Unveiling #EMERGE2022 PART 2: Relate
The Handshake has become a common form of communication all around the world. It is used to say ‘Hello’ Good Bye, ‘We agree’ as a greeting upon first acquaintance and as a mutual sign of goodwill and peace.
A hand shake can establish a first impression with someone- sometimes it is good and firm, sometimes it’s limp and clammy. The handshake has made its way to the highest levels of government and society where agreements between nations and business deals are sealed.
You can tell much from a handshake, we all looked with eagerness to see how Obama would shake our president’s hand when he visited. We have heard of those whose hands were snubbed and we have seen those who shake hands just for a good show. In today’s society- It matters who we shake hands with, it might even change your life.
But a hand shake also gives insight to people’s lives and occupations. A handshake can tell you what gives people significance or what they give their energies to. Try shaking the hand of a farmer, a lawyer or a doctor. They feel differently.
When God made us, he designed us such that a proper handshake is when one hand of one fits perfectly in another’s hand. Almost like a puzzle. A hand shake reminds us that we are made for relationships. But God designed us for more than the casual, normal hand shake.
Men shake hands because of deals and contracts. They shake hands when their plans seem in agreement. But God has called us to shake hands with everyone not just because there is a transaction of money and deals, but because God is pursuing people to enter into a covenant with him which leads to fellowship with him and others.
But shaking hands is increasingly becoming hard today. Cities are crowded, dirty, dangerous, impersonal and unfriendly. There is crime, materialism, pride, lust, greed and selfishness as well as cut throat business competition. There is a lot of insecurity, broken trust, betrayal. We are becoming more faceless with technology. There’s hypocrisy, dishonesty, deception and tribal, ethnic and social class divisions.
What does it take to shake hands today? Whose hands would you like to shake? How differently must we shake hands as believers? Today I propose the stand point of the hand shake from the neighbor next door. I remember meeting my neighbor when we moved into our house- It was a special moment as we looked at each other in the eyes. As we shook hands- we knew in our thoughts that we will be spending a long time together, I will know his best and his worst, just as He would know mine, we will influence each other greatly and who knows our children might just….
In Luke 10:25-37 is an interesting encounter where Jesus introduces someone to his neighbor? It is an unusual handshake.
An expert of the law rises to test Jesus and make a religious show off. He asks “What must I do I inherit eternal life?Jesus’s counter question- What does the Law of Moses say, How do you read it- touched on a very sensitive issue in Judaism, something that stirred an opportunity for praise for the teacher of the law. And surely He answered correctly- He answered from Deuteronomy 6, which was the focus of our teaching last week. Love the Lord with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Jesus says to Him do this and you will live?
The whole law, is summarized to this one great commandment to love the lord and love their neighbor as themselves. Our faith is all about Loving God and Loving others. All that is written in this book is to bring us to know God intimately and how it affects my relationship with my neighbor. If the church is to be known for anything, that one thing is LOVE. In Loving God we Love who He Loves. More than anything, God Loves people. When God sees people He sees an image of himself, He sees a missing link of himself. He sees an opportunity to shake hands with people.
That is why, you cannot love God, and not Love your neighbor. When you shake hands with God, you can shake hands with anyone. It is impossible. It seems to me, through this scriptures that your Love for God is not measured by the many religious activities you do but by Loving Others.
But the man unsettled, goes on to ask “who then is my neighbor”- Who should I shake hands with? Jesus draws him in with a story. In this story, there were various opportunities for hand-shakes that were missed. Much like today in our cities- The bandits saw the man as an object to exploit, The priest saw the man as a problem to avoid, the Levite saw the man as an object of curiosity- But none of them shook hands only a Samaritan- who was considered a stranger. As a Jew his fellow kinsmen had snubbed his hand shake at His desperate time.
Look around you in the society, there are so many people stretching out their hands to shake hands. Life is hard for most people. There is high cost of living for everyone, the work place is fierce, and opportunities are scarce. There is fatigue and tiredness running after the shilling, much like the man who was robbed and left for dead- There are many who are left for dead if they don’t shake hands with someone- a neighbor next door. Some hands stretch to say remember me, others stretch to say please help, others stretch to beg, others stretch to ask for loans, others stretch to invite you to destruction. This is particularly true for the next generation. The increasing broken homes, divorce and dysfunctional families yields many unhappy young people- a sign that Relationships have grown sour. How can anyone make it? Who will stretch out a hand to this next generation?
