Loyal Hearts -> Loyal Churches -> Loyal Movement of God

weet fellowship with our friends, Chris & Theresa!

Sweet fellowship with our friends, Chris & Theresa!

Last week Kerri-Sue, Blake, Liza and I drove out to Chicago to spend time with all those fired-up disciples in the Chicago International Christian Church. What an amazing time to re-connect with so many disciples who were sent out by God from Syracuse to start the church in Chicago almost three years ago. But one of the things that never fails to encourage my faith is getting to meet all the disciples who’ve become part of the family of God since we LAST visited—now there are more than one hundred sold-out disciples in the church! Certainly one of the main reasons we went out to Chicago was to further our training as church leaders through imitation and getting our hearts discipled. Kerri-Sue and I are also so thankful to God for the incredible training and continued support and friendship we get from our dear friends Andrew & Patrique Smellie, who now lead the Washington DC International Christian Church!

Chris & Theresa Broom call people closer to God by the sheer joy by which they serve our God. Just being around them, seeing them teach and counsel and train and parent and schedule and prioritize that schedule and all the while keeping that “joy-to-just-serve-God” alive was once again, life-changing. Sometimes you don’t realize how little joy you have settled for until you are around someone who makes you look like you’ve just burnt your toast! How refreshing it was to set my mind once again on being fed and led by the Spirit to do whatever good works (JOYFULLY), which God prepared in advance for us to do! (Ephesians 2:10, joyful emphasis mine!)

Perhaps the biggest lesson of the week for me was in the area of understanding loyalty and how it underlies everything we are trying to do as a movement of churches. Chris taught a great lesson at his Tuesday morning staff meeting entitled “Be, Not Act.” In 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 Paul chooses to “BE a loyal friend” by passing up an open door to preach the gospel in Troas, because he didn’t find his brother Titus there. Knowing Paul, he likely came up with a great plan to leave some fired up disciples there in Troas, since he was constantly raising up young evangelists to do the spiritual work he himself was called by God to do. But make no mistake about it, Paul had “no peace of mind” when he didn’t find Titus there, so he went on to Macedonia to make sure his friend was alright. In my opinion, the friendship with Titus wasn’t more important than the saving of souls; their friendship was already founded wholly on saving souls. But at that moment in time, Paul was teaching every disciple in that young church in Troas and the men who accompanied him for ministry-training how to evangelize the world: by imitating the loyalty of Jesus.

Jesus preached in Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus didn’t say he WOULD be with his disciples at the end of the age, he said he already WAS with them and would continually be with their every step to the very end of the age. There has never been anyone as loyal as Jesus was, and notice how his loyalty was to God first and then to his friends. Jesus’ loyalty was the pattern of the first century church and is evidenced by the loyalty to death and exile of all twelve of his apostles. What is most shocking about Jesus laying down his life, literally, on the cross, is the loyalty that he showed not only his friends but his enemies. This wasn’t a sentimental loyalty just for relationship’s sake, but a loyalty to do the will of the Father even if it cost him the friendships with those closest to him. And ultimately, it even cost him his relationship with his heavenly Father! As someone once said, “The cross is not often tried and found wanting, but when tried, always sufficient!”

The Psalmist lays it out, how rare loyalty was, even amongst those claiming to be the people of God:

But they put God to the test
and rebelled against the Most High;
they did not keep his statutes.
Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless,
as unreliable as a faulty bow.
-Psalm 78:56- 57

In 2 Timothy 1:15-18 Paul calls Timothy’s attention to a single disciple, Onesiphorus, to highlight how important this loyalty was to evangelizing the world in each generation. He contrasts it with what must have been an extremely sad reality of relationships lost, as he states “all of Asia has deserted me.” Despite man’s consistent struggle with unfaithfulness and disloyalty, which plagued God’s church from the first century all the way down through the ages to the present-day church, God has always brought together loyal friends to do the miraculous! On this building block, these loyal friends can then build loyal churches that can then be gathered by God’s Holy Spirit into a loyal Movement.

My encouraging epiphany in Chicago was that we CAN build a loyal movement, because we already have this loyalty focused on God and his purposes for our lives! Paul expects and teaches this kind of loyalty when he called all the disciples to be like-minded and to be one in spirit and purpose. (Philippians 2:1-2; 4:2-3 and 1 Corinthians 4:17) My own struggle with loyalty has everything to do with my sins of pride, worry and mistrust. At times, when I get in the way and get more focused on how I am doing or how I am perceived as doing by others, then I begin to ask, “Can I build here in Syracuse what they have in Chicago, LA, or DC?” “Do I even have the talent or the supporting cast of leaders that it’s going to take to grow the church here?” (The issue is with the pronouns!) Then I thank God and realize that it’s not all about me—it’s about “WE!” I’m so grateful that the whole Syracuse church, together with our whole family of churches, was able to send out evangelists, women’s ministry leaders, shepherding couples, fired up disciples AND money to Chicago, DC, NYC, Honolulu, Santiago, Phoenix, Portland, etc. over the past couple of years! Some outside our movement have suggested and murmured that this was unwise and even sinful, as they demand to know what will happen to all the disciples here in Syracuse—or pick a place! I don’t think any of the new disciples being baptized around the world or even here in Syracuse currently or any of the new disciples that will be made in the future would understand or tolerate such thinking! God has grown our convictions very deep here in Syracuse that WE are all part of a movement of God and therefore, WE all get to be a part of building this movement of God’s!

Therefore, I trust my brothers as we pray, discuss and decide what each of our roles is to be, as individual disciples, leaders and as individual churches in a unified movement. It’s so encouraging to see how God is helping us to discern what is best, just as he promised he would when we pray! (Philippians 1:10) An example of this trust is exemplified by the advent of God raising up a young leader in our campus ministry here in Syracuse. Jonathan Pedican, a senior this year at Syracuse University, is one such young zealot who Andrew converted but who has become a Timothy to me!. He has many talents and career options, having applied himself not only to spiritual development, but also to the development of his engineering skills! I also believe he could be an Evangelist in the Kingdom of God and have prayed about the opportunity of sending him to the DC mission team to hold up Andrew’s arms and be trained further in the ministry. Chris Broom, Andrew Smellie and I are totally unified about meeting the needs of all three of our churches, and I choose to be loyal to my God, as He makes it clear how His Kingdom could be advanced most powerfully!

What fruit does a loyal heart bear? More loyal-hearted disciples! A pear doesn’t worry about producing a thistle—under the right “conditions” and in the right soil, it will always produce a pear. I believe each disciple today has been blessed by God with the opportunity to imitate Jesus’ loyalty that we see lived out in the first-century movement of God. Are you living up to what you have already attained in this area of loyalty? Would Paul be able to commend you as an Onesiphorus? My prayer is that so many people who come amidst our number will see the loyalty of Jesus and then “. . . will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (1 Corinthians 14:25)

Chris and Kerri-Sue’s lesson in Chicago this past week.