Upward, Outward: Missional Community.


36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew22:36-40NIV

Epidemic…
A friend of mine has traveled extensively and spoken to numerous pastors and church leaders. As a result, he’s discovered there is an epidemic. It seems there is a vacuum in many hearts; the vacuum is often discovered when believer’s feel / sense there must be more to life than what they are living. They may be encouraged to pray, worship, journal, read books, attend conferences, attend church or meditate upon scripture to fill their void. In reality, the vacuum they are sensing may be a purpose deficit.

All inflow, with no outflow, creates a sick heart. You and I were created to flow outward, to do good works.

Eph 2: 8-10NIV
  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 

We are saved by grace through faith not by works. However, we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.

Good works don’t save us, good works reveal us. 

If you and I are not giving our lives away by serving others… somewhere we, at our core, are purpose impaired.

The below diagram illustrates:

                                                                                                                                                            

Upward:Give. Upward:Receive. 
Everything in life flows from our connective relationship to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everything. He is the source of our identity. Knowing Whose we are enables us to draw near with confidence.

In Him, we live and move and have our being. Our heart connection is so important. We draw near, and He draws near to us. His promise is true. 

All life flows from our relationship with Him. We draw near to give: to give our hearts, to give our lives, to give our worship. 

I give my worship because He is so worthy, so gracious, so loving, so forgiving. 

It’s amazing… as we give, we often receive. (I personally believe we receive more than we are aware when we spend time in His  presence.) 

What we receive is a by-product of our worshipful giving. I give my time, I give my life as worship. He, in turn, pours His love and grace into my heart. When we receive, we then have something to give. Knowing Him, I can then make Him known. (I John 1:1-9)
                                                                                                                                                                 
Outward:Give. Outward:Receive. 
The great Investor invests into our lives so that we are built up, and have something to give away to others. 

He gives us love, joy, hope, faith, grace, power, talents, giftings, gifts, and passions for others. 

As I make Him known, through active love and service, He in turn, gives something back… a sense of destiny, a sense of purpose, a sense of fulfillment.

It’s in the very act of giving, laying our lives down for others we receive. We receive encouragement when someone is genuinely encouraged and cared for through our service. We also can sense God’s favor as we give away what we have received. When we bless others, we are blessed.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

My friend Shana has a new photography business. She decided to dedicate 10% of what she earns to help people in need. Yesterday, she went shopping for groceries and toiletries. She then headed up to Trotwood to deliver the groceries and supplies to women in crisis. She stayed awhile encouraging the women and children. 

                                                                                                                                                                       
Here is a snippet of her story.
 “There are days when my envy for what others have makes it hard to breathe and others when my heart aches for what others do not. Every day I work hard to be a humble servant, putting others ahead of myself in my relationships and in my business. All the money in the world would mean nothing to me if I couldn’t help others.
Today was hard and beautiful all in the same, I was able to gift a car full of groceries to the Mustard Seed Foundation in Trotwood, a home for teenage mothers. These girls are facing challenges on so many levels and I am so thankful this home exists. I was greeted with warm smiles and big hearts and I left behind a little goodness and grace.” 

Her passion intersects with God’s purpose.  

Her passion:To care for people. Her purpose:Release her creative gifting to care for others, both in her chosen profession as a photographer and giving to people in need.

Guess where her tank is filled? Shana’s life passion is connected to her life purpose. She genuinely cares for her clients and for the people in need in her community.

My wife teaches literacy enrichment.  
Her passion:Child development. Her purpose:Teaching literacy. 
She wants to love the kids as Jesus loves. She has done this well. She is loving, creative, joyful, kind and open hearted. Guess what? Kids love being with her. Her love for Jesus overflows in creative teaching.


  Note: Both are not “full time” church workers. They are full-time Jesus followers.

Where does your passion intersect with God’s purpose?

                                                                                                                                                               
Together:A Missional Community.

When we, together, worship, love, serve and care for others we become a missional community; a community on mission. 

I’ve heard it stated, “If you pursue community you may develop community, but you may not be on mission. However, if you(all ya all), as a group of people, pursue mission you will form a community.”

Upward:Give. Upward:Receive.

Outward:Give. Outward:Receive. 

Upward:Give. Give thanks and praise for what He did in you and through you and through… all ya all. Community on Mission=Missional Community.

If it doesn’t work … It’s probably American.

 
It’s been a good two weeks. I’m in Warrington, England with my friends Mike and Jane. They were pastors of a church I helped plant in Scotland. They sold everything and moved to Warrington a few years ago to plant a new generation church called Oasis. 

Oasis is amazing. I love the energy, the way people are encouraged, and how they reach out to the community. Many of the people who now attend were reached, met Jesus, were then baptized, now are disciples and function as band members, creative arts people, outreach participants or serve in other ways.

One of my Bible college professors stated, “If a principal works in any culture it’s God. If the principle doesn’t work in any culture, it’s probably American.

Serving their city works.
Oasis serves the community mainly through acts of kindness. They have served the people of the city from day one. In this culture nothing is free, and there is always a catch. When people receive a small gift, a coke on a hot day, a small bag of treats, or chocolate to celebrate Warrington people are impacted. The simple acts of kindness reaches the heart. They ask questions. Many receive prayer. Some meet Jesus then begin to attend Oasis.

We’ve gone out to the main shopping area in the town center. As we’ve served more than one person asked, “What’s the catch?” We were able to share why, have great conversations, and pray with people. 

One day the police came down after seeing us serving on CV monitors. Their response, “Oh, it just Oasis.” 