At Lifespring Chapel, we believe that we are all made for relationships. We are designed for fellowship with God and His people. The Gospel is the solution. God’s LIFE in us empowers us to prioritize people by seeing people the way God sees them, we believe everyone needs a LIFE giving community. Everyone needs this kind of a handshake.
There are numerous accounts in scripture, where Jesus stretched out his hands to shake hands with the untouchables- The prostitutes, the tax collectors, the sinners. We then as the church of Christ, must become the church next door that will not just wait for the people- But go where they are and eat with them, trade with them and then shake their hands.
God’s LIFE in us gives us a different relational energy that prioritizes, pursues, connects and nurtures people in the church community. We must build and increase our capacity for meaningful handshakes. This is how we see ourselves as the church next door- where there is always room for the next man.
In our vision Emerge, We are praying to see that 80% of those attending church regularly will be in unique fellowship groups of about 10 people. With a target of about 1000 people in 7years, this translates to about 80 small groups that meet often to share and connect with one another in a safe, accountable and loving environment.These fellowship groups will be primarily to motivate our members to acts of love and good works through providing individualized care, accountability and opportunity to reach out to others in the community.
In 2016, we will be renewing and reorganizing our small fellowship groups to have the face of Reach in the community. We have identified that Life groups (Home churches) and Soul Groups will be central to this. Within the 5 Km radius we will work at getting at least 5 new Life groups next year. We must shake hands in our homes.
A model we have seen as a great strength is Ndoa- our marriage prep and enrichment class has served excellently in reaching out to the community. We are considering training couples, to start Ndoa classes in their homes for their courts, this then would evolve into a life group and there in Soul groups for men and women.
We have also noted various relational gaps that we pray to repair starting in 2016. Part of these gaps is intentionally training the church in having a heart for each other and also for the community. It is possible that even within the church, there are some handshakes that are yet to happen. We must strengthen care, visitations, marriages, and soul groups.
Starting 2016, we want to increase our participation with the networks God has already provided. We must shake hands with the community. We will partner greatly with SRA and The Rotary.
We also realize that in being the church next door- we will open our doors to the community, not just for church, but to be part of the solutions facing our community. We want to offer this space and facility back to the community to serve the needs. We are challenging any of you academicians to set up self-sustaining educational center that is affordable but more so giving us an opportunity to shake hands with the next generation.
We must shake hands in businesses. The reach potential in business is much higher than church reaching out by over 40%. We are challenging MAST to lead us in shaking hands with the business leaders of the community- Business fairs, exhibitions among others. Business people are among the most stressed people- They balance resources, energy and family- They sacrifice their families so that we can eat, yet they are most hated by those who work for them. How can the church play a role in appreciating them?
We are challenging the women to consider- how can WASH go beyond 4 walls. We are open to partnerships like Zumba/Body and soul work out that invites the community within. Food and cake contests that involve Syokimau.Our young adult’s fellowships must EMERGE too. Emerge-ine hosting business fairs, exhibitions, among other functions that would stir entrepreneurial spirit among the young and influencing them for holistic development.
It is said that the most expensive space in the church is not the building or the equipment- but the empty chair next to you. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.I wish to reemphasize that our goal is not merely to increase the number of church attendees, but to influence our world with Christ. The church next door is everyone engaging relationally to make a difference in our community.
In conclusion- Relationships are a critical part of our faith. As a matter of fact Relationships are the one thing that express our faith. The Christian faith can be summarized as Loving God and Loving people. It’s all about Relationship.
With this, EMERGE is Lifespring Chapel as ‘The Church Next Door’; where we are relevant and all-embracing, Giving Hope and LIFE to the community because we believe in the LIFE giving power of the Gospel and that everyone is welcome and destined to shake-hands with God through us.
The question is- Will you stretch out your hand? So next time you shake someone’s hand consider- what opportunities for the Kingdom exist, beyond just the casual handshake.