Engaging the Whole Person “Beyond the Community”

By Paul Wilkinson

The mission of Brentwood Baptist Church is to engage the whole person with the whole gospel of Jesus Christ anywhere, anytime with anybody. What does “engaging the whole person” look like to those who are not a part of our group and not a part of our broader faith community?

Essentially, we must take Galatians 6:10 (Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith) and 1 Timothy 3:7 (He must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the devil’s trap) seriously. We see from these two texts that we ought to:

  • Be working toward the good of others, which would entail physical and material support in addition to spiritual support, and
  • Be in good favor with those outside the community of faith, and it is certainly no incredible leap of reason to propose that investing in the lives of unbelievers in your community is a way to do that.

And, perhaps the archetype story for this perspective is the “Good Samaritan.” In that story, we see a Samaritan on a journey (so presumably, all of the following was out of his way) who showed compassion to a beaten and robbed stranger. Compassion, as described by Jesus in this story, consisted of bandaging wounds and supplying relief to wounds with olive oil and wine. Then this Samaritan puts the stranger on his own animal, the Samaritan presumably walks beside the animal, and he takes him to an inn to give him shelter. But he doesn’t stop there! He pays for the night’s lodging and continues to care for the brutalized stranger, and then he pays the innkeeper two days’ wages to take care of the stranger. Moreover, he promises to pay whatever else is needed in the upkeep of this individual, trusting both the innkeeper and the beaten stranger to not take advantage of the situation but be willing to cover it, if they did.

And of course, the pay-off to the questioner seeking to inherit eternal life is that he must not only love God but also love his neighbor. And Jesus really raises the bar on what it means to love a neighbor: caring for them physically and materially, in addition to spiritually! And all of that is before I mention that this expert in the law most certainly despised the impure ethnicity of the Samaritan, who is the hero of the story.

Do we expect unbelievers in active rebellion against God to see our message as authentic if we say we love them while turning a blind eye to their physical and material needs? And that’s not to say we wait to preach the Gospel until life feels comfortable for the unbeliever; we share the Gospel when the Holy Spirit convicts us to share the Gospel. Nevertheless, our words are vaccous if we say we care without attending to non-spiritual needs. Just imagine Jesus saying to us: I love you people, I really do, but I’m just not in the mood to become Incarnate to redeem you: it’s inconvenient, it’s a burden, and I’ve got better things to do like run the physical universe . . . but I love you! Instead, we know God loves us: God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

How are we leading our groups to care for the stranger physically and materially, that is, to engage the whole person? How are we provoking our groups to incarnate the Scriptures where they live, work, and play? Are we explicitly challenging them to serve the needs of strangers (read here unbelievers who might be, but are not necessarily, actual strangers)? Could you challenge the group to adopt a family? To adopt an elementary school? To adopt a neighborhood?

Pray about how you and your group might earn favor among outsiders and do good to them. Begin brainstorming with your group about how you might serve unbelievers physically and materially, all the while sharing the truth of Jesus Christ with them. And what if you were to invite along the lost and searching as you serve others to demonstrate to them what the kingdom of God truly looks like? Are we kingdom groups . . . can we become kingdom groups?

 

 

 

LIFE Groups Living on Mission: Charlie Coffey Edition

By Paul Wilkinson

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to live on mission with Jesus. At least once a month (or as frequently as is possible so send me stories!), I want to share stories of LIFE Groups living on mission with Jesus. May we be perpetually living into the “Good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Read, pray over, and meditate upon Charlie Coffey’s story with Cul2vate; how he leverages a hobby and passion for the sake of the Gospel:

I have been associated with Cul2vate for over two years now. I first met Joey Langford 3.5 years ago in the BBC Missions Garden; at that time, Joey was still on mission in South Africa. We chatted about his goal of wanting to come back to the USA and initiate a Cul2vate Program in the Greater Nashville Area. I shared with him my gardening history and my dreams/desires of having a “more missions-focused approach” future for the BBC Gardens. Well, as we could say about Joey and his Cul2vate ministry….”the rest is history.”

I count myself fortunate to now be a volunteer with Cul2vate. Since that first meeting 3.5 years ago, I have retired and have more time to give. I have been active in gardening since a youngster. Both my mother and father were gardeners and they helped to create in me a love for working with my hands and raising/harvesting fresh vegetables. I not only love to grow fresh vegetables but, since retirement, have the additional time to plan and plant on a much larger scale (1/4 acre to almost 5 acres). Additionally, my science “genes” love to experiment with new growing techniques and new vegetable varieties. To grow fresh food and then be able to “give it away” to others who do not have sufficient fresh vegetables is a very rewarding yet humbling experience. It is more than just giving my money to help another, but it is knowing that in those vegetables, I am giving away apart of myself (my time and energy) to assist others.

