A Modest Proposal to Transform Christians, Churches and Cities
By Simply Obeying Jesus
January 1, 2011
As we embark upon this new year and new decade, we should ask ourselves a question: At the end of this year and this decade will we be much different, will our church be much different and will our city be much different than it is right now? If we keep doing the same things we've always done, we'll probably keep getting the same results we've always gotten. Is there anything we can do to bring about transformation in ourselves, our churches and our city? I believe there is and it’s very simple, but it’s not easy.
Jesus never said it would be easy, in fact He said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NLT)
This means that followers of Christ wouldn’t be so self-serving but would also consider others. It would involve a day-by-day willingness to be inconvenienced and to sacrifice our time, money, etc. for the Lord. In other words, we are called to sacrifice our lives for our Lord by living for Him. Then He said to simply follow Him. Most of us will not have to die for our faith, as has been the fate of many believers throughout history and even today.
What would it mean to follow Jesus right where we live? The word “follow” means to imitate and it says in I John 2:6, “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” If we follow, we would love God and abide in Christ. (John 15). We would look more like Christ and do the things He did. In our daily walk, do we look like Jesus?
Being a follower of Jesus certainly means loving Him and obeying His commands. Jesus said, “If you love Me you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). Some of Jesus’ last words to His disciples were “… teach them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matt. 28:20a)
Well, what has He commanded us? If He really is our Lord (master, boss) we will obey Him. Jesus was asked, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus replied, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Our love for God and others is the foundation for how we live our lives and obey the Lord. Without love, religion can degenerate into cold-hearted rules, discipline and lack of fruit, like the Pharisees. How can we really obey these commands? Several Christian leaders, local and national, have concluded that the “irreducible essentials” of loving others are to pray for others, care for others and share the Gospel with others, all from an abiding, personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Prayer – Care – Share
Many of us believe that if most Christians would simply do this, it would transform us, our street, our church and, in time, our city. It would also spread God’s ongoing love everywhere. It wouldn’t be for a day or two, as with an event, and it wouldn’t be for just a target group of people, like many ministries. It would be for everyone, 365 days a year. Christians would love others on their streets, where they work and where they attend school. They would be there to pray, care and share the Gospel. They would shine the light of Jesus into the darkness (Matt. 5:14-16). They would let their Good Shepherd lead them every step of the way.
Could this change lives? It’s changed mine! I’ve been in full-time ministry for over 40 years and a few years ago my wife and I intentionally began to pray, care, and share on our street. We have prayed for and with several neighbors. We have been able to care for them in many ways and we have shared the Gospel with several of them. Recently we led a 70-year-old man on our street to Christ. When he prayed to receive Christ, he smiled and said to us, “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for my entire life”. Many more are waiting. His life has been changed and so have both of ours. It’s been a sacrifice but also a great joy to disciple him. We’ve spent many wonderful hours chatting with him and answering his questions about the Bible. We found ourselves doing what we were created to do and we are so fulfilled in doing it. We are blessed Christians, not bored Christians.
We challenge Christians and churches to do what Jesus told them to do: Love God and others, even if it means setting aside some lesser priorities. Let’s look at the numbers. It’s been estimated that there are about 90,000 Christians in Fresno/Clovis, CA (which have a total population of about 600,000). If most Christians would pray, care and share with others, that would unleash 50,000 missionaries, at no cost, into our community. They would be on their mission field day after day, month after month and year after year. They would be on every street, in every school and nearly every business, shining the light of Jesus to others. Imagine what would happen. It would change their lives, their churches and their city.
Many of us believe this is the only way to bring about transformation, other than a mighty move of God, as He has done in the past and we welcome here. Whether God moves in this way or not, as followers of Jesus we are to obey Him and not just sit around waiting for something to happen. He’s made it clear what is most important. It’s up to Christians to simply follow Jesus. If we do, I believe at the end of this year, at the end of this decade, things could look much different.
What if Christians were actively loving their neighbors (which means “near ones”) where they live, work and attend school? What if churches were equipping their members to love their neighbors and if all of us saw ourselves as ministers, not just the one behind the podium? What if we were hearing testimonies in our churches of changed lives and we were praying together, asking God to lead us as we love our neighbors?
That could change us, our churches and our cities. What will we, our churches and our city be like in 1 year, 10 years? Let’s walk with Jesus, let’s obey Jesus, let’s love our neighbors and find out!
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” (Romans 10:15b)
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Pastors spur your people, people spur your pastors, Lord, spur us all to obey Jesus. Let’s release God’s people to love their neighbors and then let them share their testimonies. See Loving Our Neighbors on our website (esali.org or (559)244-0105 for information on how to get involved.