We have talked a lot about vision in our blog. It is essential to what we do. It is the “why behind the what,” as some people have said. It establishes our core values and directs all our decisions. It affects everything from how we run a business to how we interact with the homeless guy on the street.
So it's very important for vision to be clear. So what happens when you lose focus? Does the vision get blurry?
Ask any one of us, and we will likely agree that this past year has been rough. Our businesses have suffered, our health has suffered, we've had attacks on property and have lost much of our staff. In the midst of all that, we are still trying to run 6 businesses and keep the lights on in the middle of one of the most desolate areas of our city.
God started trying to get our attention about 6 months ago. He generally begins with restlessness – with a sense that something isn't quite right. Initially, we usually chalk that up to a failure to perform. Maybe there's just too much chaos with our employees, maybe we didn't plan well enough, maybe we need to manage better, maybe we forgot too much. But God kept applying pressure. Business would not turn around. Our personal interactions involved more friction. Our worship gatherings became lifeless.
As we became more aware something was wrong, we became more willing to listen to God's direction. He began to tell us that we had lost our focus. At first, it was the focus on spiritual warfare. So He turned our eyes back to the real spiritual battle that we are in every day, and the fact that we must be engaging it with great intentionality. And not just on our own, but together as a Body, as a united group of soldiers following one Lord into battle.
Through this, God was able to turn our eyes to other concerns. We had tried to escape the burden of constant physical tasks. Which is absurd, since God called us to start businesses so we could work next to those in need of hope. So He started showing us how to manage better and how to minister better in a work environment. Then He showed us that we had lost our first love – the making of disciples.
All the work of Sun Ministries began with a call to go outside the structured American church and make disciples that make disciples; to obey the Great Commission and set captives free. But this wasn't a call to add members to a church. This was a call to obey our Lord Jesus Christ, to walk in the same manner He did, to disciple people because that is God's design of reproduction. That's how He wants His church to bring transformation to others. It is a very costly form of relationship, but one that also creates life-giving environments. This seems to be God's pattern. “Give up everything so I can give you life more abundant.” We often fail to see how all the things we hold on to are small, temporal, and meaningless. The holy things of God are immense, eternal, and full of real goodness. Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Jesus will find it.
So what does disciple-making have to do with running a cafe in north city? Nothing, if your goal is to run a cafe in north city. But EVERYTHING if your goal is to bring any amount of lasting transformation. And this goes for anyone, whether they are a middle class college kid raised in the church, or a fifty-year-old homeless man who hasn't had a license in 15 years. God was intentional of His design for the church, and from the very beginning, Jesus was calling disciples. He then instructed His disciples to make disciples. And we see this play out in the midst of a church that was sharing all things, mourning and rejoicing together, and utilizing spiritual gifts together in order to build up the body in love.
Man has looked for many solutions to pain and evil. Conquest, Pax Romana, genocide, large-scale behavior modification, social welfare, education, fascism, socialism, communism, democracy, legislation, amendments, and a cornucopia of non-profit organizations. Though well-intentioned, these often disregard God's design for His creation. So what does this mean for us? Providing a job does not change a person's heart. Providing a space to live does not destroy the works of satan in their lives. Picking up trash, rehabbing houses, and publishing blogs does not transform areas long bound by oppression. And if you're just focused on trying to alleviate the chaos around you, you will do little to reform the church.
Discipleship is God's creation, His people, these little image bearers, taking the gifts they've been given and using them to help others come to know the Good Shepherd. It is laying down your life for your brother. Discipleship isn't a sunday school class, or a seminar, or weekend retreat. It is a way of life that unites you with others through the Spirit, and leads people to the goal of becoming Spirit-transformed followers of Christ.
Are you making a place for this in your life? Keep in mind that you are not meant to be alone. The Body needs to make a place for the “least of these”, to build each other up so that we can be united in the mission to make disciples and teach them what Christ has taught us.
As we move forward in 2017, we will be intentional to remain focused on the vision – to bring Good News to the afflicted, to share with them the good things the Father has given us, and to teach our disciples to obey Jesus and go and make disciples of their own.
If you'd like to know more about making disciples, you can download our free book (or order a physical copy), “The Disciple-Maker's Handbook” here.