For more than one-hundred years “To Know Christ and Make Christ Known” has been the mission statement of a historic congregation in my hometown. A thriving renewal congregation in Florida has a similar but expanded mission statement, “TO KNOW JESUS, TO MAKE JESUS KNOWN, TO LIVE A JESUS LIFE.” For renewal churches, the additional focus on living the Jesus life is essential for vibrant ministry.
In a recent two-part REBUILDERS podcast “The Opening Door to Renewal”, Mark Sayers notes that since WWII the North American church has developed a theology focused on justification over sanctification. In other words, it is a theology focused on knowing and affirming rather than doing and sacrificing. This theology, argues Sayers, has created churches filled with shallow Jesus followers evidenced in the behavior of many during the pandemic.
Congregations seeking renewal must move beyond what Sayers calls “Therapeutic Individualism” (the focus on what makes me feel good) towards true servant living (living the Jesus life).
Here are Some Investments That Encourage Living the Jesus Life:
Investment 1: Begin with You
The fourth step of Alcoholics Anonymous is to “make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Begin there. Do my choices give evidence that I’m living the Jesus life? Am I modeling servant living? Leaders lead by the life they live more than by the words they speak.
Investment 2: Encourage Scriptural Bathing
Learning the Jesus life demands a fresh awakening to God-focused living. That awakening happens as we daily bathe in God’s life-giving Word. A movement focused on community-wide Biblical emersion is the Public Reading of Scripture. Discover more here.
Investment 3: Begin a Congregational Discussion About Jesus-Living
Begin a conversation about living the Jesus life. Congregants could listen to the REBUILDERS podcast mentioned above or small groups could discuss Charles Sheldon’s classic IN HIS STEPS (or a contemporary equivalent). Encourage fresh imagining about servant living.
Investment 4: Provide Some Beginning Experiences in Jesus Living
Congregations should practice Jesus-living and reflect on what they practice. Simple activities like serving a meal at a homeless shelter or volunteering for a Saturday on a Habitat for Humanity build site can be simple ways to get things started.
Investment 5: Create Systems of Learning and Accountability
For a season, encourage members to find someone with whom they can connect to discuss how they have, for better or worse, lived the Jesus life in the previous week. Through sharing, encouragement and prayer, an increased desire for Jesus-living will emerge.
Investment 6: Go Deeper in Understanding Todays Mental Models
Mark Sayers says ours is an age of experiential individualism where flourishing is measured by how many good feelings, good experiences and good possessions we can acquire and post on Instagram. Christian leaders should think about this deeply and share what they discover.
Investment 7: Keep Raising the Bar on Living the Jesus Life
Jesus’ method of disciple-making was to make an ask and, later, increase that ask. His early ask was “leave your nets and follow me.” His later ask was “take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus following is like that. Baby steps morph into larger steps. Each step demands greater faith, greater courage and, amazingly, produces greater joy.