We see in Matthew, Mark and Luke in chapters 10, 6, and 10 respectively that Jesus begins to send out the 12 to proclaim the good news. They were sent to focus specifically on the house of Israel and literally house to house or town to town. And while the message was for all – it was understood that they had a specific focus for a specific time. As I have spent time processing and examining what it looks like to be a disciple who makes disciples in our modern day culture – one thing that trips me up is the balance between being a big church and finding your little focus. I have students from multiple schools, multiple cities, multiple counties. How in the world do I bring the good news to each of them? The reality is – I don’t. I won’t. I can’t.
Sometimes the only focus someone gets is when they travel to you.
The reality is this – in todays culture where some families drive 45 minutes to attend a church, they probably won’t be seeing me in their community a whole lot. It is not because I don’t love them. But there is something about living in and among people that goes a lot farther than an outsider traveling into, not knowing, and not being apart of a culture. I do, however, find other ways to encourage them – such as writing them letters letting them know I am thinking of them (much like Paul to the early church), sending a text message, or the occasional school athletic or extracurricular event.
Oftentimes God directs or redirects your focus.
4 or so years ago I prayed that God would lead me into partnerships in the local middle schools/communities. I worked really hard to set up meetings and open doors on my own – but the Holy Spirit worked over these last few years to direct (and redirect) my focus. It was not necessarily intentional that the community who gets most of my time is the one where our physical building is located. It doesn’t make sense – being the community I was met with the most opposition, and yet the ones where I had conversations about Jesus replied with a strong “sorry, it just won’t work.” And the ones who were hesitant have somehow become the wide open doors. The second community I was involved in ended last year, as I was redirected through staffing changes and loss of programs – which I believe was the Holy Spirit guiding my focus. I never dreamt the spheres of middle school life I would be able to walk alongside – and yet God has been working miraculously. Trust God, follow the guiding of the Holy Spirit, and be faithful – even if it doesn’t make sense. Even if it doesn’t seem fair.
Sometimes a culture needs to be broken.
When I first began, there was a culture of pastor and interns. And while I am a fan of both – it was very unhealthy. It doesn’t allow for growth beyond what a paycheck can draw, and doesn’t allow for discipleship or a team. Our team of adults is nowhere near finished, nowhere near perfect – but I trust them. And they love Jesus – which compels them not to teach their students for an hour but ask to be a part of whatever student function we are doing. It took over 4 years to move from “I can drive students” to “I want to be in a cabin with students.” From “Let me teach about bible things” to “I need to apologize to my guys for not being here the last few weeks.” It allows students to be the little focus in a big church environment. It frees the paid staff members to equip – to focus and fight fires, and to be a part of what God is doing outside the walls of the church building.
Sometimes when you focus little God does a lot. God won’t give us more than we can handle – but we aren’t supposed to handle it all alone. Its not my job to make disciples – it is my duty as a follower of Jesus, my Lord and Savior. I don’t work with middle school students because its easy or fun. But there is a tug on my heart unexplainable – as unexplainable as the God of the universe sending His son to die on my behalf – offering redemption to a wretched sinner. I am a part of something big, something global, a church greater than the North Canton Chapel – and I focus where I am, each step, not trying to skip to get somewhere quicker, not shortcutting because someone says so – but following the Spirit.