If you look back over your life, no matter how long you’ve been alive, it’s easy to see how little things have had a significant lasting impact. Small acts of obedience are often overlooked because they seem “too small or meaningless.” While they may seem insignificant to us, our vision is too limited to know how God will use it. Those “small” acts are often the first step toward a much larger plan. God has a plan for each believer’s life and a specific way to make it happen. We see a specific example of how small steps can have a big impact in the life of Peter.
In Luke 5, we find Jesus teaching on the shore of lake Gennesaret. The crowd grew too big so Jesus needed a better vantage point to continue teaching. He asked Peter to row Him off shore to solve the problem. This simple act of letting Jesus use his boat as a floating platform became a turning point in Peter’s life. Peter was probably tired (and frustrated) as he had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught anything. It would have been easy to refuse Jesus’ request, but imagine what he would have missed out on.
We aren’t too different from Peter! Jesus still calls people to seemingly small acts of obedience. Too often we see these promptings as inconvenient and unimportant. When Peter let Jesus use his boat, he opened the door for Him to use his whole life!
How do you respond when God asks you to do something that seems irrational? When Jesus finished teaching that day, He told Peter to row farther out to catch fish. Peter knew that the best fishing was at night…I mean, he was a fisherman! But because he had just obeyed Jesus, he got a front row seat to hear Him teach and he decided to give this crazy idea a try. When he got to where Jesus sent him, he caught more fish than he could handle!
Because of Peter’s obedience in what seemed to be small, Jesus called him to follow Him as a disciple and transformed him into a great leader. Imagine what God could do in our lives if we obey Him in the small things, even when it doesn’t make sense.
It’s often difficult at first glace to know if something is authentic or not. While living in China, there were malls full of shops that sold counterfeit name-brand handbags, suits, watches, clothes, glasses, computers, etc. Most of the items are an almost identical copy of the real thing. To the untrained eye, you might be fooled. Or maybe you just like to wear Fokley’s (fake Oakley sunglasses)! How do you know when something is authentic?
With most things, the way one is trained to detect a counterfeit is to spend a lot of time with the real thing. Want to make sure you’re buying an authentic Rolex watch or designer handbag? If the price is too good to be true, you’re probably about to purchase a counterfeit.
Authentic money, Rolex watches, and Louis Vuitton handbags have qualities that make it easy to distinguish between the real thing and a counterfeit.
What about authentic community? I like the four characteristics Bill Hybels shared years ago in a message at Willow Creek. He said that the characteristics of authentic community are:
To know and be known: Way more than casual acquaintances or Facebook friends. Deeper than the surface level, mask-wearing, master of disguise forms so common today. To truly know and be truly known is to share life. Can you imagine Peter’s desperate desire to be known when Jesus asked him a third time if he loved him? ”Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you (John 21:17).” Is anything more countercultural than to drop our mask and let our friends see who we really are?
To love and be loved: Beyond being liked or likable, to love and be loved is about following Jesus’ example. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34-35).” He went on to say, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).” If it’s hard for many to allow anyone to truly love us, it seems near impossible for most of us to show love first. If there has ever been a more countercultural action I don’t know what it is.
To serve and be served: To expect to be served is ordinary. When we experience substandard service at a restaurant, we feel justified in leaving a smaller tip (or even omitting a tip!). To adopt the posture of a servant? Not easily done. Jesus demonstrated this countercultural characteristic when He set aside what was truly His and took on the form of a servant (Philippians 2:5-8). When He washed the disciples feet he said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 13:14-15).”
To celebrate and be celebrated: How rare to be genuinely celebrated! How uncharacteristic of the 21st century to celebrate the accomplishments of anyone else. The apostle Paul instructed us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15.” Who can truly do either? Countercultural and yet at the heart of authentic community.
Those are key characteristics of authentic community. Do you have it? Can you get it? If we are going to experience it, we need to BE it.
What other characteristics does authentic community have?
Small groups can sometimes become consumeristic and inward focused. We start asking questions like, “what do we want to study next?” “who’s bringing the cookies next week?” And the focus shifts inward. The question is, How do we get off the couch and into the community and start really making a difference? Believing that Small groups are the purest form of the church and the church exists for the world…why have we built our lifegroup ministry to exist for the church?
Neighborhoods, like ecosystems, are a complex set of relationships among the living resources habitats and residence of an area. It includes plants, trees, animals, fish, birds, microorganisms, water, soil, and people.
When we small groups move into living rooms in neighborhoods around our community, we have introduced new things to those ecosystems. I don’t know much about science, but I do know that ecosystems can be easily interrupted. If you introduce something new into an ecosystem, you, on some level, disrupt it. on some level you change that ecosystem.
So the question we have to ask about the interruption to the ecosystem is…was the change good or not?Has it had a positive or negative impact?
Keep in mind that…
THERE IS NO NEUTRAL.
NEUTRAL IS NEGATIVE. We get in our holy huddles and pray together, study the bible, and care for each other. But our inactivity in our community and the fact that we aren’t getting outside… with our inaction we are showing indifference to lostness.
POSITIVE IS POSITIVE (profound, i know). This this is great news. If we make a positive impact we will draw people to Christ.
What is the cost? What is a stake if we aren’t making a positive impact in our ecosystems?
Christ’s Reputation. Matt. 5:16 “…let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” God’s reputation gets a boost when we get outside of ourselves and make an impact. Jesus said, if I be lifted up I will draw all men unto myself. All we have to do is be obedient.
Our Own Obedience. Matt 28:19-20 “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” We take this as a suggestion…but it’s the great COMMISSION!
Eternity. Heb. 9:27 “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment,” We are going to have eternity to study the bible, fellowship and worship God… but we only have NOW to lead people to Christ. Eternity is a long time. and the judgement is final. there is no second chance.
Our Own Spiritual Formation. We wil become more like Christ when we get off the couch and live the way Jesus lived. We want to be like Jesus? We’ve go to LIVE IT! We are so far educated above and beyond the level of our obedience it’s disheartening. It’s time!
It’s time to shift our focus outward! Our days are numbered…let’s not waste them. There is too much at stake.
Listen to the entire training session from Jan. 25, click below. 3 sessions including Bill Leppo, Pete Shoger, and Jonah Easley
This year I had the opportunity to lead a team to Pune, India. This life changing experience changed hearts and opened our eyes to what God is doing all over the world. Our main focus was teaching a pastors conference for 25 pastors. Those pastors will continue to take the messages they learned on the foundations of the early church and spread it throughout India. Our goal is to see biblical churches planted and growing all over the world.