When I hear the words "living recklessly," it stirs up images of things I was constantly told not to do as a teenager: Don't Smoke, Don't Drink, Don't Drive Too Fast. When I think of living recklessly, I think of two things: carelessness and fearlessness. So, I was struck a little off guard when I read the following passage:
"If we allow ourselves to live recklessly for Him, then we, too, will see His glory. We will see Him do the impossible. Christians today like to play it safe 'even if there is no God.' But if we truly desire to please God, we cannot live that way. We have to do things that cost us during our life on earth but will be more than worth it in eternity." p. 116
I'm going to veer off course for the next few entries (but will always tie it back to the principles laid out in Crazy love)...only to strengthen the points I'm hoping to make. About a year ago, I read a really great book: The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. In this book, Mr. Stearns makes some really bold statements (much like Chan), about the state of Christianity here in the States. I picked up the book a little while ago and flipped through the pages. At times like these, I really appreciate my willingness to use highlighters when I read. I looked over all the passages that I highlighted just a year ago and was struck by the reoccurring theme. Jesus preached about four major areas in His ministry: love, compassion, mercy and justice. Please, keep this in mind as I share three quotes from The Hole in Our Gospel:
"On Sunday morning, safe in our church pews and surrounded by friends, it can be all too easy to leave the world's violence, suffering, and turmoil outside- out of sight, out of mind" p. 2
"...Being a Christian, or follower of Jesus Christ, requires much more than just having a personal and transforming relationship with God. It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world. If your personal faith in Christ has no positive outward expression, then your faith- and mine- has a hole in it." p. 2
"...Christian community is not enough. God has always demanded more. When we committed ourselves to following Christ, we also committed to living our lives in such a way that a watching world would catch a glimpse of God's character- His love, justice, and mercy- through our words, actions and behaviors." p. 3
So... where am I going with this... to be honest, it's about where God's going with this because THIS IS NOT WHAT I PLANNED ON WRITING TODAY! God is using a book I read over a year ago to answer a repeated prayer that I've had the past few months... and, hopefully, this will all make sense as I TRY to string everything together: Living recklessly for God isn't about carelessness... but it IS about fearlessness. In my opinion, almost everything, if NOT everything, comes back to our inability to truly trust God: not trusting who He is, what He promises and what He has for us. Chan is right! Many of us live a rather safe existence. We don't want to be seen as "radical." Better, yet, we're afraid to completely give our lives over to Christ because, heaven forbid, God will miraculously change our hearts and place in us a desire to live radically... Oh my, what will the neighbors think?
I'm not going to sit here and try to analyze why (and, in the end, it doesn't really matter!). What matters is that, collectively, we are not living our lives the way we have been called to live... as individuals or as a church. The three quotes from The Hole in Our Gospel speak to me...actually, scream out to me... for THIS has been my struggle the past few months. I see the importance of fellowship in Christ, and those that know me...know that my heart TRULY aches for that fellowship. I am also torn with this insatiable desire to live outside the four walls of my church... that "public and transforming relationship with the world."
This brings me to the last quote from The Hole in Our Gospel: "Christian community is not enough." There's another passage in the book that talks about the stark differences between the Mega Churches here in the US and the small community churches in Africa. Stearns talks about how when you open up a church bulletin here in the States, the overwhelming majority of the activities listed are for people within the church... fellowship opportunities, small groups, youth groups, classes. And I'm not here to belittle the need or importance of these things. They ARE important... but what I'm saying is that they are NOT MORE IMPORTANT than the call Jesus has put on each and every one of us to preach His message outside the four walls of our church. They are BOTH EQUALLY important...but do our church bulletins reflect that? The real questions is whether or not our churches reflect this message. More importantly, are we missing the biggest opportunity there is... to combine these two ministries into one?
If we spend our ministry mostly focused on bringing people into the four walls of our church... I will be the first to say that we are playing it safe. We're not living out the full message of Christ. What better way to teach people the message of Jesus Christ than to hold their hand and SHOW THEM? Reading Scripture in just theory until you actively practice what is taught. When you are posed with the question of whether we, as a church, should focus on "internal" ministry or "external" ministry... the answer is YES... to both. We NEED to be doing both. We HEAR what we are taught... but we REMEMBER and LEARN what we do. Some might see this as living recklessly. I assure you it isn't... but, it very well might bring you and others outside of your comfort zones. But, remember this... living INSIDE our comfort zone isn't where Jesus has called us to be!
I'm quite honestly at a loss today. This is not where I was planning to go... I'll save that for the next entry, I guess. Maybe just spend time reflecting on where your heart is with this message. What ministry do you spend your time focused on... and if you can't think of a ministry that you're even involved in... maybe now is the perfect time to start!