people see themselves. A friend of mine, Tom Telford says, “Truth flies best on stories.” I have found that people embrace God’s calling most often when they can see themselves in the picture. So I work to envision them and their possible future. So I use stories to help people see the picture and then see themselves in the picture.
- Walk in loving integrity. Just telling people what they want to hear is neither love nor integrity. In order to be faithful to God’s call and effectively help people move forward, I have to earn the right to be heard, take advantage of teachable moments and boldly speak the truth in love.
- Prayer is my best gift. I can do everything right with a friend, but unless I have prayed for and with them little lasting good will come from our encounters. I have disciplined myself to pray daily for those God has given to me. I pray for them by name. I meditate on each person, and listen for ways God leads me to pray for him or her. This cements my investment in these relationships. I know it. My friends know it. And God knows it.
I have chosen to not walk alone. I am trying to do my part in this eternal and global movement under the direction of The King. By God’s grace, I am living in community in such a way that my friends and I are impacting our neighborhoods and the world with God’s love.
Who has God placed in your life? Are you just doing a bunch of good things for those God has entrusted to you, or are you serving in a way that moves people forward in God’s mission? Bring glory to God by serving and challenging each other to a more deliberate and missional life.