Discipleship

Christlikeness as Vision

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Paul meant this when he wrote it to the Corinthians church (1 Cor. 11:1). They needed an example because some guys with big ideas, and not a lot of humility, had come into the church and were inciting division and the focus on some strange things. It was an era of confusion of what the church was supposed to be, who had a seat at the table, and where they were all headed.

We think they listened. There was still more correction to come but the church seemed to follow the example, becoming imitators for the glory of Christ and their flourishing. We aren’t all that different, and there is hope.

How often we are faced with the distractions and desires to have a future defined by things other than Christlikeness.

As a church re-planter I have had to answer my share of questions of where we are headed as a church and what exactly my vision is. It isn’t my favorite question to answer and mostly because I think the modern church has been wrongly conditioned to require “vision.” Now don’t hear me wrong. Vision is important in the church. We should have a dream of what our culture as a body will translate into long term. I have even over the years shared some big dreams of being a church that equips leaders and plants a family of churches in San Diego County, but maybe it isn’t believable because the questions keep coming.

The better question I think in the church is ‘who are we becoming?’ That’s what Paul was trying to get the Corinthians to ponder and perhaps we should spend more time imitating Christ than fantasizing about timelines and building campaigns.

I appreciate the example of Eugene Peterson and countless pastors that have ministered in obscurity, inviting people to imitate them as they imitated Christ. In the work of Peterson it is clear it was the soul that mattered and it is either being formed into a cultural expression that is bound to time or in sanctification made cruciform like our Savior.

It isn’t sexy, but it is good. Christlikeness as vision. It is what I desire for my own life and the life of our church. God will work out the numbers and timing. We will work out our salvation. Shall we?

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Outpost Ministry and Life

As parents we have wondered when it would be okay to introduce our kids to the classic movie Dances With Wolves. Maybe Kevin Costner’s best role and such a memorable movie for us Gen Xers. Of course the themes in the movie are not too devastating for our kids (11, 8, 6) but we remember them as bold because of the age we first watched.

Thinking of the lone soldier sent to serve at an outpost which he finds deserted relates significantly with small church ministry.

At times it can feel like, as the lone vocational pastor, I have been sent to run an outpost without battalion. Much of the work to be done falls into my hands and with few true partners in the labor, it can be an isolating experience. Like Costner’s character you have a couple of options. Go crazy and find yourself in the bottom of a pond. Or do the work, repair what is broken and restore the outpost. It’s exhausting and endless but beats the alternative.

I am thankful that I have among me wonderful people hungry for more of Jesus. They encourage me onward, but I can hear the whistle of the prairie as a desolate place if I spend too much time looking at the wrong things. It gives me empathy for other pastors in the small places. Faithfully toiling and bringing pleasure to God.

So friends if you find yourself in the deserted outposts of our day, press on. You are kept by Jesus for his glory. He will build his church and he will give you rest.