Two simple practices for being a bit more like Jesus
If all it took to help people become like Jesus was attending church services, our country would be full of people who are barely indistinguishable from Jesus!
Now church services are really important. We come to give worship to God, to pray, to receive instruction from God's Word, and to interact as a loving community. However, the challenge often is to translate the Sunday experience into the rest of our lives.
Here are two simple things from the life of Jesus that can help: Discipling Discussions & Missional Meals. When you read the gospels you will observe that Jesus regularly had discussions with his disciples AND regularly ate meals in people's homes.
Now a discipling discussion may immediately bring to mind a small group and a Missional Meal may bring to mind a Missional Community. And that is exactly right, when small groups and missional communities are operating well they will have discipling discussions and missional meals.
But what if you aren't in a small group or missional community or don't know how you could fit either of those into your life at the moment? Well the good thing is you can simply aim to add these elements on a less formal basis
- every so often, catch up with some Christian friends and have a discipling discussion.
- once a month try and organise to have a meal with a mix of Christian and non Christian friends.
How can I have a Discipling Discussion?
A discipling discussion is a conversation between 2-8 Christians about their Christian lives. It could be with a spouse, or a couple of close friends, or even with family around a dinner table. The aim is to encourage each other by sharing what is going on in your life with God and praying for each other.
The good thing is these discussions don't take ANY preparation. Just choose a few of these options to fill whatever time you have available:
Share highlights and lowlights from your lives since last time you met - they will provide issues for prayer and thanks, but they can also help identify a Kairos - a moment where God's Kingdom could be or in fact is breaking into your life in fresh ways.
Share what you remember from the last sermon you heard.
Share something from a recent bible passage you have read.
Talk about one area of your life you where are hoping to grow as a Christian - Content (knowing God), Character (being like Jesus), Competency (being able to do the things Jesus did)
Reflect on the three dimensions of life (UP - with God/ loving God with everything; IN - with God's people/loving each other, OUT - being with people in the world around us/loving our neighbour). Talk about which dimension is strong and which is weak at the moment. Think about how you might strengthen the weak dimension.
Then move to application and prayer - DON'T EVER SKIP THIS BIT! From the discussion pause, reflect, and try and answer these two questions - What might God be saying to me in this? How can I simply respond in the next few days? (It is important that each person focuses on how they are responding to what God might be saying to them - it is NOT about telling someone else what God is saying to them and what they should be doing!). Then pray for each other and encourage each other.
How can I have a Missional Meal?
A Missional Meal is where Christians get out of their Christian Ghetto, and gather together with a mix of their Christian and non Christian friends to enjoy food, share life, and experience enriching community.
A missional meal won't have the structured spiritual conversations of a Discipling Discussion, or even have spiritual content every time. However, genuine community involves the sharing of our lives and if we allow the space for it and people feel comfortable, the deeper parts of who people are will come out in conversation - our views, our values, our concerns, our joys, and the highlights and lowlights of our lives.
So when you are with people over a meal -
Just be yourself. Part of who you are includes the presence of Jesus in you! And part of the reason people like you is the presence of Jesus in you (whether they are aware of that or not)!
Take genuine interest in others - ask one more question.
Look for ways you could offer encouragement or practical help to someone.
Share what is happening in your life and don't leave out the spiritual part (for example: if you are discussing what you did on the weekend, share that you went to a church service and if people's eyes don't glaze over share something that was said or sung that impacted you from that service).
Many of us offer to pray for our Christian friends when they share some need, so look for opportunities to do the same with non Christian friends. Don't make a big thing of it, it can just be a mention in passing as you take plates to the kitchen or even as you see someone out the door.
Respect people's responses - if they don't want to share, don't push it; if they don't show any interest or openness to any topic (spiritual or otherwise) don't push it; don't use conversations as a platform to demonstrate your cleverness or 'rightness', rather be humble and enquiring.
Never force anything and never bait and switch by inviting people to an event (like a dinner) and then turning it into something they weren't expecting (like a bible study)
If Discipling Discussions and/or Missional Meals aren't already a regular part of your life, have a go at including them. They may feel strange at first - most new things usually do. You may feel that you aren't very good at doing them - that is ok, it is the same when we start anything new. We don't have to go from zero to hero in one step, but we can make progress if we take one small step and then another one, and another....
*Jesus hosts the Last Supper with his disciples.
(c) Buena Vista Home Video
David Wanstall, 08/03/2017