By Ben Cachiaras
When visiting Capernaum last summer, I paused on the rocky shoreline looking out at the Sea of Galilee. Knowing it could be the very stretch of beach Jesus walked when he called those first fishermen gave it a surreal sense of being holy ground. What struck me is that Jesus’ call to them was abrupt and demanding: “Follow me!” Doing so would mean a life of perpetual movement and adventure, risk and change. It meant dropping familiar nets, leaving cherished family, and abandoning well-worn paths in pursuit of a leader who wanted to take them BEYOND any kind of life they could imagine or find on their own. That’s what it meant to follow Jesus back then.
It still does. Why? Because Jesus is still on the move in our world! Keeping up with him means leaving certain things behind. And those who dare follow him quickly discover Jesus always takes you to new places.
The call to follow Jesus means going BEYOND Christianity-lite. It means going BEYOND some of the comfortable ways we live and “do church.” Deep in your heart, do you hear the urgent call to move BEYOND? Will you dare allow the radical message of Jesus Christ to confront you and disturb you and move you into new ways?
When that happens, we find ourselves going BEYOND where we are now. BEYOND the kind of Christians we are today. BEYOND the church we are today. BEYOND the easy agendas we set for our lives and our ministries. BEYOND the horizons of our expectations about what our church can be like. BEYOND the limits of our comfort zone, which keep us timidly plodding in the same lane, leading to the same predictable destination.
Jesus is calling leaders who will go BEYOND the same old, same old. BEYOND what we can do on our own power. God wants to change our lives, and the face of the church today, and he needs adventurous followers to do it.
It’s time to go BEYOND. Way BEYOND.
The world is in trouble without Christ. Our culture is adrift. The colossal problems we see all around are overwhelming. It’s truly BEYOND us. What’s worse, the church in America is losing ground—in proportion to the population, and in other ways. Many congregations seem invisible and without impact.
Too often Christians are seen as irrelevant, often missing the issues that people—and Jesus—care about. We are viewed as bigoted, marginal, and weak.
And inside the church we sometimes wonder if we’re really getting the job done. Are we truly making real disciples and transforming lives? Are we changing the world the way Jesus intends?
This is no time for business as usual. We need the Power and the Presence that will take our lives BEYOND where we are now. We need believers with faith and leaders with guts who will drop old nets and follow Jesus—wherever he leads—even if it means changing everything.
The 2010 North American Christian Convention in Indianapolis will offer a catalytic and prophetic “kick in the shorts” for disciples who want to go BEYOND. It’s for those who are open to hearing from God about new fervency, energy, and direction for our lives and ministries. BEYOND is about learning how the Lord wants to restore his church. It’s for those leaders with enough angst and chutzpah to ask probing questions like these:
If my life looked exactly like Jesus wants it to look . . . would it look exactly like it does right now? If not, where is Jesus calling me to go BEYOND? No matter who we are, there is a growing edge in our lives where our Leader beckons us to repent, to surrender to the Spirit’s sanctifying work. That is going BEYOND.
If my church or ministry looked exactly like Jesus wants it to look . . . would it look exactly like it does right now? I can shrug my shoulders and pretend things are where they need to be. Or I can seek where Christ wants me to go BEYOND!
Restoration Movement founders knew the church wasn’t built on a list of doctrinal statements, but on the living person of Christ. They believed in the dynamic nature of the gospel, and that the church must therefore be ever-reforming.
Our pursuit of restoration is more than reading preserved blueprints of the church, recreating a vision of the church past. It is about following Jesus, discerning how he leads us through our changing cultural landscape, to be the body of Christ and bearers of his good news in ever-fresh ways. Restoration at its best is not simply discovering what the church used to be, but discovering what God desires us to become.
This is the spirit and focus of the 2010 NACC in Indianapolis, July 6-9.
Ben Cachiaras, senior pastor with Mountain Christian Church, Joppa, Maryland, is a contributing editor for CHRISTIAN STANDARD and a member of Standard Publishing’s Publishing Committee. He is serving as president of the 2010 NACC.