Yesterday, the Fellowship of Believers micro-church had a great time going Out and helping Open Doors put on a Fall Festival. (Thanks Maria!) Reflecting on it, one phrase came to mind: “This was good for the soul.” That got me thinking: we really need to go Out more often. It’s healthier for us if we do. Let me offer five reasons.
Before I do, let me briefly clarify what I mean by Out, I mean personally engaging in meeting needs in the world with God’s love, grace, and power. Out is an important dimension for each of us to have in our life of discipleship. It’s helpful to think of discipleship as having three dimensions: Up is about our relationship with God. Upward, we worship; praise God; seek the Lord; wait on the Lord; read, study, and hear God’s Word; and seek the leading of the Spirit; etc. In is about our relationship with other Christians, other disciples of Jesus. Inward, we spend time with other followers of Jesus, pray for one another; encourage one another; love one another; spend time with one another; serve, care for, and learn from one another; etc. Out, as I said, is about going out into the world, meetings needs there with God’s love, grace, and power. Out is fueled by Up and In. And Out helps us get a lot better at Up and In. Jesus had all three dimensions in his life – and if discipleship is about following and imitating Jesus, we need all three dimensions as well. By the way, I recommend learning about missional communities for this – but that’s a broader, deeper topic – for now – five reasons to GO OUT!
Reason 1: When disciples of Jesus Christ don’t do Out, they don’t do so well as disciples. It’s just an observation. I know plenty of Up and In Christians, and it seems to me that they tend to get fat, lazy, frightened, defensive, and factional. I could theorize reasons for it – but a little Out goes a long way toward breaking all that down.
For starters, when we go out, we do Up and In better.
For example. Going out reveals how much we need God’s help. We can’t make an impact in the in the world in our own strength. So we pray for God to show up and break through. When He does, we worship with more faith and gratitude! When we go Out with sisters brothers and sisters in the Lord, we see them differently, too. If we are together in success, we celebrate more enthusiastically. If we are together in difficulty, the service and encouragement we render to one another is sweeter, and our prayers for one another come from shared travail. Either way, our bonds grow deeper. You don’t have to be a disciple of Jesus to catch on to this: anyone who has been on a good team experiences it. Up and In correspond to practice and spending time with teammates. Out corresponds to playing the game.
Let me offer evidence from my experience. When people go out, their prayer requests get better. I’ve led a lot of prayer meetings with people who lack an outward dimension in their discipleship. And I’ve seen prayer request time turn into a long list of relatives, friends, church members and co-workers having health issues. Don’t get me wrong. I believe praying for the sick is part of caring for the sick. But it doesn’t go very far along the lines of “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” But when I meet for prayer with a group that is about to spend the afternoon ministering to the poor, or trying to connect with neighbors who don’t seem interested, or (here’s one we face each week) trying to bring hope and life to teen moms and their kids… Well, in those sort of circumstances there seems to be a much greater intentionality about the time of prayer. Maybe if instead of sitting in a room somewhere praying for the sick, we actually gathered up and went over to their home or the hospital to pray… Hmm.
Reason 2 – When we go out, we learn about the world.
I have found that even stuffy crotchety church curmudgeons (seems like every church has them) will sometimes happily support sending kids on a mission trip to some perceived poor place in the world because “they’ll appreciate what they have here if they do.” I think what they are really saying is, “We think the kids around here are spoiled and they need a dose of reality.” Sure. But so does nearly everyone else, including me.
And you don’t have to go far. I remember my Tom Phillips going out to deliver food one Thanksgiving in Clermont, Florida. One house had a dirt floor – in Florida – in the 21st Century – and (pardon the pun) he was floored. On the same day, I’d been to an “apartment complex” that was home to a half-dozen families who shared a single spigot for water. I remember a lesson learned simply from going out to pick up kids for youth group. One girl always met us at the front door of her home in an affluent neighborhood. But one day, she wasn’t there and her mom brought us into her home. There was no furniture in most of the house. Instead, every room was filled with four foot high stacks of old newspapers and magazines. Simply a prayer walk can do this. Ask God to open your eyes and go out and pray for your neighborhood. He’ll show you things you haven’t noticed. One time, I went for a prayer walk on garbage day. At one home, I saw diapers – I didn’t know they had a baby in the home. At another home, I saw evidence of someone under in-home medical care. At another, I saw lots of beer bottles and cans. You will see the needs of your neighbors if you go OUT!
