From him [Jesus] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. – Paul to the Ephesians
We were late last night, just a few minutes. Our friend was standing up the front, singing his heart out in praise to God, his son accompanying on the guitar. Around just the two of them, a few old men, nicotine stained and stinking to high heavens from goodness knows what. On a Saturday evening, we cross the city to what is the largest Housing Project in the country, some 500 or so units, a vast concrete jungle that seems more like a prison.
Long ago, the drug lords moved in, physically kicking out some in the larger apartments, setting up shop to supply a willing and ready-made community of addicts. Nobody knows what to do. In a small corner of the sprawl, we meet each week with a group who, with varying degrees of comprehension, sit around and read God’s word together. If nothing else, those there are genuine.
Afterwards, we cook eggs, bacon and sausage to a crowd that by now, has swelled to 5 or 6 times the size. Most are expectant, some picky about what they will and won’t eat. Many take the food and wander off into the night, not wanting to engage.
I have come to realise the immense task God has given us in making disciples. For much of the time, it is sheer graft, especially in the West. Here, the rich don’t need God because they have everything they need. The middle class by any standards are comfortable, and their focus is not on the God of the next world. Even those who go to church, sadly, are not really connected with what Jesus calls. Most who sit in churches, are wealthy and complacent. We simply cannot see our state of being.
The poor too, are hardly poor. Living in a subsidised welfare society, they enjoy benefits beyond the wildest dreams of the poor in many other nations; in some instances, some will ring us before group meetings and ask what’s on the menu, what time it’s being served. They can decide then, whether it’s worth the effort. They seem able to subsidise addictions of all sorts, with free meals laid on every single night of the week. They don’t need to go to the bother of listening to someone talk about God; free food is no longer the domain of the church.
Of all the letters, the book of Acts is not necessarily the place to study disciple making. Making disciples involves getting people to commit regularly to gathering as they ‘discover’ Jesus. It can be tiresome, hard work, and can often show little immediate fruit. Some of Paul’s letters are very relevant, as he preaches in the streets amongst great opposition, and sees numbers grow in just 1’s and 2’s. We have to go and search for them first – Jesus came to ‘seek and save the lost’ – it invokes an image that he went out and found them. In 3 years, in spite of all he did and who he was, comparatively few stuck. He knew it would be hard work.
As I thought about the massive housing community last night, I wondered about how much God could really change it. Why doesn’t he? God seems to respond to our desire to want to bring his Kingdom to earth. There are quite literally, dozens of churches within the vicinity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if on at least a few nights a week, an army of ordinary people marched around the entire precinct in prayer, singing praises to Jesus that he might bring down his heavenly power. Or that, rather than a single paltry weekly effort, every night groups of believers decided that they would door knock the community and offer Discovery Groups in the rooms, or centre. That prayers for healing and deliverance were offered to all who wanted, with the background knowledge that another army was in constant prayer for this community. Surely God would respond, as he loves to do. Can you imagine the transformation if that really happened? Governments would come down and take notice.
Instead though, we – all of us, are caught up in the world. Our thoughts are elsewhere, confined to the things of this world, not on the things of the Father. Sad, but true. Do any of us care enough?
The thing that needs to happen above all else in our society, is we need repentance. Christian and non-Christian alike, we are consumed by our attraction to the world and apathy towards God. We simply don’t care. How tragic. We need God to bring us to our knees.
That is the first step in all of us making disciples. Until then, we are unlikely to go further.
God in heaven, make us care, all of us. If it’s your will, bring this country to its knees, such that there is weeping in the streets over our apathy towards your great Son. Let us realise the folly of our ways, show us how desperate and in need we really are for you. Reveal your power, your majesty, your Holiness to us as sinful people. Bring us to repentance, all of us, including the church.