Christopher StitesComment

The Kingdom / Oakland

Christopher StitesComment
The Kingdom / Oakland

This past Sunday our church (theMovement) celebrated 3 years together in Oakland. Along with the preaching of the Gospel, the reminiscing of God's faithfulness, baptisms, singing, people deciding to trust in Jesus and good food (I am pretty sure there will be taco trucks in Heaven) - we had the opportunity of being announced and commissioned for the work of pastoring and leading in this community for the next few years, that will God-willing, ultimately lead to planting a church down the road. 

I am overjoyed to join this family and serve the people of Oakland through preaching, pastoring and leading the charge with community groups. It's what we came to Oakland to do. With the turn of this new season, I wanted to share a few things I have picked up from this body as well as things I am excited for as we embark on this adventure. 

1. Local, individual churches are always connected with and under the person of Jesus and His global family. It should never be about building up our castles but building up His Kingdom - even (and especially) when it is uncomfortable and costly. This team and church did just that - they showed their investment in the Kingdom over their castle when they first invited our family into their context and community to initially partner. They took a risk and invited our family to invest in us without expecting anything from us. A good sign of this happening is always the willingness to risk and invest in those outside of your own team - for the sake of the Gospel. May we be more concerned about what will benefit the Kingdom than we are with what will advance our personal agenda. 

2. Martin Luther King once said; "It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning". The Kingdom of God and Heaven is filled with people form every tribe, ethnicity and background. I don't want to burst your bubble but Jesus was not an anglo-saxon who came to seek and save only like-kinded people. Diversity in the local church is a display of God's heart - and it is so rich and rewarding to worship Jesus and do life with people from all walks of life. I learn something new everyday I am around these people - simply because they don't have the same past as I do, they don't all think the same way or see the world the same way - we are different and yet we are united in Jesus!

3. I think we would all agree that the mission of the church is to glorify God by making disciples who make disciples. Yet, I have a feeling that if we were brutally honest with ourselves, we would say that we don't really see many people actually intentionally doing so. A few yes. Many? I'm not so sure. I am thankful that, although not perfect, this body and leadership has dove into fleshing this out by organizing people into 1-1 discipleship relationships. This doesn't mean it's the best and only way to to do so - but I think it's better than hoping it will happen automatically and organically - something I have done in the past. I love seeing over 55 people gather to dig into the soul, confess sin, see Jesus in the Scriptures and work through applying the Gospel! Let's do this -  let's put an intentional plan and emphasis on the mission that Jesus gave us and strive to train people to do it over and over again with others! Something tells me that Jesus would be for it :)

4. Can I be real? I am not a big fan of leadership books. I use to be, when I was forced to read them in college. I love reading and do it often. Yet I just seem to be skeptical of boiling down something as big as "leadership" into 7 neatly packaged lessons and tips. You know what I am a fan of? Leadership looking a lot like Jesus. That is the BEST leadership style there is - and although books do help, we tend to over-analyze and complicate what the God of this Universe did so often and well. He loved his people. He served his people by sacrificing for them. He invested in them both by teaching and by walking through life together. He equipped and empowered them by having them experience much and then having them practice it on their own. He set the bar high and yet always forgave them when they made messes. That's the kind of leadership I want to be around and strive to emulate - and I am grateful I see that in this body and get to experience it. 

We are so humbled and grateful for Jesus and His messy and yet so beautiful Church! We are excited to serve these people and pour our hearts into this joyous work - all to see outsiders become insiders and insiders make much of Jesus!