Reason 3 – You are more likely to see God at work if you go Out. I know miracles happen at Up and In events. One church I served had a weekly meal and there was always – always – enough food at Fellowship Dinners. I have seen healing happen at Bible Studies, and wonderful breakthroughs happen in worship gatherings. But I’m pretty sure that if you go Out, you are likely to see more.
I was blessed to know a woman named Eleanor Granger. She had a truck ministry – an old pickup with a camper on the back that always stayed unlocked. People would bring stuff and in her truck. She would pray and drive around to see friends and check on ministries and see if there were any needs. A man needed tools to go to work – they were in the truck. A family needed school supplies for their kids – in the truck. My son was four and wanted a transformer. Ms. Eleanor didn’t know what a transformer was – but there was a brand-new one – in the truck. The most astonishing one, in my mind, was the young woman who needed a wedding dress. Guess what was in the truck? A wedding dress – and it was the right size. You can’t make this stuff up!
I got to go out with her one time to deliver food one holiday – we used my van. Someone had given me a box of Bibles – so I grabbed a box of Bibles and put them in my van. She struck up a conversation with an Hispanic man who stopped by to pick up some food. He told us he was leading a Bible study. We told him we had Bibles. He said he could use a few, but he wanted several to know if we had a Spanish Bible – because someone coming to his study didn’t speak English. “Well, I think they are all English Bibles, but we’ll look.” And – you probably guessed it – there was one, and only one, Spanish language Bible in the box.
My friend Kevin Grant took a bunch kids on a mission trip to Tampa. It was a week of Up-In-Out living. Their Out was a construction project. He tells a story of being very close to the end of a project. They needed three ten-penny nails and they were done. Just then, one of the leaders pulled up and got out of his truck wearing a tool belt. He stopped over to see how it was going. “We need three ten-penny nails and we’re done.” “Don’t have any, but let me check my tool belt.” He had… three ten penny nails that happened to be in his tool belt. I have a real estate friend in central Florida who helped organize a relief effort in Clermont after Hurricane Katrina. She and some friends collected food, put it in a truck, and drove toward the need. As I recall, they got lost in Mississippi. After a while, they came around the corner and there was a church. There was a circle of people holding hands praying in the parking lot. My friend and company pulled in to ask where they were and to find out if anyone needed food. The people at the church said, “We just ran out and we were praying that God would send us some more food to distribute.” Yep. You gotta go Out!
Part of the reason for this is that God loves the world. He has a heart for those in need – and not just physical needs. When God meets a physical need through us, it also meets our need to know God better – and that is the greatest need. God wants us to know Him! We get to know Him when we go out. He wants to work in us and through us in those places – for the sake of those in need, and to open us up to our own great need for Him. Mission trips helped me see this: provision of everything from medicines to building supplies to make-up, healed hearts, reconciled relationships, and transformed attitudes. I’ve seen people go on those journeys with no faith and return with great faith. But you don’t have to wait for the disaster to strike or for next summer’s mission trip. Gather some friends and start going Out together.
Last thing on this: I’m not saying that if you go out, you will see miracles. No one can force God’s hand. But I’m just saying if you go out, you are way more likely to than if you don’t.
Reason 4 – You’ll be imitating Jesus and helping others do the same. Okay, so maybe that is two reasons. But it’s really pretty simple.
Followers of Jesus are called to imitate Jesus. Jesus lived and Up-In-Out lifestyle. (Luke 6:12-19 captures all three dimensions). Up – he spent time in worship, praise, and prayer. He loved fellowship with the Father and the Spirit. In – he spent time investing in twelve disciples and a few other close friends. Out – Jesus taught, preached, healed, cast out demons, raised the dead, touched the lepers, fed the hungry, comforted the grieving…
And if we aren’t doing that, we aren’t imitating Jesus Christ. If we aren’t going out, our discipleship is incomplete. And those who know us a watch us – our friends, our family, our kids – will be learning from us that discipleship makes no big difference in the world.
Reason 5 – Last reason.
Jesus sent his disciples out. Yep. John 20:21: Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And then he told them, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” We need to go out because Jesus told his disciples to go out. He wants to work through us as we go.
Last thing – it’s easier than you think: A lot of this is simply about recognizing that we are sent. A pastor named Dick Halverson captured this wonderfully in a benediction he gave over and over again. At the end of a worship service, he would say, “You go no where by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has a purpose for you being there. Christ, who lives in you by the power of the Holy Spirit has something he wants to do in you and through you wherever you are. Believe this, and go in His grace, His love, and His power.
Go out! Go out! Wherever you are, go out!
Are you prepared to meet needs with God’s love, grace, and power today? Remember who you are and who you belong to. And Go! And may the Lord be with you.