“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Acts
I had a Zoom this week with two men. If I mentioned their names, you wouldn’t know them which is how they prefer things. Over a lifetime of commitment to follow Jesus, they have catalysed the planting of some 75,000 churches, involving several million new believers across over 50 countries, spanning 11 major people groups. Their vision, they felt, still wasn’t able to match the breadth of God’s and in every instance, they claimed the work solely as ‘the Lord’s’.
Why I was on the call is bewildering, but it was fascinating and clearly there are lessons to be learned from people who are in the harvest, doing the work with staggering success. For example, there are still 6 billion unreached people in the world (incl a billion who attend church but still don’t follow Jesus) most of whom are sitting across from our desks, doorways, streets and shopping centres. Such people cover every people group in the world and sit in every country. None are harder to reach than the others, because we don’t do the transforming, God does.
What is patently clear though, is that if we continue with the current model we simply have no chance of reaching these people and fulfilling God’s task for mission. Something has to change.
Firstly, we need to recognise that it is the ordinary every day believers, who are the key to the success of the spread of the Gospel. Few believe that they either have any obligation, or can be useful to Christ in fulfilling the singularly important task in his agenda of rescuing people. That needs to change on a massive scale. Every believer must realise the essential nature of who they are in Christ, what we are all called to be, and what it means to follow him.
The current clergy of every description should abdicate their thrones, and lead the people out into the harvest, firstly by example. They above all, have been responsible for building their own kingdoms and stifling their ‘flock’ into thinking that every task has to be completed by a ‘professional Christian’. For too long, Protestants especially have criticised their Catholic neighbours over the need for a ‘mediator’ when they are as guilty themselves. All we have done is changed the title. If we don’t change, then expect Christ to change us, which is ominous.
We need to unbrand our Faith; the world is terribly confused about Hillsong, C3, Cornerstone, Lighthouse, the Church of the Good Shepherd, the Chapel of St Katherine…do you get the picture? Try saying “church” to the unchurched and watch closely their response. Church is about paedophile priests, a life of “thou shalt nots” and a culture that is alien to all but the finger wagging fundamentalists. However, brand Jesus fills people with awe and questions, interest and curiosity. There is only one brand we should be proclaiming, and his name is above ours.
For far too long, Christendom has been star-struck with big names, great speakers, wealthy healers or those who are at the front of the stage. We are no different from the world. But are these people really as effective as they proclaim.?
As I rounded out my conversation with these men, a thought struck that God is still doing his work in unknown places with unknown people. That has been the case from the beginning, personified in Jesus of Nazareth, with Peter James and John the fishermen right through to now. Their legacy came long after they were gone, yet they changed the world more than any other.
Around the world, almost unaware, there is a movement of the ordinary the unnamed and the unbranded. Simple people with little education or not much to their name, are in their neighbourhood proclaiming a name that is higher than all others, enjoining others to join the party. The sick are being healed, the blind are seeing and the lame leaping for joy.
Make no mistake friends, God is passing over those who want his Glory, for those who know they are not good enough, with nothing to offer but themselves but who’s resolute obedience is towards the Majesty of one who is to come.
Here’s to the King, who above everyone made himself ordinary. Let’s take a leaf out of his book, let us follow all of Him.