“Once you begin to see the people you’re interacting with as people for whom Christ died, it’s a game changer.”
Wherever you think your mission field is, it always starts in Jerusalem and expands outward from there. Like the apostles, God will initially begin to use you in your immediate surroundings, even if it’s the springboard to a different destination. J. Hudson Taylor felt called exclusively to the Chinese, and in embarking for China, had to leave his Jerusalem behind.
God may never call you to South-East Asia, or to the Afghanistan tribes to share Jesus, because he may have strategically called you to stay in Jerusalem and reach the home team. There is enough brokenness in your city to keep you busy for the rest of your natural born life.
Instead of a passport and an airline ticket, Charles Spurgeon said that the two necessary items to reaching people effectively are a love for God and a love for people. Monty Python missed this as the meaning of life, but the Holy Grail of truth from a biblical worldview is that we were made to love and be loved by God. It shouldn’t surprise us, therefore, that being witnesses in Jerusalem flows out from loving God and loving others.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I hate people. People laugh when I say it, but it’s true. When I grew up, I escaped the heartache of my upbringing by reaching into the furthest corners of my imagination, represented by a universe of plastic action figures with five points of articulation. Star Wars, He-Man, G.I. Joe, ThunderCats, and plastic three-and-a-half-inch people were my friends, locked away with me in my room, because being around human people meant pain, rejection, and emotional abuse.
In the end, I felt safest when alone. Childhood was all toys and cartoons (which probably explains a lot). When I approached adolescence, however, I lost myself in reading and music, all of which provided more opportunity to isolate myself. When I was a child, I thought as a child, but when I came to Jesus, it was time to grow up.
Many Christians grow older in Christ without really growing up in him. When I came to Jesus, his Bible kept saying that I needed to tell others about him. There was a part of me that was doing that naturally, but a piece of me felt like Jonah—loathing the people I was called to reach. It had nothing to do with them. It wasn’t personal; I didn’t like anybody.
How was a natural born Son of Thunder to become transformed into John, the Apostle of Love? John’s evangelistic methodology worked for me, “Call fire down upon those people, Lord.” With the Vikings “Convert or Die” program in full swing, I grabbed the first scoffer that ever mocked me for being a Christian by the neck and slammed him against the wall. Fist cocked back I growled, “Think Jesus is funny now, wuss?” Tears moistened his eyes in humiliation and fear, and his quivering lip eked out “No, I’m sorry . . . just let me go.”
I realized pretty early on that I had a dilemma. Jesus was trying to love people through me, but I naturally feared, disliked, and hated the people he died for. If I was going to love people, his supernatural love was going to need to trump my natural hatred, I just couldn’t see how. We waste time pretending that we love people when we don’t. So in desperation, I broke down and did a crazy thing. I told God the truth! I confessed my hatred of people.
Acknowledging the truth to yourself and God is the first step in yielding your place of brokenness and helplessness and inviting him to fill you and fix your inadequacies. When we come to the end of what our natural self can do, the supernatural Holy Spirit begins to kick in. At least that’s how it worked in our justification. Why not our sanctification too? In our justification, we had to come to a place of utter helplessness in our ability to save ourselves before we cried out to Jesus to save us. In our struggles with sanctification, we can’t tell God, “Thanks for saving me, God. I pretty much got it from here.”
The Spirit rushes into that vacuum created by a spiritual bankruptcy where we’ve reached deep into the pockets of our own resources and come up with pocket lint and a paperclip, but no dice. At that moment heaven kisses earth, and the Spirit fills that vacuum of inadequacy and supernaturally fills us with a love for people we’d naturally hate. I’ve stood weeping, overwhelmed with love for the people I shared the gospel with, aware that left to my own devices, I wouldn’t give a rip about them.
It’s inexplicable. It’s what Paul naturally felt when he asserted that it was as if Christ himself were pleading through us to “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20) and that “Christ’s love compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14). You don’t have to have the same love he has, you just have to let him love people through you. And with that, you win the T-shirt “Instant People Person—Just Add Holy Spirit.”
Why am I telling you all of this? To reach the unreached at the ends of the earth, our Jerusalem changes only when we change first. The revolutionary spiritual awakening known as the Jesus movement started in the 1960s with a forty-five-year-old Foursquare preacher named Chuck Smith. Problem was, he hated hippies.
As they sat on the wall in front of his house on the coastal boardwalk in Newport Beach, Chuck would peer out the window at the unwashed, stinky, emaciated bodies invading his space, and grumble about what losers they were. Until his wife, Kay, stopped him dead in his tracks one day with a challenge, “Chuck, why don’t we start praying for them?” You can’t get any more “Jerusalem” than the front wall outside of your house. As Chuck and Kay prayed for the hippies, God started to open Chuck’s eyes to the mission field of his own personal “Jerusalem.”
Without it, the Jesus Movement may never have had happened, and you might have been dressed in a suit next Sunday singing hymns.
Remember, if you enjoy cruising church in shorts and sandals, you have the hippies to thank for it. The harvest was indeed plentiful, but the workers were few. A prayer to see hippies differently made all the difference and changed outreach as we know it.
Taken from Reaching the Unreached: Becoming the Raiders of the Lost Art by Peyton Jones. Copyright © 2017 by Peyton Jones. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
Peyton Jones is a veteran church planter, founder of the New Breed Church Planting network and serves as the Church Planting Catalyst of the Western U.S. and Canada for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). For a more comprehensive discussion on church planting—including an exclusive interview with Peyton Jones—don’t miss the July/August 2017 issue of Outreach.