What does “following Christ” mean to you? How do you DO it? When you follow Jesus, what exactly are you moving towards, anyway? Is it the kind of thing that makes you jump out of bed in the morning, or do you find it kind of boring?
As one who has been a Christian for over twenty years now, I would probably give you the typical Christian answer to these questions. Something like, “I’m trying my best to be like Jesus…love God, love people, and serve the world. And, of course it’s exciting. Praise the Lord!”
Sounds, pretty good, right? I mean, I wore one of those WWJD bracelets for most of my adolescent and early adulthood life. So, surely that’s moving towards Jesus.
But, then again, I’m not so sure.
Here recently, I’ve been reading pastor John Hambrick’s book, Move Toward the Mess: The Ultimate Fix for a Boring Christian Life and thinking more about what Jesus really would do and what following Jesus is all about in today’s society. In fact, the subtitle alone pulled me in.
It got me thinking: Have I ever considered following Jesus to be boring?
At first I didn’t think so, but the more I read through this book, the more I realized what I might be missing. And, that missing link is the MESS. Hambrick effortlessly reminds us that Jesus embraced the messiest people and parts of society. He wasn’t afraid of how things looked or what others might think of Him. Jesus moved toward the mess with a kind of love and grace that completely changed minds, hearts, and lives forever–and He continues to do this today.
Not long ago, I learned that our English word for “repent” was actually derived from the Greek word “metanoeo.” But, according to Biblical scholars, the most accurate translation of “metanoeo” is actually “change your mind.” How cool is that! And, this certainly helps us to interpret scripture in a whole new light. In particular, I love how Matthew 4:17 reads when we replace the word “repent.”
It says, “Change your mind, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
Wow. There is such power in those verses. One can sense the urgency as well. When Jesus shared these words, he was just starting his official ministry, and one of the first things he urged his audience to do was to think differently. I have always loved the term “thinking outside of the box,” and I think that is exactly what Jesus meant by those words.
As Christians, we sometimes put ourselves inside a box. We stick with other like-minded Christians and do our best to protect ourselves and our families from “those other people” who don’t think like us, or do things like us, or even look like us. We might send them food or packages. We might even donate clothes to them and feel like we’ve done our part. But, is that what Jesus would do? Hambrick doesn’t think so. And, he told one story in particular that helped me to think outside of the box when it comes to reaching the lost.
Near the middle of the book, Hambrick shares the story of a young couple who lived in an area of town that was known by most as the sketchy place you should avoid at all costs. Even so, this couple decided to embrace their new community–including the junkies and prostitutes lining the streets. They noticed that many of these men and women were wandering around and in need of food, so they, along with another young couple, decided to set up a hotdog stand every Sunday at 5. And, they gave away all the hotdogs for FREE until they were gone. The news got out, and soon they had a large crowd of regulars every time they set up the stand.
Over time, the couple got to know one prostitute on a more personal level. Their hearts broke as they listened to her tell the details of her past–a story riddled with abuse and hardship. They grew to love this woman. Eventually, she didn’t have a place to stay, so they invited her to live with them until they could find her a room for her at local charity that helps women back on their feet. And, this was after the young couple had given birth to twin babies. The fledgling parents invited her in, even still.
This woman told her friends how the couple loved and cared for her, and soon, other women with similar heartbreaking pasts and presents came to know this couple and learn from them. After some time, the couple decided to start a full-time street ministry for prostitutes, sex trafficking survivors, and addicts. Today, they train these young men and women how to make beautiful stationary, proper social and business skills, and most importantly, that Jesus loves them.
From start to finish, Move Toward the Mess highlights moments when Jesus embraced people right where they were in their messy, complicated lives and how this loving encounter with Jesus was life-changing for those people. Hambrick also shares multiple real-life stories of people–like the couple with the street ministry– who are choosing to move toward the mess in creative and sometimes non-conventional ways when they have every excuse not to. And, the reader learns how these messy movements are changing lives all around the world.
This book has challenged me to move toward the mess in my own life. For me, Hambrick really pulled at my heartstrings with the humbling truth that,
“We’re all in the mess together.”
And, this mess isn’t found in a particular people group or place; it’s all around us and inside of us.
According to Hambrick, “We need only to look at our own hearts, our own families, our own lives. If we decide to follow Jesus, the first mess we will encounter is our own.”
Bam. Right in between the eyes. It hit me. Again. And, then again and again throughout this book.
Life is messy, and Jesus didn’t come to Earth to clean it all up or avoid the messes all together. He came to love and to serve, and He gave His life for our freedom. The mess is our mission field. And, that is anything but boring.
If you are looking for inspiration to spark a fresh fire inside your heart for reaching the lost, then I encourage you to get this book and learn how YOU can move toward the mess in your own life. And, when you do, your Christian walk will be forever changed–and it will certainly not be boring.
For more on how you can get your copy of Hambrick’s Move Toward the Mess, go to your local bookstore or click HERE.
Be blessed and #MoveTowardTheMess!