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Here’s What Spiritual Growth Looks Like

One of the newest things in my city isn’t new at all. It’s an old school that nearly got the wrecking ball. It’s the kind of iconic school you see in the movies: big front steps, symmetrical sides, and one simple hallway.

As people moved out of the neighborhood, heading for newer homes in safer areas, the school struggled and was eventually decommissioned. For a few years it sat unused, overgrown with weeds.

In a beautiful turn of events, business owners and community advocates dreamed about how this building could become a community hub.

Today this space is home to a coffee shop, a bakery, a brewery, an events center, a concert venue, a farmers’ market, an engineering firm and a church plant.

Posters remind you to buy local. Heaps of flyers invite you to community-centered events. Something that had become worthless to the city is now the pride of the neighborhood.

This underdog story is a living picture of God’s unfolding Kingdom. The Kingdom of God, his reign and rule in all things, anchors our lives amid the raging seas. A Kingdom life can be summed up on one word: obedience.

It inhabits our words and actions. Matthew 9:35 reminds us, “Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”

It was his first proclamation of ministry and the last course he taught the disciples. John the Baptist and Paul lived and shared this same message of the Kingdom.

Jesus’ mission is our mission: to proclaim and embody that God is on his throne.

Neither words nor actions alone are sufficient.

We exist to live a different story than this consumer-driven, me-first, get-ahead-and-stick-it-to-the-man world we live in.

In God’s reign the last become first, the misfits are welcomed, prejudice is crushed, old things are made new, busted things become beautiful, grace trumps works, dependence means freedom, dying is gain and people can rejoice when they fall short.

Following Jesus doesn’t make us perfect; it calls us out of comfortable stadium seating and onto the field to join God’s work.

We live in a culture of advocacy. We are overwhelmed by causes banding together to fight deep injustices. It’s in our faces and our social media feeds. We long to experience the wholeness, or shalom, that Jesus unfurled on the earth. People are showing and telling this freeing message of Jesus in unique ways. Jesus has invited all of us, to join the team.

Here are five things to remember when joining God’s Kingdom work.

Pursue obedience, not activity.

Disciples learn the desires of Jesus and obey. This requires a downward humility that pushes past entitlement to love and servanthood.

The needs in our cities and our world can be overwhelming. Don’t get wrapped up in frenetic activity, busily joining any cause you can.

Your pursuit of obeying Jesus will lead you to unique, sometimes radically different, areas than someone else. Don’t let activity hold you back from obedience.

Fight the urge to chase impact; just obey. Talk is cheap, tweets are cheap and token participation in causes is cheap. Obedience is costly.

Shed layers; don’t add them.

Most Christian leaders, especially those of us who feel more at home in the right side of our brains, desperately need simple systems to follow. We have good ideas for obeying Jesus, but they are often clouded by several layers of fog, leaving us paralyzed.

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Find a simple framework and a practical structure to help you take your next right step of obedience to God. This simplification in my own discipleship process was freeing and led me to write Guardrails: Six Principles for a Multiplying Church.

Join something; don’t start something.

In the roughly 50 commands Christ gives throughout his ministry, he never asks us to start new things.

The disciples weren’t entrepreneurs; they were servants.

Founders of new ventures or ministries are simply joining God in his renewal of all things, the realization of his Shalom. Don’t become obsessed with brand and publicity.

The movement of God is already taking place in homes, neighborhoods, cafés, art galleries and tattoo parlors all over. There’s no need to try to start a movement; just join one.

Focus on the ‘why,’ not the ‘what.’

The power lies not in what you’re doing to follow Jesus but in why you’re doing it. The gospel invites us to receive, embody and proclaim the truth that Jesus died to save a wretch like me.

The gospel doesn’t offer us easy solutions; it invites us into the freedom and joy of Kingdom life.

Think ‘us,’ not ‘me.’

A band of ordinary dudes traveled on foot to show and tell of this upside-down way of life oriented around Jesus. If the disciples needed a team to embody and proclaim the Kingdom, so do we.

We live in a selfie culture, grasp for some kind of credit and fly solo in an effort to build and protect our own little kingdoms. The gospel is not about hoarding and grasping but about participating and sharing.

Get out of the comfortable nosebleed seats. Roll up your sleeves. God is inviting you onto the field to join his Kingdom work.

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