By Derick Sherfey, Director of Content Strategy
This year my family- along with a couple dozen others- made the thousand+ mile trek West to the Rocky Mountains to begin our journey of planting churches in the beautiful, but broken urban core of Denver, Colorado. Entering into a new city as a leadership team necessitates a lot of skills in these early formative days as we seek to enjoy Jesus and live for the joy of others. We set out mapping our neighborhood, exegeting culture, engaging tribes, and looking for people of peace using tools like the Tradecraft Workbook and First 30 Daze.
These are exciting days filled with dependence on the Spirit and watching God answer audacious, specific prayers, but throughout this year’s experience of starting over as missionaries in a new context, we’ve continually had to come face-to-face with a daunting reality:
DREAMING AND DOING ARE TWO VERY DIFFERENT THINGS.
“Umm, Duh!”, you may be saying. I agree, but I wish I was past having “duh” moments in my attempts at following Jesus and helping lead his church on mission. There’s grace for our failures, and there’s grace to free us to ask really honest questions about our obedience and, by his grace, do something about it.
I’ve had to be honest with myself: sometimes I dream/strategize/whiteboard mission as “spiritual novocaine” to numb my soul from actually stepping out in mission. I’m tempted to love the idea of “neighboring” but rarely find time to actually walk across the street. I’m all for the idea of engaging the nations God has brought into our backyard or to be a church among the poor, but often my dinner table is filled with people who are a lot like me. My heart is compelled by the way of Jesus- to see the church caught up in the holistic vision of the kingdom of God breaking through in every nook & cranny (you can take the boy out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the boy…) of culture, but we’re fighting the drift to settle for structures of ‘doing church’ in ways that are comfortable, manageable, and safe.
It would do us all well to slow down from time to time and ‘evaluate’ our pursuits. Are we being faithful to do what Jesus has told us to do? Are we still growing in listening to God and his call on our lives for the next season? What are our metrics of success? How will we know if we’re doing it?
Below is Part Two of a three part mini-series of a personal discipleship diagnostic flowing out of 10 convictions of a balanced pursuit of apprenticeship to the way of Jesus we’ve developed at The Oaks Church that’s meant to be worked out in the context of community. Maybe spend a half day away working through some of these questions and ask the Spirit to deepen us in faithful obedience as His Church on His mission in the world.
DEPENDENCE || We prayerfully rely on the Spirit of God in humble rest and faithful obedience
Have I been truly walking in step with the Holy Spirit’s heart, promptings, and conviction? How am I living out of self-sufficiency or rebellion that may be quenching the Spirit? Am I more concerned with control or being filled? Am I genuinely listening to what God may be saying? What do I need to obey?
Has my life been too busy, hurried, and distracted to hear God’s voice? What can I do to build healthy margins and priorities to better manage my schedule? What do I need to cut out of my life? What commitments do I need to say “no” to? How have I been practicing healthy spiritual rhythms of Sabbath rest, fasting, focused contemplative prayer, silence, and solitude? Am I regularly carving out time to retreat away to be with God? What needs to happen to build this into my life?
Have I been consistently providing space to identify and feel my emotions? Have I been guiding and directing my heart? Or have I been more controlled by my emotions lately? What burdens, fears, and anxieties do I need to cast on the one who cares for me?
COMMUNITY || We love one another as family in all of life
Am I being faithful to pursue the commitment I have made to my faith family in our membership covenant? Am I pursuing the fleshing out of the “one another’s”? Where has my attitude toward the church been off recently? What aspects of our church am I most thankful? How can I see God at work through this local church over this season?
Have I been consistent, committed, and actively involved in environments to give of myself to genuine life with God, life on life, life in community, and life on mission relationships? Am I making the corporate gathering and other arenas of the church fellowship a priority?
Am I keeping my heart open to others? Or have I retreated to surface-level, convenient substitutes for authentic community? Am I walking in the light with complete transparency and vulnerability? Do I have any secrets? Is there any inauthenticity in the way I am relating to others that I need to repent of? Am I just as committed to fighting for my brothers’ and sisters’ joy and against their sin as I am my own? Am I encouraging and admonishing others?
Is there any bitterness, hurt, or unforgiveness I am harboring in my soul against anyone? Have I done everything possible to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration with them? What sin do I need to confess and repent of publically as I pursue reconciliation?
SERVANTS || We open up who we are for the flourishing of our neighbors and neighborhoods
Am I taking Jesus’ command seriously to love my neighbor as I love myself? Have I been seeking to serve others or have them serve me? Have I been living recently with a posture toward the good of others? Or have I been viewing life through the lens of self-fulfillment? What needs to change in this next season of life?
What gifts has the Church been affirming in me? Am I cultivating and intentionally using my spiritual gifts for the building up of the Church? Am I operating as a consumer or an investor right now? Am I running in my lane so others are built up in every way into Jesus? How have I seen this happening?
Have I been faithfully practicing hospitality toward outsiders during this last season of life? Is our table truly open and a place of reconciliation and renewal? How has our home been used for mission recently? Are we showing any favoritism only toward people who can bless us in return? Or are we defining our “neighbors” the way Jesus does to include all people? What needs to change? Am I living a lifestyle of open-handed generosity? How have I tightened my grip too tightly on the things of this world? Do I have a proper perspective on “stuff” right now? Am I sacrificially, cheerfully, and generously giving of my money, my calendar, and my passions and skills? How is God calling me to step out of what is comfortable or convenient in this next season of life?