Something about going beyond

Something about going beyond

I was contemplating an imaginary scenario in the shower this morning. After imaginary conversations, they’re probably my favourite shower pastime. Oh, and getting wet.

My scenario began with a thought I’d had years back and ended with a poll.

The thought was: if you knocked on the door of every person on your street and asked them whether they’d ever heard of someone called Darlene Zschech, how many would say ‘yes’?

This thought was rooted in a time when she was the face of Hillsong albums and more churches than not were ‘shouting to the Lord’.

The follow-up thought was a poll. If I surveyed my neighbourhood and asked them which person or persons they were most familiar with and have done ‘good stuff’, who would they choose? The list was: Darlene Zschech, Karl Bath, Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King Jnr.

Now, some reading this will already be thinking ‘well that’s an unfair list’, so let me say a couple of things before I unpack my little thought.

Everyone on this list loves/loved God, served Him with passion, and they loved others. And in saying any of this, I am in no way suggesting anything negative about the fruit of Darlene’s lifetime of serving Jesus to the glory of God. In fact, I will suggest something: I’ll say that I think she’s been an incredible servant for God with decades of faithful, faith-filled, humble, sold out love for Jesus. She was a strong catalyst in fuelling my desire to love and lead others towards Jesus in worship. And she consistently went beyond the confines of Hillsong Church.

No, the thought behind my imaginary poll (the best kind of poll, by the way), is that I expect the order might look something like this:
1. Martin Luther King Jnr
2. Mother Theresa
3. Billy Graham
4. Darlene Zschech or Karl Barth

Before you start your internal rant about it not being about being noticed, or the widow’s mite, or being careful of practising your righteous acts before men, hear my simple thought.

I suspect the order of this list based on my expectations of what a general population has experienced or observed of God’s love being expressed through these people.

Not whether or not they loved, but how far-reaching that love was beyond the (sometimes) walls of the church.

Jesus said: “By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus words here are directed at His followers. He was saying that the love you have for other followers of me, will draw others to me who don’t know me.

But that’s not all Jesus said.

He said that the greatest pigeon-pair of commandments were to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and to love your neighbour as yourself.”

He said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

I think the list would take on the shape I’ve imagined because of the way that these people showed radical Christlike love to people who weren’t like them, who weren’t ‘one of them’, who were difficult to love, who are deemed unlovable by others, or who were in outright opposition to them.

In short, those who were ‘beyond’ the primary locus of their faith community.

I have no doubt of MLK’s passion for the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where he served as pastor, but I’m also convinced that the United States would not have a public holiday celebrating his life if his ministry never reached beyond that community.

And before this can of worms runs rampant, I’m not suggesting either/or, but both.

I find it impossible to conceive of a life patterned after Jesus’ Gospel that does not reach far beyond our faith communities with Gospel words and Gospel deeds that spring from the Good News of Jesus and are fuelled by our communities of faith.

I don’t think we were ever intended to conceive of such a life.

Paul writes to the church in Rome:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?

Romans 10:14

I’m not for a moment diminishing the importance of proclamation within the Body of Christ. It’s vital. Nor am I diminishing the operation of the five-fold ministry giftings – they’re essential for the equipping of the saints for ministry. But my read of Paul’s words here is in the context of the proclamation of the Gospel by word and deed beyond in a beyond-Body context.

Our faith communities must be healthy within so they can be healthy beyond, no doubt. But if we become consumed with busyness within – however necessary, essential, or effective – we have little margin or inclination to our primary mission: making disciples who make disciples.

People who do not know Jesus nor his unstoppable love for them may never know unless people like you and me pattern that love consistently beyond the Body. And within. But also beyond!

If you’re like me, you probably paralyse yourself regularly because you feel so clunky and awkward with your stilted expressions of Christlike love. Do it anyway. Keep practising at it because it’s life-giving.

To be established in Christ is to be located in His mission to the world. A mission that sees those who follow Him being deeply rooted and established in Him and the communities that walk alongside one another following him, but who also reach beyond to partner in his salvation work to a world that he so loves.

Nothing compares to the promise I have in You.

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