Increasingly, my heart beats faster with the idea that Jesus Christ wants to transform the world. In some circles to say such a thing has become a powerless cliché. For many of my early years as a believer, I believed this, but then reality set in, my focus drifts and the task of seeing the world transformed seemed a distant fantasy. As I continue to walk with Jesus, trying (and often failing) to listen and respond to His voice my belief has been restored once more that Jesus can change the world. I believe this to the core of my being because scripture says it and life affirms it. As I consider how I want to spend the rest of my life I want to be all in, giving Jesus everything I have to see this goal take some significant steps forward.
To do this takes a healthy balance of Christian discipleship and influence. Many are familiar with Micah 6:8 which says, “What does the Lord require of you? That we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God”. That’s discipleship. But the verse doesn’t end there, it continues (verse 9), “Quick, go, the Lord is calling you to the city”. That’s influence. We must be people of continued growth and increasing spiritual influence if we want to make a difference in the world.
As I reflect on many churches and specially Christians toward, I see them fitting into one of the following four categories.
1) No discipleship and no spiritual influence – This is so sad, even to the point that it is sub-Christian.
2) No discipleship, but spiritual influence – This isscary.
3 3) Discipleship, but no spiritual influence – Something is breaking down somewhere because Jesus grows us to serve and lovingly influence others.
4) Increasing discipleship and increasing influence – This is the stage I think that the Church needs us to get to.
Which one of these categories are you in? What needs to happen for you to move to level four?
Let me quickly provide some practical thoughts on how we can partner with Jesus to transform the world as we grow in our discipleship and in our influence. These thoughts are taken from Acts 17 where Paul, a growing disciple, is invited to extend in influence within the city of Athens. As we look at what happen through Paul here, perhaps there are some things that we can learn to further our growth and influence our world. I’ll call these thoughts “Plan Be”, which is kind of ironic because we, the church are actually “Plan A” to extend the transformative power of the gospel.
Be Convicted – Share God’s Heart (Acts 17:16)
As Paul entered Athens he quickly became distressed. Why? Not just because he saw a city that needed transforming because it was drowning in idols, but because these idols were robbing God of His glory.
Be Involved – Engage the Interested (Acts 17:18-19)
There were primarily three spaces that Paul moved to as he ministered: The Temple, the marketplace and among the influencers. Primarily he engaged two groups of people: The Epicureans and the Stoics. The Epicureans said “Enjoy Life” and the Stoics said “Endure Life”. Neither of these systems works because life does not function at the exclusivity of the other! How does life work? Paul tells them that the answer is found in the resurrection of Christ. The same conclusion should be reached today.
3 Be Clear – Infuse the Gospel as You Interpret the Culture. (Acts 17: 22-31)
Paul is given influence before the cultural shapers to give reason for the hope that he has. As he speaks, he is crystal clear about the what and Who it is that can transform the world. He tells them of:
- The Greatness of God – He is our creator (vs 24)
- The Goodness of God – He satisfies every need (vs 25)
- The Governance of God – He is the Ruler who sets the boundaries (vs 26-28)
- The Grace of God – He is our Savior (30-32)
4 Be Bold – Different People will Respond in Different Ways (Acts 17:33-34)
Some laughed, some put off the decision, but some believed. And one, who believed, Dionysius, later went on to become the Bishop of Athens, meaning that from Paul’s ministry a number of Churches were started.
Jesus wants to change the world, and He wants to do it through you! As you grow in your relationship with Jesus, grow also in your spiritual influence in the world!
Be Convicted, Be Involved, Be Clear and Be Bold!