Book Review: Passion & Purpose
Ever since I became a Christian in my late twenties, I have wondered, "Where is the church we read about in Acts 2? Where is the kingdom that Jesus says is so close at hand?" I long for it more than life itself. Over the years, my wife and I have been to many different churches, seeking the fellowship and the love of true believers of Christ. In brief glimpses, we have seen the people of God through our sin-stained eyes. The glimpses keep us going. Jesus keeps us going. But I still cry out, "Jesus, can we have the church of Acts 2 today!" Pastor Jimmy Seibert's answer in his new book Passion & Purpose is "Yes!"
I am encouraged to hear what's going on with other faithful Christians throughout the world. Through Pastor Seibert's words, we are reminded that Jesus transforms people today just as much as he did in the First Century. Jesus loves people, he heals people and he brings them home. I am also convicted by my own experiences with Christian mediocrity in American culture. Our lack of zeal and our downcast faith compromises our relationship with Jesus. Why do we have such a difficult time spreading the gospel of Christ in our spiritually-dead, post-Christian communities? Pastor Seibert explains in so many words that we don't know Jesus any more. We don't pray enough. We don't fast. We don't repent for our sins.
Our personal lack of faith minimizes the work of the Holy Spirit in our broader communities. Jesus did not leave us without warning that this would happen. Matthew explained, "But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.' And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." Pastor Seibert calls us to enter into our communities with zeal. We must deliver the life of Christ, His passion and purpose, back into Western Christianity.
Pastor Seibert devotes an entire chapter to living in the Spirit, titled "Just Do What's Next." He gives numerous examples of how following the leading of the Holy Spirit is effective and transforming to ourselves and to others. In Matthew 6, Jesus explains, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Too often we try to figure out the big picture in our lives. Yes, we are given access to the ultimate Big Picture: through Christ's death and resurrection we are saved and he is preparing his Kingdom for us. However, we are rarely given the middle-sized picture. We must do the daily work, the small-sized picture that God gives us. Pastor Seibert explains through real stories how daily faithful living has shaped and transformed his life and his church.
He provides us "3 Big Questions" that enable us to develop communities of discipleship from the ground up. By asking these simple faith-changing questions in small groups of believers, our "what's next" becomes more clear.
- How is your devotional life and how can I help you?
- Is there any sin in your life that you need to confess?
- Who are you reaching out to and how can I help you do that better?
Passion & Purpose calls us to enter our churches, our towns and even our families with the joy, love and humility of the early church. We must listen to the Spirit of God and act accordingly. Over the years Seibert's church has developed a three-part mission that pulls together the greatest commandment and the great commission into one: love God, love others and love the lost.
In recent years, Antioch Community Church has been engaged in church planting throughout the world. I believe there is a natural extension to this idea. Church planting should be done primarily where the church does not already exist. Otherwise, we should be going into preexisting churches and living the passion and purpose of Christ within the bounds of the existing Christian church body as deformed as we think it is. We must boldly proclaim Christ in existing churches, rather than supplanting the church that already exist. In my opinion, this is the great failure of the church in recent years. So many churches are dying in America and the developed West. Instead of starting new denominations, we must transform existing structures simply by going into those communities and loving God, loving others and loving the lost. It's really that simple. Here is what Jesus said about that:
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
For me, this has meant entering the Catholic Church. As a Protestant, this has not been easy. I've ended up going to two churches, one with my family and the other mostly alone. But through the process, I've been amazed. There is so much to learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ. And it has given me a great opportunity to bring the joy of worship back into the house of God. The structure already exists. The roofs exist. The people exist. In America, we must bring God back into our dead and dying churches. We must take our time and be patient. If we just had more Protestants entering the doors of the Catholic Church and bringing the zeal of worship back to the people of God, there would be no end to what we could do.
If you need to get invigorated about your life with Christ, read Passion & Purpose. The book is for any disciple or church leader who wants to build the kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven." I will pass my copy along to our local parish priest!
Tags: book review