I prayed for a police woman. I simply stated, “I’d like to pray for your protection. Would that be ok?” She replied, “Thanks that would be nice.” We prayed for her. Invited angels to be with her. Declared protection over her. We declared she’d have eyes to see and ears to hear and God’s presence would be near her.  We noticed her smile, gratitude and genuine up beat response. “I’m protected now. Thank you.”

One lady who had pain in her back was shocked when her pain level moved from an eight down to a two. Most people we prayed for encountered the love of Jesus through the  presence of the Holy Spirit.

Several people mentioned they would like to pop in and check Oasis out. 

They have a family service at 11am. At 6 pm a new generation service starts. This service is mainly made up of 20’s and 30’s. The style is fun, upbeat and has an amazing house band who lead worship. Last week there was a tangible sense of God’s presence as we worshiped.

Since I’ve been here there has been a shift into prophetic encouragement and prayer. People are now stepping into the next phase of outreach. As they pray for people they are receiving insight, knowledge and encouragement for the people they serve. This connection to the Holy Spirit is wonderful to see and experience. 

Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson wrote a best selling book The Externally Focused Church. My favorite line from the book. “Good deeds, creates good will, which opens hearts to the good news.” 

Oasis … They are serving their way into the hearts of people… Tiz working in Warrington, England.

This is what Pattie and I do. We encourage, and in return we are encouraged. If you’d like us to come to your church or support us in prayer of giving. Simply click Invite Steve or Donor Box link.

Begin from where you are with what you have.

    Question: How much power do we need before we go?
    I’m all for more power of the Spirit and believe me, I pray almost every day to be empowered. However, I have been around long enough to know I have to be willing to begin to take steps of risk, steps of faith now, in this present time, in order to enter into the power of the Holy Spirit. 


    I’ve learned I often have to be faithful in the small things, and take small steps, before the greater is realized.
   

   Beginning in the natural often helps us to move toward releasing the supernatural. It’s bringing heaven to earth, as we reach out to people of our earth—our sphere of influence. 

    The power often comes when I’m living life, facing great need, and I sense my lack. It is in the very awareness of my lack, that propels me to reach out for more of His power. However, my lack of power does not keep me from reaching out and encouraging the people in sphere of influence.
    

     If I feel weak and small, I still push through my weakness and smallness. I still serve, I still love, and I still pray and declare.
    

     Sometimes I feel / I sense no power when I pray for people, yet amazing things happen.
    One lady recently came up to our group and said, “When Steve prayed for me I received not one job but two jobs. I was so grateful he took the time and listened to me and prayed for me. I just wanted to thank you all for being out here caring and serving us.” I wanted to say, “Woman. I who am speaking to you am he.” I remember praying with no fire-works, no great surge of assurance…I simply prayed.


    What was the power? Yes, there was an answered prayer. She received two jobs not one. However, this was not the only act of power she noticed. 


     “I was so grateful he took the time, and listened, and prayed for me.” The power, she defined was taking time, listening and praying. What did she notice? The power of love and care in action.
     Her excitement and her gratefulness encouraged me to keep on loving, keep going, keep serving, and to keep praying.
    

     Whether I’m aware of His power or not, good stuff still really does happen.

    The truth, as in most spiritual exercises, reaching others for Jesus begins as a spiritual discipline. A passion for outreach is often developed through our consistent practice. As we practice, outward focused-ness becomes a lifestyle.


    I often say, “You cannot begin to care, unless you first become aware. How do you become aware? By being out there.” 


    Study the great revivalists and healers of the past and present. Many began to serve, go, pray, heal, and reach people long before they had it all together or had received a greater measure of the Holy Spirit.


    Some of our hero’s of faith saw hundreds healed and hundreds come to Jesus long before their power encounter. Yes, the power, and their experience with the Holy Spirit propelled them further ahead, and yes, more people were brought near to the Kingdom, but they, just like everyone else,
had to begin from where they were with what they had, as they leaned in for more. 

Everyone, has to decide to begin with what they have, from where they are.

 
    Bethel Church, in Redding, California is an example of a great church which has consistently served and actively loved their community over many years. Their city is changing, and they are leading many people to Jesus. Why?     
     They are passionately in love with Jesus and seek to honor His Presence as a lifestyle. 

     They encourage people to release what they have received into the lives of the people of their community, in their sphere of influence. 

     They have been actively going, serving, praying and loving the people of their community for many, many years. They, like everyone else, had to decide to begin to go from where they were, with what they had.

The early disciples traveled with Jesus for three years before the Holy Spirit fell upon them.
    Before the day of Pentecost, they were involved in healing the sick, casting out demons, and preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God effectively. Well, sometimes not so effectively.
    

     When the Spirit’s power came, they reached more and more people, and undoubtedly had greater success. Jesus knew this would happen and this is the reason He told the disciples to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit. However, the waiting for power did not nullify what they had experienced before their empowering. They began from where they were with what they had.

    We exist first and foremost to love Jesus, and to know and experience the presence of the Father’s love. We then learn to love what He loves. He has love for His world.
    We exist for His pleasure, for His Kingdom, and for the people of our world.
    As we are getting it together, we need to realize for whom we are getting it together—the people who are away from God’s presence. This is the will of the Father.
    
    The Church exists to reach our world.
    It exists to be a place where people can be added and discipled. The Church is where new believers learn to love and worship Jesus and where they learn to use their gifts to serve others. It’s where they can become conscious of His divine purpose. It’s where they receive power as they join others to reach out to their world.
    The Church exists to be a blessing to the Father, and to be a source of His love and power for His world. 

Excerpt from Go. Sow.