Church On Pilgrimage: Part I

If Christ is the missionary and we are his ambassadors, let us live with joyful urgency and patient abandon. What does it look like for the church to live on pilgrimage with Jesus and each other?

She was anxious, frustrated, and just discontent enough to embrace the difficult uphill obstacle course of change. Sick of watching weight loss reality shows and commercials propagating quick-fix “solutions,” she felt a prompting deep within that the need to shed pounds only reflected a portion of the struggle. What had happened since college? This had to stop.

As she considered this necessary change in her ways, she ruminated on the glory of God, “If my body is truly a temple…if the Lord of all has somehow taken up residence within, then perhaps my journey into the unknown can bring him glory as I consecrate myself to Him and for Him. Although, I look forward to smaller clothes, toned muscles, and compliments from friends who’ll notice a difference, ultimately this could be an act of worship…a way of ascribing and proclaiming all honor and dominion to God. If, in fact, he reigns over and is renewing all creation, even my own body is his, for his glory.” She prayed for strength as her excitement about the possibilities ahead coalesced with her real and present fear of failure.

As she shared her newfound resolution with others, she was quickly invited into a group of ladies that embraced the same struggle. One lady was a former fitness trainer, and two nights a week, she opened her home, garage, or backyard, so this group could workout together. As they sweat, talked, and shared time with each other, strong relationships formed among the participants in this workout group. Their conversations began including more than the difficulty level of the workout or what to expect from the weather over the next few days. Instead, they shared deeper things…deeper experiences: marital troubles, despair over past poor choices, and unforgiveness toward others. Reflexively, they cared for one another and bore each others’ burdens. While losing weight, they also began losing callouses from their souls.

That’s when she realized something. That’s when it hit her. “What if the Lord has sent me to this group…to these (now) friends?” she wondered. “What if God has been at work in all of us, and part of that work has been to bring us together? I am to love, care, serve, and (re)introduce these to Jesus.”

A good friend of mine calls this “living with Gospel intent,” and that’s what she continued doing. In fact, she felt a deep burden for this workout group lifting the ladies up in prayer, calling to check on them throughout the week, inviting them into meals, service opportunities, and times of prayer and worship with her Jesus community. She truly began to love them and pour herself out for them. When the group needed to switch to an early morning meeting time, she encouraged them through the transition. When members stopped participating for various reasons, she kept nurturing those relationships. When ladies needed a shoulder to cry on, advice to act upon, or someone they could trust with their heart, they would call her, or she would sense their uneasiness and call them.

Sharing life. Praying for and with each other. Walking together. Serving one another…with each other. This is a glimpse of the church on pilgrimage. What began as a desire to loss weight, continues as a desire to plant Gospel-seeds among these suburban women. Some seeds were snatched. Some grew up quickly only to fade just as fast. Still others were unable to implant deep enough below the surface to gain viability. But, there are some seeds, still very much in the thick growth-struggle, that will become the largest trees in the garden, no doubt.

All in all, she’s lost almost 80 pounds and counting. God is glorified, indeed. However, she’s also gaining as well. She’s gaining friends…friends to journey with…toward Christ. She’s gaining a deeply engrained perspective for life on mission. She’s gaining the humility necessary to be a good follower…for we are only worth following if we are good followers.

If Christ is the missionary and we are his ambassadors, let us live with joyful urgency and patient abandon. Let us be less “show and tell” and more “go and tell.” For the church on pilgrimage must keep in step with each other nourished by the very breath and blood flow of Christ, so that she will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

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