So far in our series, we have explored the CHRIST-centred story we live in. It is the gospel story and is what should shape our lives as followers of Jesus. It is this story we proclaim, embody and invite others to join on a journey of discipleship. We live a faith that is CHRIST-centred and OTHERS-focused. The next six articles in our series will explore how we live in and live out this story oriented around Jesus by using the acronym OTHERS.
The story is told in Salvation Army lore that William Booth, nearing the end of his life and unable to attend the Army’s annual convention, wanted to inspire the troops. Desiring to be frugal and concise at the same time, it is said he sent a one-word telegram to the delegates: OTHERS.
This is the tension of discipleship: it’s not all about me and God. My life, as a follower of Jesus, is also about others. My faith should have an outward focus.
If my life is centred on Jesus, what difference does he make to how I live my life? While the time of holding weekly Sunday evening testimony periods has perhaps passed, there is still power in testimony. In her book Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean makes the claim that “talking about Jesus Christ actually deepens our identity as people who follow him.” One of the four key faith skills in Orange, our territory’s discipleship curriculum for all ages, is “talk,” which helps equip disciples to talk about Jesus and one’s journey of faith with others in the faith and those who are not yet Christian.
The famous quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words,” is sometimes (perhaps too often) interpreted as an invitation not to speak about what should be dearest to us, as those who have been transformed by the love of Jesus. A faith that has an outward focus is one that has an effective personal witness. What other opportunities are we providing—are we taking—to share Jesus in word and deed with others?
But our deeds must also speak of and demonstrate the love of Jesus. The Apostle John writes, “He who says he abides in him ought himself also to walk just as he walked” (1 John 2:6 NKJV). General Albert Orsborn painted a word picture of what this looks like for us:
The Saviour of men came to seek and to save
The souls who were lost to the good;
His Spirit was moved for the world which he loved
With the boundless compassion of God …
Except I am moved with compassion,
How dwelleth thy Spirit in me?
In word and in deed
Burning love is my need;
I know I can find this in thee. (SASB 626)
Our world is in desperate need of those who are both moved to compassionate action and simultaneously proclaim the One in whom deepest compassion and love is found through their words. A faith that has an outward focus is motivated by sacrificial compassionate mission. This is the road our Saviour walked.
It’s sometimes easy to get so busy and involved inside our walls that we forget that the Great Commission assumes we’re all going somewhere: “Wherever you go, make disciples!” (Matthew 28:19 GW). A disciple whose faith is marked by an outward focus should be actively engaged in the world.
During the pandemic—a time so often characterized by social distancing and isolation—I found myself walking my dog and talking with my neighbours perhaps more than I have since I was a child, playing outside on a regular basis. Working “inside” the church, most of my relationships are found there, too. But most Salvationists live and breathe the vast majority of their lives “outside” the church. So, what difference is our presence making? Where do we spend our time, with whom, and are we ready to give an answer for the hope that we have, wherever we find ourselves?
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ ” (Romans 10:14-15).
A CHRIST-centred, OTHERS-focused disciple lives their faith with an outward focus.
Kevin Slous is the territorial secretary for spiritual life development.
Photo: IHQ Communications
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