You Cannot Become Like Christ on Your Own
guest blogger: Scott Savage
My church‘s mission is to challenge people to discover and live a Christ-centered life. Our aim is Christ-centered people. Sometimes, I feel like that statement should have had a footnote, which reads “don’t forget that you cannot become Christ-centered on your own.”
Why the footnote? Because being an American can work against being Christ-centered. We live in an incredibly narcissistic and individualistic culture. Those two factors work against being selfless and doing life with other people. The values of our nation are not in alignment with the values of the Kingdom.
Recently, my pastor, Jason Whalen, preached a series of messages about his core passions – as a follower of Jesus and a pastor. One of those messages was A Passion for Community. As a member of the creative team, I started thinking about stories from our church that illustrated this passion. One story came to mind immediately, but I was uncertain if the people involved would be willing to share their story that publicly. I was so grateful when they said yes.
The “yes” led to a short film that we titled The Secret Moms Club.
The video exceeded our expectations and the response from people in our church was incredible. As I stepped back from that Sunday and the experience of filming and producing that film, I’ve reflected on how community helps make us more like Jesus.
1. When we share vulnerably with each other, it becomes easier to share more vulnerably with God.
These ladies shared in the video about the vulnerability and transparency that they exchanged through some of the most emotionally traumatic experiences one can experience. (Sadly, during the filming and after the film was shown, we continued to discover scores of women who’ve had miscarriages and had no one to be honest with about it. We prayed that showing the film would make that sharing easier or more “socially acceptable”.)
Their experience reminded me that we can only be loved to the extent that we are known. If the people around us don’t know us – the good, bad and ugly, they are unable to love us in those places. The more we make ourselves known to the people around us, the more places they have to love us. When the people of God express acceptance and love towards us in those places of brokenness and vulnerability, we begin to believe that this is God’s posture towards us as well. We know this from the opposite experience – when spiritual community is a place where hiding and shame are normal, then we begin to expect the same thing from God.
2. We experience God’s work in our life through the actions of people who are yielded to Him.
I’m not sure what Jesus looked like. Was he taller or shorter than me? Did he have a beard or a goatee or a hipster mustache with handle bars?
One thing I do know – Jesus looks like the people who have loved and cared for me.
In August 2012, I was working with a team, trying to discover how we could transition the Sunday evening service we had been leading. At the end of one of our meetings, which frankly had not gone well, I broke down and shared that I was heading away for a personal retreat. I opened up and shared about how I felt like I had nothing left as their leader. I went to dig deeper and found nothing. I was terrified of being vulnerable, but the love and grace I received overwhelmed me. As they laid hands on me to pray for me, I broke down and cried. (I’m about to cry just reliving it). That experience gave me the confidence that God was going to meet me the next day in my moment of greatest need. The following months became a process of moving from burnout to renewal. (Recently, I chronicled that journey in a blog, that you can read here).
When I isolate myself and avoid community, I decrease the avenues through which God can express His love and are in my life. When I come out of hiding and embrace community, I meet Jesus all the time as He moves through the people who follow Him.
3. If C.S. Lewis was right when he said “we need to be reminded more than instructed”, then a community of people becomes a powerful memory-triggering device to us.
In an age of information overload, we read and forget more information than we retain. We listen to and forget sermons, Bible Study lessons and insights from our own personal study. When information overload meets the frenetic pace at which we live, it becomes paramount that we remind each other of:
- Who we are in Christ…
- God’s posture towards us…
- Where we are compared to where we’ve been…
- Our gifts and calling in the world.
When we experience victory, the celebration is much greater when we have company. When we encounter crises, navigating them becomes easier when we have help. The highs are higher and the lows are not as low, when we reject isolation and embrace community.
In his book, Becoming a Spiritual Community, Larry Crabb writes, “together in Christ encourages movement toward Christ.” There are so many important pieces to include in your journey towards Christ-centeredness. I am not really sure one is more important than the other. But I know you will not get there on your own. There are no self-made men or women in the Kingdom.
You cannot become like Christ on your own.
Scott Savage is a husband, father, writer and pastor. He serves as the Minister to Young Adults at North Phoenix Baptist Church. He blogs at scottsavagelive.com. When Scott laughs, his cackle can be heard around the world.