Stop Trying, Start Living
“You know Steve, it’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks…” This is the line I got from a pastor (who was a number of years younger than me!) in the middle of a coaching conversation concerning turning his congregation outward.
Outflow is not about learning a new approach to sharing Jesus. Outflow is returning to what has been in our hearts from the beginning – giving language and feet to the Spirit’s presence. Doing and saying the very things that Jesus did. In short, the stuff anyone can easily do.
I told him, “This isn’t about finding a new blueprint. This is going back to where you started. Isn’t it true that as we talk about “living in the Outflow” that most of what we are touching on is completely natural – it is harkening back to where you started with Jesus?”
He admitted indeed it was. As we spoke he admitted the challenge for him was “unlearning” things. It was like removing “Saul’s armor” – similar to what David did before meeting up with Goliath. King Saul in his desire to “help” which would have no doubt ended in David’s demise if he had taken the complicated course.
“Living” – the key idea
Absorbing a new language.
In this case the language we were first inclined to speak was the one placed in our hearts when we initially encountered Jesus. After speaking with many hundreds in in-depth conversations I have found a consistent pattern that upon initially encountering Jesus we found it natural to love our friends into relationship with the Master.
Somewhere along the way, a well-intentioned, apparently “More mature” believer (AKA ‘Mumic’) happened along and attempted to “disciple” us forward to make us more effective. What we didn’t know was that this person(s) had virtually no experience in ushering not-yet believers to Jesus. Without getting into statistical depth here, suffice it to say, stats consistently show that of those that consider themselves the most committed “evangelistic” believers, only 5% will dare to share their faith even once in their lifetimes. That not only makes me cry, but it certainly makes Jesus cry.
Total Fluency – the ability to think in a new language without hesitation.
I am a big fan of the “immersion” approach to picking up a new language. Schooling is great. Audio labs – you can have ‘em. I say, toss a newcomer into the deep end with a new language. Force them to speak the new lingo and they will out of necessity become fluent as fast as possible. That was my experience with Swedish and Norwegian. I spent 5 days at a “culture camp” with people from all over the world in an exchange program in college. We memorized a number of phrases (which we took by faith meant a certain thing) then jumped in with both feet with families who didn’t speak English. Scary? You bet! But after a few weeks of realizing that people are people are people, it was a blast! Five times a day I heard someone give me their best imitation of Clint Eastwood saying, “Make my day!”
Within 3 months I was fluent enough that I was no longer thinking in English – then translating to Norwegian – then opening my mouth. Most who say they have studied another language have never gotten to that point. I know numbers of people with Master’s Degrees – that’s high school, plus four years of undergradate schooling, plus at least 2 years of grad school – and they still aren’t even nearly fluent as described above.
Once fluency is attained one thinks, speaks and moves all in syncronicity. When it comes to outwardness, the challenge comes here: Very few in our generation ever become comfortable enough in living in the presence of Jesus – living like Jesus – as though his life is the norm that we attain “traction” with not-yet believers in our culture. The difficulty is that we are satisfied with a shellac coating of the appearance of change – the appearance of Jesus’ life in us. Nothing could be further from the truth in many cases. We are salt and light – first to the Church – then to the culture.
Fluent, Walking, Talking, Noticing Jesus Inviters
Let’s drop the idea of trying to “do something for Jesus” from this point forward. The very idea of looking for the next big thing that will open closed hearts is out of sync with the way Jesus conducted life all of his days. Be yourself. Live your life by being yourself as you are walking in God’s Spirit. Clearly what we do will resemble what Jesus did / how he lived. Peter said it very well and to the point: “Jesus went about doing good to all kinds of people…” Acts 10:38. Look for the next invitation. It is on God’s calendar for you today I suspect. Maybe in the next few minutes.
Relax, listen to God’s voice as you listen to those in your path and see the great things God places in front of you! This is more fun than a herd of hamsters!