Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth is a happening scene
with bookstores, coffee shops, bars, clubs and movie theaters. More interestingly and importantly Sundance Square brings people together from all walks of life.
I enjoy going there every weekend. I roll the sidewalks in my wheelchair mostly in order to mix it up with a variety of people. I always try to use “God talk,” slipping God in at least once in every conversation. And of course people who are hungry for God always pick up on it and begin to share about their belief or unbelief in God.
Jamie is a very noticeable young lady with dreadlocks to her waist and earthy clothes to match. She is what I would call a postmodern hippie. When I started to share Jesus with her, her first reaction was that she has not been to church lately and that she is not big on the “institutional church.” She continued by sharing her passion for peace, service, and to help the homeless. I thought, Wow, to her these sound like the same passions Jesus had and wanted us, his church, to have and live out. Jamie plans to join the Peace Corps to live out her dream.
You can say I had these same passions in college, when I was invited on an inner-city mission trip. During this time of my journey, I was not walking with God but deep inside wanting to make a difference. I came into contact with a family that God used to change my life deep in the heart of the inner-city city of St. Louis.
The matriarch of the family was Mary, and along with her was a family of nineteen. Three generations were living in a two-bedroom house. Everyday, I went along with my team to love on this family. We studied the Bible together. We cleaned their house, painted it. We prayed with them. The needy love-starved children climbed all over me in my wheelchair.
Every day in Mary’s house, my goal was to move beyond my selfish wants and needs and give to them unselfishly. At night, I remember weeping with compassion for them but most of all coming to know the realness of Jesus and his love. When I pulled up at Mary’s, the whole clan would come out. Rather than get my wheelchair, they would pick me up from both sides and help me walk up the steps into their home. I did not know if I was serving and helping them or if they were serving me. Maybe it was both. For the first time in my life I was living beyond myself.
I was beginning to understand that my life is to imitate Jesus, the greatest evangelist of all time. He saw these fishermen and he asked them to drop their nets and follow him. Jesus did not invite them to a place, time or an event but to a way of life that has nothing to do with themselves but everything to do with loving God and loving people.
Jesus took this rough band of fishermen on a journey to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and help the poor and needy. He did not invite them to a worship service but to a worshipful life. He did not invite them to a Bible study but to a life of living out the gospel. He did not invite them to hear a sermon but to experience God’s power on “a journey beyond themselves.”
The lost in the postmodern generation are yearning to receive this invitation of Jesus: come on a journey beyond yourself!
We can get a glimpse of today’s postmodern culture by looking at the popular magazines across several decades: first it was LIFE, then TIME. The scope narrowed even more to PEOPLE. Just when it seems a magazine couldn’t get any more narrow, SELF was released. The next thing you know, there will be a magazine called, ME and then one called TODD: All about me, the Life and Adventures of Todd Lollar.
But wait a minute, such a medium already exists! Blogs. Blogs are a good representation of how the culture now is consumed with self. I have one!
And yet look at Jesus’ evangelistic invitation: “Deny yourself and pick up your cross and follow me.” Jesus invites us in this self-absorbed generation on a journey that has nothing to do with self! And yet, what’s even more ironic, this invitation works exceptionally well with postmoderns.
I know this powerful message of Jesus was very inviting for me …
Early in my spiritual quest, I found myself stepping off a twin-engine airplane onto my wheelchair on a land of no sidewalks or ramps, Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. The potholes in the so-called roads there are too deep for a car, much less a wheelchair. So hoisted up in the arms of friends I went in the back of a dump truck, riding through rivers, bouncing and rolling all over the back, it was quite more adventurous than a Raiders of the Lost Ark ride at Universal Studios!
Those rough roads took us to a village called Benjamine, where we worshiped with a church then the minister’s family invited us to their house for dinner. It wasn’t a house as we in middle class United States know houses, but it was a hut with a long table of food for us, given out of their poverty. I overcame my feeble attempt to communicate with the Haitian children by learning a song in Creole.
I rolled out of the family’s house into the midst of ten children, and all I knew to do was sing this song. They started pushing my wheelchair around the hut through the garden and flowerbed then onto the main road. I was in a state of shock and excitement, not quite understanding what was happening. Suddenly, I noticed more and more children coming along singing and dancing in worship and pushing me in the middle of the small village road.
The experience was more than incredible as my mission team watched with awe. I too was trying to figure out what was going on but enjoying true worship on a journey beyond myself. Even through I could not quite fathom what was going on, I knew I wanted more of this kind of life … a life that has nothing to do with me but one that is beyond selfish desires and caught up in God’s power and beauty.
The postmodern generation has the tendency to be, as Bill Hybels says, “world-changers” or “wind-chasers.” They will chase after the wind until they receive an invitation worth living and dying for. As a follower of Jesus, I have this invitation to distribute, but I have to live it out first. The first Christian we see in Acts of the Apostles believed following Jesus was worth living and dying for! The fishermen who followed Jesus saw that following him could change the world. First-hand, they were part of feeding the needy, healing the sick, helping the oppressed, setting the captives free. The disciples helped change the world.
Do the lost see followers of Jesus making such an impact in the world today that they want to join the cause of Christ? Or do they see “Christians” like me doing Bible studies, singing songs at certain times and receiving invitations to what we call “church.” Jesus’ world-changing invitation has turned into a couple of “feel-good” weekly meetings to fit into one’s schedule.
But before we are able invite the lost on a journey with us living “beyond ourselves,” non-Christians must see followers of Jesus living it out. Jamie the postmodern hippie needs to see God’s people making more of an impact on social injustices in the world. My vision is for the Jamie’s of the world to see that the mission of God’s church is worth joining in order to make a difference in the world.
It is time for us, followers of Jesus, to be known for living beyond ourselves, giving at the homeless shelter, feeding the poor, helping the helpless. U2’s lead singer, Bono, has been a faith hero of mine, because he offered a “Beyond Yourself” invitation to the postmodern generation to join the mission of the ONE Campaign to make extreme poverty history. Millions, with a God-given desire to make a difference have signed up for this world-impacting campaign.
And I’m excited about us, the body of Christ, living out a journey beyond ourselves, and I believe the result will be that each of us who participate will see many people who need Jesus join us in living beyond ourselves, a life that is only capable by the power of God.