(Takeaways from an Andy Stanly talk from Drive Conference 2010.)
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Acts 15. Let me set the stage for you. At this time, there is a pretty sharp dispute brewing between the leaders of the early church, specifically regarding Gentile believers. Gentile believers were those people who were brought to faith in Christ but were not raised Jewish. This meant they were not circumcised, nor had they memorized and chosen to practice the laws of the Old Testament.
Some church leaders believed that before these men could join the Christian Church, they must first fulfill the requirements of the O.T. laws (i.e, circumcision, and embracing O.T. laws.) While others sharply disagreed, and believed Judaism had NOTHING to do with salvation.
You can imagine the tension being felt by Gentile men. I mean, the decision the church leaders came to on this issue DIRECTLY affected these guys, not only spiritually, but PHYSICALLY…LITERALLY…ouch!
Anyways, I digress…so, in Acts 15, we find these church leaders gathered together trying to come to a consensus on this issue. While some believed these acts were necessary, others held to the fact that it is through GRACE alone that we are saved. Not through O.T. acts. Some apostles even went so far as to remind the council that God KNOWS the heart, and the heart is what matters to Him.
One of my favorite moments in the story, is when Peter sarcastically asks the men; “How can we put on the necks of these men a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear!?” Basically he’s saying, “WE couldn’t even keep all of the O.T. laws, how can we expect these new Gentile believers to!”
Then James, the BROTHER of Jesus, stands up and comes to this conclusion in verse 9: “It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
So, what does this have to do with us? ALOT!
See, most churches across America naturally gravitate towards insiders instead of outsiders. It’s just the natural gravitational pull. Why? Because think about it…outsiders never complain! The people we want to keep happy are the one who are already attending, already tithing, already leading. So naturally, we tend to gravitate towards meeting the need of insiders rather than outsiders. Sometimes we are more about PRESERVING rather than ADVANCING.
We also gravitate more naturally to Law instead of Grace. Why? Because it’s easier. It’s easier to tell someone they are living in sin and they need to stop, rather than tell them that God loves them just as they are, right where they are at. The earlier is much more defined, black and white, and concrete.
But here is what I love about being a part of Next Level Church and a part of our student ministry there. We DEFY GRAVITY! We believe that what James said in Acts 15 is more applicable to us than ever. We have to remove barriers, and make it as SIMPLE, and as EASY as possible for outsiders to come to faith in Christ. The Gospel is already intimidating enough. We don’t need to make it more difficult for people who are trying to come to grips with it.
In our student ministry, we have made three commitments, to ensure that this happens.
1. Every quarter, we identify and remove any OBSTACLES we might have created that get in the way of disconnected people coming to faith in Christ.
2. Second, we always err on the side of Grace rather than law. We want students to know that while there may be nobody else who loves them because of who they are or what they’ve done, there is a God who does! And his grace is MORE than enough for them. Now, you gotta know, we want people to change. We just don’t expect them to change on their own. We believe that true change comes from the heart, and as they grow in their relationship with God through personal time with God, and corporate worship, they will begin to change…because has created them a new person, not because someones harping the rules at them.
3. Finally, we focus on our unique calling. What is that one thing that we are distinctly called to do? For us, it’s connecting students to God. For our church, it’s helping people take the next step in their relationship with God. We don’t do ANYTHING that gets in the way of that calling. But more importantly, we keep our eyes focused on that calling and use it as our gauge for defining success.
Are you defying gravity in your church or area of ministry???