Have you ever read the words of Jesus and scratched your head because the teachings seem so “out there?” He said that if someone smacks you in the face, you should turn your cheek. Most of us would instinctively defend ourselves — or at least duck. He said, “Love your enemies,” which we all know is not normally the way we think of those who hurt us. He said, “It’s better to give than to receive,” “the first shall be last” and “if you want to save your life, you need to be willing to lose it.”
It sometimes feels that Jesus’ idea of Kingdom life requires us to approach things a whole lot differently than we normally would. That’s the journey God has been taking the leadership of Blue Ridge on during this last season.
As many of you know, Blue Ridge celebrates its 25th birthday this year, and we have much to thank God for. The first and most important, would be the lives that we have seen changed because of the Gospel and the movement of God. We have always existed to make much of Jesus, and we have seen those who don’t know Him become fully devoted followers who live their lives to bring Him glory and to tell others of the hope that is found in Him. As the years have passed, God has added more and more people to our body. He has provided for us both financially and through gifted servers in all kinds of roles as we strive to make disciples who make disciples. As we have been looking forward to what God would have us do in expanding his kingdom, the most normal thought is that we need to keep getting bigger.
But again, Jesus’ way is upside down.
God took the Elders on a journey to move through the book of Acts. This book chronicles God’s movement through His people to take this Gospel message out from this growing body of believers in Jerusalem to the rest of the known world.
About the same time, God brought another book, “Gaining by Losing,” by J.D. Greear, to the Elders’ attention. Greear’s book is about becoming a sending church, meaning we send people out to share the Gospel rather than just inviting people in to hear it. This book, along with Acts, led to the second half of last year’s teaching about living missionally. It became pretty clear that God was calling us to go out and establish new bodies of believers who will reach their communities with God’s message of hope.
So as you have heard, we are now both adding another campus in Bedford, which will be similar to our current campus, and we are also sending out a team to Dayton, Ohio, to plant a church.
One of the tensions that happens with this approach is that we find ourselves sending some of our best to go out and establish these new bodies. So who will continue to help at our Forest campus? The truth is that if we are faithful to follow God in these new ventures, He will be faithful to raise up other leaders in their place. In fact, some of you reading this are those very individuals.
Our prayer is that this is only the beginning. We are hearing more and more stories of individuals and families who are asking, “What’s next?” We have always wanted to be a place where God is birthing dreams and visions in each of us, and we are hearing the whispers of His voice as He calls us out on kingdom expansion adventures.
Does this sometimes sound crazy? Do we sometimes feel unqualified? Will these adventures take us out of our comfort zones? Will they require sacrifice? The answer is most definitely “yes.” But the alternative is to live a life far below what we have been created for. Let’s not miss it because God’s plans seem so “out there” to us. Let’s follow Jesus in His Upside Down Kingdom.