No matter what happens in the world, we are called to be a blessing. When Jesus invited people to follow him, he invited them to be his disciples. Through discipleship, they were changed. As they discipled others, the world was changed – slowly and steadily, and in the right direction. Of all the ways Jesus could have chosen to bring about change in the world, he chose the slow, sometimes painful, often messy process of discipleship. He taught his disciples to live the way he lived. As disciples of Jesus make disciples of Jesus who are equipped and motivated to make more, they are changing the world in the right direction. They are reproducing people who imitate Jesus in their lifestyle.
When Jesus initiated this, the ruthless, powerful Roman Empire was in charge. But the followers of Jesus began to draw others into a better way of life by their lifestyle. They didn’t force the change. They extended the change that Jesus initiated. It proved to be a sustainable change in the right direction against all odds. It did not meet power with power. It met power with grace, humility, and love. Whenever and wherever the followers of Jesus have taken discipleship seriously, the same sorts of things happen and the world changes in the right direction.
In John 20:21, we are told that Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Then Jesus told them, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” That sending extends to us today. Jesus sends us. Part of discipleship is accepting this command of being sent by Jesus to be a blessing to the world, and recognizing the Holy Spirit will work through us to do so.
Too often, followers of Jesus are not seen as the bringers of blessing. In fact, many followers of Jesus are known for bringing something that feels more like a curse. Some Christians have engaged in social and political causes very publicly, very loudly, and often not very politely. As a result, followers of Jesus are not known for kindness or thoughtfulness. We are called to represent Jesus. We can do better.
The best thing we can do is to love our neighbors with the love of Jesus. (We are commanded to love our neighbors, after all.) A great guide that can help us get out there and engage the world in a positive way is to develop what Michael Frost calls the BELLS lifestyle. When we do this, you could say we shine. Bless three people each week— one who is someone you don’t know or who isn’t a Christian. Eat with three people each week – one you don’t know or who isn’t a Christian. Listen for the Spirit when you pray. Learn Christ by reading the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And finally, See yourself as sent.
Here’s a breakdown:
B: Bless three people this week – When God called Abraham, he told him he had blessed him to be a blessing. (Genesis 12:2) This same principle extended to his descendants and through Christ extends to us. Since we have been blessed, how can we bless people? Here are a few ideas: encourage someone, serve someone, give someone a gift, write a card to someone, meet a neighbor’s need, when someone starts talking, really listen. Take an interest in them. Pray for them. Put a little thought and effort into the best way to bless someone you know. Try blessing three people each week. Also, try to bless at least one person who you don’t know well or who is not a follower of Jesus. Just a note – this isn’t about a contrived strategy for getting someone to convert. It is about loving people. Jesus told us to bless people, even if they are our enemies (i.e. Matthew 5:44.)
E: Eat with three people this week— (or just have a cup of coffee). The stories about Jesus are often set at meals and feasts. (i.e. John 13.) Try to eat with three people. Eat with some people who follow of Jesus and eat with someone who you think may not be a Christian, and with someone (anyone) else as you have opportunity. Sit down with them, look them in the eye, and have a conversation. When we eat together, we tend to share more than just food. You get to know someone at a deeper level when you eat something together. You cannot begin to love people well until you begin to know them well. Breaking bread really helps.
L: Listen for the Spirit— Pray and listen for God. As you pray, how is the Spirit leading you? Who is he bringing to mind? What is the Spirit saying? How is the Spirit leading? Will you respond? Much more is written about this in the Learning Circle in the discussion of kairos moments. If you think God may be saying something to you, that would be an invitation to turn, consider what the Lord is saying, and consider how to respond. In our experience, God often puts people on our hearts, especially during times of prayer. Ask God to lead you and help you connect with people he wants you to bless. Ask for open doors for opportunities to get to know people. Another thing that helps, read scripture prayerfully and contemplatively and pay attention to what gets your attention in God’s word! Finally, it is also pretty essential to have conversation with others you know well and with whom you are following Jesus. God often speaks to us through the voices of others.
L: Learn Christ— As Dallas Willard says, “Discipleship is learning from Jesus how to live like Jesus would if he were in my shoes.” We read from the Bible in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) in order to learn the way Jesus lived and consider how we might imitate him. Read a story about Jesus or play close attention to one of his teachings and then consider how we might live faithfully into that. Another way to learn Christ is through watching one of the many movies made about Jesus and let his lifestyle challenge you. Who did Jesus show himself to be? Who did he live with? What did he do? Why did he do it? How did he structure his life? How did he face challenges? How did he celebrate? How did he spend his time? Thinking though Finally, we encourage learning from someone else who is following Jesus in ways that encourage or challenge you.
S: See Yourself as Sent—As the Father sent Jesus, so Jesus has sent you. (John 20:21). Well know author and preacher, David Platt, points out that there is no such thing as an unsent Christian. We are a sent people. Part of what it means to live missionally is accepting that God has invited us into His mission to bless and redeem the world. God sent himself in the person of Jesus: The Father sent the Son! And Jesus, the one who was sent to us, now sends us. Our life is meant to be a response to the loving action of God! We are a sent people.
This lifestyle resonates wonderfully with the blessing that Dick Halverson (former U.S. Senate Chaplain) used for years. Receive these words: “You go no where by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you find yourself, God has a reason for your being there. Christ who lives in you by the power of the Holy Spirit has something he desires to do in you and through you wherever you find yourself. I encourage you to believe this and go in His grace, His love, and His power. Amen.”
I have heard a story that Dick Halverson called that simple benediction, pronounced week after week, the most effective part of his ministry. People hearing it week after week began to believe it and began to bless the world!
We are a sent people!
If you want to learn more about this, Michael Frost has written a book called, Surprise the World: The Five Habbits of Missional People.
Questions for reflection:
1) Where can you do this?
2) Who can you bless this week?
3) Who can you eat with/share a cup of coffee with this week?
4) What are some ideas for blessing others.
5) Do you have time to listen for the Spirit and to learn Christ?
6) Is God saying anything to you? What will you do about it?