Everyone has a strategy that guides the way they live their life. For most of us that strategy is never stated. However, we all have guiding principles and motivations that drive our decision-making, behavior, etc. Some time ago I was contemplating my own life and realized that my guiding paradigm could be summed up in three words: Gospel. Community. Mission. Because I am a pretty expressive individual, who likes to visualize things in order to embrace them, I came up with a visual expression of this simple strategy.
I am particularly convinced that most of us need a discipleship strategy for our lives. How are we strategically pursuing our spiritual growth? Are we taking intentional steps to become more and more like Jesus? Gospel. Community. Mission. is the intentional process I take to pursue this end.
The GOSPEL is the heart of all that we are as followers of Christ. Not only is the GOSPEL the good news of how we are initially made right with God – it is also the good news about how we walk in relationship with God every day. Everything begins with the GOSPEL. It is the story of Jesus, and our only hope. Everything I do revolves around the GOSPEL and is shaped by my belief in the GOSPEL. So what is the GOSPEL? In short it is the story of God and man. Man, created in God’s image, disobeyed God in the beginning and was separated from God. Every human born since the first couple, Adam and Eve, are guilty of disobeying as well. God, in his love for us, sent Jesus to stand in our place. He lived a perfect life, when we couldn’t, and he died, when we should have. When we trust him as Savior and surrender our lives to him as our king, we are reconciled with God, adopted into his family and our eternity with him is secured. The GOSPEL, then, is not a list of behaviors or a requirement of anything that we need to do. Instead it is a declaration – it is news – about what God has done on our behalf. To follow Christ, then, we do not have to do anything. We simply need to believe the truth of his GOSPEL.
The symbol I use for GOSPEL is an old, Celtic cross. I love the history of the church and I love the truth that is symbolized, not just in a cross, but in an old cross. The cross is the center of the GOSPEL story. The place where the transaction of our lives for his death occurred. Not only that, though, our faith is an old faith and when we believe the gospel we link arms with other believers throughout the last couple of thousand years.
Click here to learn more about how to believe the GOSPEL.
COMMUNITY is at the heart of how we grow as Christians. As an American, I am programmed to value the independent success story. The man or woman who can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” is the model for most of us. It is not this way in the kingdom of God. God’s design never includes Lone Rangers. Instead, when God calls us to trust him through his gospel story, he calls us into relationship with other Christians through the local church. This local church is the primary means that God uses to shape us into his image. COMMUNITY, then, is vital to Christian growth. We cannot be what God has designed us to be without it.
The image I chose to represent COMMUNITY is a well-known symbol for the Trinity. The symbol reminds me that COMMUNITY is not just a pragmatic ideal but, is instead theologically central. The Trinity reminds us that God himself is eternally in COMMUNITY with himself. God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit are eternally in COMMUNITY with themselves. Therefore God uses COMMUNITY as the means to grow us into himself, in part, because COMMUNITY itself is a reflection of the person and character of God.
God is a God on MISSION. The entire bible is the story of God on MISSION to save humanity. From the very beginning, in the garden of Eden, when God was walking in the garden calling out, “Adam, where are you?” until now, God has been pursuing humanity. You cannot love God and become like him without MISSION resulting. Likewise, it is impossible to grow in Christian maturity unless that maturity leads you to be on MISSION. If COMMUNITY is the means by which God grows us, MISSION is the result of that growth. We join God, on MISSION, to preach his GOSPEL to every person who has never heard and believed. We do this so that non-believers would believe God’s GOSPEL and so that God’s glory would be made known to all people. God’s GOSPEL, preached by the Christians in COMMUNITY is a MISSION that leads to the good of humanity and the glory of God.
The image I used for MISSION is an ancient cross that has been used by the church for over 1,000 years. It is a missionary cross. It is often referred to as the Jerusalem Cross. The first time I saw it was on the side of The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem – the site believed to be where Jesus was born. The 4 smaller crosses contained within the larger cross are a reminder of the GOSPEL message being sent out to the four corners of the globe. I love that cross because it reminds me that Jesus’ death served to provide salvation for people from every people, tribe, tongue and nation.