Resource day! Today I’m sharing one book (and website) and one spiritual nugget.
First, if you are interested in all this small church planting discussion, let me introduce the book to you that really lit a fire in me and taught me a lot about powerful church growth. This is for those who are reading my the trickle of my posts and want the fire hose. It’s called Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement. Here’s a link to it on Amazon. It was definitely an inspiration for my post yesterday. You can also visit www.exponential.org to find a network of folks looking to multiply the church (and some free ebooks, too, if you don’t want to buy one!)
Second, the nugget.
I am such a people pleaser! In only a few days of having a blog, I check the view totals incessantly. Are people reading? What are they thinking? I feel depressed when my readership declines. I’m practically jumping out of my chair when someone comments. And what I’m writing? Well, maybe it’s a little out of the norm, but I’m trying to be as inclusive as possible. Are you getting the point? I want people to read my blog. I want people to like what I’m writing and come back for more. (That’s the point of a blog, right?)
And then I read this passage in the book of John, one of the Gospels that tells us about who Jesus is. It’s a long passage, but bear with me. In 6:47-69, we read Jesus saying:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
So Jesus is waxing eloquent about being the bread of life, which is an amazing analogy, and then he goes and starts talking about zombies and vampires! But really, he’s like, “Take a bite out of my flesh! Drink my blood!” If you don’t, you can’t go to heaven. Is there anything more repulsive than cannibalism?
Surprisingly, that’s the point. Jesus is actively repulsing people. They ask, “Did I hear that right? Eat you?” And he doubles down, no, triples down on the zombiefest. And he loses lots of followers because of it. “Sorry, bro, you’re getting a little too weird for me…”
If I could have given Jesus some advice right then and there, as his PR manager, I would have told him, “I hear what you’re saying, I really do, I think you’re doing some awesome foreshadowing in the process, but how about we soften the edges, talk more about loving your neighbor and less about eating you. Sound good?”
And I think Jesus would reply, “I’m not here to please people. I’m here to please my Father, and those who don’t believe are going to reject the truth.”
Jesus embodied more truth-telling than anyone before him, to the point that he was murdered on a cross, because he claimed to be God. But he was also the most loving person ever. He is love. He died for our sins so that we could be made right with God, if only we believe in him. If he was a people-pleaser, that wouldn’t, couldn’t, have happened.
I hope that, when the rubber meets the road, I am like his 12 disciples, who said, “To who shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” I want to be able to accept the truth, no matter how hard it is.
But what I want more than that is to be like Jesus, who only lived to please the Father, and was never worried about pleasing others. There’s a people-pleasing beast inside me that wants to make me look good and build me up. But this isn’t about me. It’s about giving glory to God. It’s about speaking the truth in love, living by the Spirit, not the flesh. Can you get through a day without worrying what others think, living and speaking your convictions? That’s what I want to do.