Studying with cohorts has been one of the most powerful factors in my life.
What is a cohort? Webster defines it as:
- A friend or companion.
- A group of people ... who have something (such as age or social class) in common.
- A group of warriors or soldiers.
I did my Ph.D. studies with a cohort. We devoted four years of our lives as a learning community, sharpening each other intellectually while helping each other cross the academic finish line. I spent the last two days with a church-planting cohort with Capital Seminary & Graduate School (pictured above). This group of men, from four states, are meeting at Spanish River Church to sharpen their leadership with a view to impacting their cities for Christ.
As I start my day today I am reminded of my larger cohort, the family of God. God has given us a mission. JR Woodward expresses it well in his book, Creating A Missional Culture:
We live in a messed-up world filled with violence, prejudice, racism, poverty, greed, pride, but envy, lust and gluttony; and Jesus has invited messed-up people like us to partner with God in the redemption of the world.
It's hard to think about the redemption of the world if we fail to see the needs of the world. We also miss it when we forget that we too are "messed-up" sinners wonderfully saved by a gracious God.
How easy it is to develop an "us-them" mentality. Having been changed by the gospel we can adopt a holier-than-thou attitude that keeps us aloof, arrogant, and altogether inept at accomplishing what Jesus has called us to do:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 ESV
As I look at the life of Jesus and his early disciples, "aloof and unengaged" is the farthest thing from their minds. What can we learn from them about how we partner with God in the redemption of the world? Let me suggest four things:
- Place our lives before God.
Paul spells this out in Romans 12:1-2. Eugene Peterson's paraphrase puts it in language that makes it crystal clear: So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
- Show the alternative way.
Tim Keller notes: "Christians are truly residents of the city, yet not seeking power over or the approval of the dominant culture. Rather, they show the world an alternative way of living and of being a human community."
- Remember where the power lies.
The words of David Nicholas, my predecessor at Spanish River Church, still ring in my ears, "Tommy, the power is not in you. The power is not in me. The power is in the gospel." It is not my words that save anyone. God does that work through the gospel message -- the bad news of my sin and judgment from God, and the good news of forgiveness and life through Jesus."
- Share a gospel witness.
Talk about what you heard in a Sunday message. Share a verse that you read. Hand out a quality piece of gospel literature. Invite a friend to discuss it with you over lunch (you pay). Invite someone to a Sunday service. Share your story of how God changed you. These are just a few ways to begin.
If you belong to Jesus' cohort, let me encourage you with this: Our Leader has invited messed-up people like us to partner with God in the redemption of the world.
We get to do that today. Amazing!
1. "Cohort" definition from Mirriam-Webster Online http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cohort.
2. "We live in a messed-up world ..." from JR Woodward, Creating A Missional Culture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 2012. Page 26.
3. "Tim Keller notes..." from Creating A Missional Culture, page 33.