Be a student of the city.
This is a powerful and popular concept amongst church planters and missionaries. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know I’m a firm believer and attempting practicioner in this kind of humbled, observational, incarnational lifestyle. Why? It’s bible. It’s not true on the premise of its novelty or antiquity though, but it’s foundation in the unaging, unchanging Word of God.
I want to unpack the learning aspect of this statement and 3 practical implications.
Be Students Who Learn
Before we start, I know we often hear the word “pray” and dismiss it. What if we were like heroes of the faith in the past, whose knees were bloodied by their discipline of prayer? What if we were OK with being convicted by a brother’s report. We do we believe He dwells within us, huh? Let’s not be like those who say they’re selling counsel and really they’re selling a co-signer. We’ve all been there. Let’s not have pre-determined notions we hold to, let’s cling to truth and then throw our whole lives, every bit of our being after Christ, reaching for the prize set before us.
As Christians, we should be aware that everyone we encounter was not only made in the image of God, just like us, but also that their lives are dominated by particular stories. I’m not saying Fred Savage is up there, in their head, quietly whispering great and winsome sentiments of deeper meaning over every moment of their lives. I’m talking about something more subtle, deceptive, more wide sweeping.
I find that in my own life, if I’m not walking closely in prayer and repentance, my life will soon be rising and falling on whether or not I’ve made my wife happy or fulfilled. It’s easy to discern our false gods when we are honest. But is it easy to hear the story behind this?
*Training note: an easy way to define or identify any object of worship is this simple question:
Upon whom or what, does my life rise and fall?
*Remember, we all worship. Even many secularist will validate that statement. Perhaps they understand worship better than us at times, as observers.
*Also remember, we’re always making disciples so let’s just make sure their of Christ. Your city/context will fight you for this too. The overall culture will have it’s own mottos, songs, & beliefs, however shallow.
My Back Story
Let’s take this further: James knew who his wife was but when he began to truly know her, they were married in 9 days. Let’s back track now: James was a recluse to a large degree, only keeping 3 (stretching it) or so friends in his circle. My mentality was set on never getting married, I still held to some of my childhood fantasies of living a life if asceticism as a monk.
We’ll come back to that but let’s get some questions out in the open. The only way to know these types of backgrounds, these flashbacks, these underpinning themes is to be a listener. How do I carry this out, in my city?
First think of your story, you probably spend the majority of your life at a full-time job. Where is that? This is your setting. This is where you’ll find your cast. You have to start seeing yourself as an extra!
God is the writer, producer, director. Christ is the hero. The Holy Spirit is the on-site consultant, the make-up artist, the cue card holder, the STUNTMAN. By now, in going you see that importance is not being center stage and yet also not be an inactive audience, unengaged and un-entertained. How do you listen and act? How do you become an extra?
At the workplace, if you stop and think about, you probably know most of your co-workers’ “back stories.” The next step is not trying to see how you can point out their overarching themes to them. “Hey buddy, I know you have been greatly disappointed during your divorce but there is one who loves you conditionally.” No.
How do I become a player, NOW?
1. Prayer. Always and in all things!
The Holy Spirit has a way of conviction and guiding us. If we will listen, usually our friends, neighbors, gas station attendants, waitresses, co-workers and “enemies” will tell us about what we can pray for them and their loved ones while Jesus will show us how and what we should pray.
2. Be interrupt-able. Be present.
I struggle with this because of my personality and insatiable habit of reading. This no excuse. A great number of Christ’s miracles were in passing. He was never in a hurry the way we are now. He wept! He wept and was with them in that moment. A miracle we often forget is that the God of the universe can and does feel and desires to; He goes to great lengths to show us this.
For us, it’s always different. We might weep with hurting waitresses. Really ask them how they are when its so evident they’re hurting. A spirit of empathy is lacking in this consumer age. Let it not be so with the children of God.
It might be rejoicing with the foreman who finally got a long overdue raise.
It might listening to stories of pain and rejection from a neighbor, instead of waiting to speak. Just be seriously listening and conversing. Why are Christians so often the hardened, unengaged type?
3. Live your role! Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration.
This is our arch. This is God’s story for the world. This is his plan laid out in the Bible. We need to know this, all of us and all of it.
I hear some partial Gospel rehearsals that worry me. Sometimes, these distortions leave out the restoration part. You see this extreme producing a people uninvolved with the present. They don’t fully believe we are part of his making all things new, now and here not just as some day in eternity to come. This truth is even spelled out in the way Jesus told us how to pray.
I hear others leaving out the portion of his being seated on the right hand of the Father making intercession until he the end. This particular distortion can lead to a man-driven approach to restoration where little prayer is given to aid all the tons of effort, where no long lasting effects abound. This leads to hopelessness.
We need a holistic Good News to proclaim the one He gave us and lived.
If our eschatology (study of end times) isn’t interwoven with our ecclesiology (study of church) and the two and all the “-ologies” aren’t connected something is unbalanced. Let us pray for hood, city, state, national, and world reformation!
Here’s a little of what this might look like for you when there is total dependence on God for a sovereign move of His Spirit on, to, and through His people.
1 Peter 3:15 says that our radically different lifestyles will open doors. In some cases our gifts open doors but truly it should be our godly character and ruthless abandon to His ways that cuts the path.
Living like Christ, praying to have the desire to intercede like He does, makes people ask, “OK dude, what’s up? Why? Why are like this? Why do you really care?
NOW. Let’s pray!
Let us behold his glory and be changed, restored to His image, from glory to glory. Let us be carriers of His presence! Let our countenance shine bright for your glory! Let us rest on the peace that you will cause the hardened hearts to soften and unclog the stopped ears.
Empower us to be the city on a hill within the cities you’ve placed us. Fix our eyes on you! Let your Words ring louder, longer, sweeter, swifter in our hearts and lives. You must consume us! Lead us again to your sweet waters
of cleansing, as we repent and learn to continually turn to you.
It’s in this newness of life that we now walk forth with the Spirit that raised you from the dead. Thank you Lord. Let us be faithful, learning, growing soldiers at your table. In your Holy, Holy, Holy name we cry out JESUS!