But . . . there is more! For those times that I am able to volunteer down on the Farm, Cul2vate trainees are always present. These individuals are learning how to “garden.” More importantly, they are needing someone to interact in their lives . . . someone to love on them. As I go about my assigned gardening duties, I have the opportunity to “community” with these trainees. “Community” occurs as we work together, eat together, and share life together. I have nearly 50 years of adult life experiences to share with these guys. We may or may not have similar backgrounds but we are able to share “current life” together. At the end of each day, I realize that I received much more than I was able to give.

Sharing life together with someone is an essential component in a Christian’s participation in the Great Commission. As Pastor Mike encouraged us just a few Sundays ago, “If all of your interactions and community are with other Christian friends . . . then . . . initiate interactions and friendships with non-Christians.” Although I’m not an avid reader, I have just recently read two things that have made an impact on my thinking

  1. Example is everything when sharing new concepts with others. We can talk, explain, discuss topics, but for the optimal impact one needs to “example” the concepts before them. At the farm, I example life before these guys. They then have to connect the dots.
  2. We are well aware that the Apostle Paul reminded individual Christians that through Jesus Christ we become members of a royal priesthood. What we sometimes forget is that the role of a priest is to represent Christ before the people and provide a conduit to and represent the people before Christ. What better concept of being a priest than being an example of Christ to these guys and then providing a relationship/friendship that offers a conduit to an initial relationship or a deeper relationship to Christ.

I would challenge the “mature/retired” adults at BBC to look for opportunities and regularly volunteer to be “examples” and “priests” to lost friends in our community.

(Charlie Coffey is a member of the In-Betweeners Sunday AM LIFE Group.)

 

 

Engaging the Whole Person “in the Community”

By Paul Wilkinson

The mission of Brentwood Baptist Church is to engage the whole person with the whole gospel of Jesus Christ anywhere, anytime with anybody. What are some possibilities for “engaging the whole person” in our LIFE Groups?

We must internally engage the whole person. We have group members who live as chaotic lives as we do. They carry the same guilt and shame from poor decisions, broken promises, and sporadic failures as the rest of us. On the other end of the spectrum, we have people who are incredibly, dangerously comfortable with the status quo. Life is good for them and they are perceiving, undiscerningly, material fruits as God’s favor. And we ourselves, as leaders, are perpetually moving back and forth across this spectrum.

As Mike Glenn says (my paraphrase): we’re either coming out of a storm or about to go in one. We leaders have the advantage because we are steeped in Scripture as we prepare to teach the Bible each week. Are our group members diving as deep as we are; are they diving into the Bible at all? We are perpetually praying about our groups, that we lead them to rich springs of faith and that they are quickened by the Spirit; are they praying like that? We spend time alone thinking through the content of the text in solitude with the Spirit; are they having Sabbath like that?

The Holy Spirit intercedes and compels us to become our whole selves that the Lord designed. We are remaining in tune with the Spirit through our prep work each week. We must help our group members to do the same: give them homework, let them struggle with theological tension, forever challenge them to be “in the Word” coupled with a commentary or the like. The first step in engaging their whole person is getting them in tune with the Holy Spirit: repentance leading to worship and obedience.

A second level of internal whole person engagement is that we are caring for one another materially. James asks, “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,’ but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16) Do we personally know the material struggles of our group members? More strategically, do we have the substructure in place such that care groups know the material struggles and needs of our group members? If our LIFE Groups are primarily social space discipleship elevating community, mission, and practice through Bible and prayer, then how are we creating personal space discipleship elevating closeness, support, and challenge through deeper Bible, more personal prayer, and sharing/confession? Does your group have a set of care leaders that regularly follow up with assigned members to see how they are and in what ways the group can support them? If not, then strongly consider creating such a ministry.

Part of reaching people spiritually is caring for them physically. We must help them get in sync with the Holy Spirit so that they can respond to the Spirit’s conviction and prompting. We must create healthy communities that are welcoming and hospitable so that they can readily receive the lost and searching. We must organize the necessary substructures to care for people’s material struggles, coupled with the Brentwood Baptist Church benevolence team. As Allan Taylor is wont to say, if we want to reach people with the gospel, then it’s going to cost us time, money, and effort. May we be willing to count the cost.