Explore God Chicago

March 8, 2019 by Jeff Klein

Explore God Chicago is complete. By the time it was done, over 950 churches across Chicagoland participated in this initiative centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It was exciting to know that the “Big C” Church of Jesus came together to enter into a conversation around the biggest questions “explorers” had about God and Christianity. It was even more exciting that we at ECRC got to be part of it.

Was it successful? Did we “win”?

Here’s how the scoreboard looks:

  • 80 plus people were trained to have an “Explore God” conversation.
  • 20 groups got off the ground with 4 still working on getting started.
  • Each group had an average of 4-5 participants with some groups being as large as 15 or more people. This means that as a church, we have been and continue to be in conversation with between 90 and 130 people who believe differently than we do.
  • 2 people decided to follow Jesus.

But when you’re measuring Kingdom of God stuff, you have to consider the intangibles, the realities that go beyond numbers. The Spirit of God produces spiritual fruit in a community of people when they decide to join God in the Mission that is so close to his heart. And if you look closely, you can see:

  • A number of us have become more aware of people around us who need someone to walk alongside them in their spiritual wonderings.
  • Our eyes and minds focused outward as we began to think about our neighbors, friends, and co-workers in new ways.
  • Our hearts became more open to the idea that Jesus wants to use us to make disciples of all nations.
  • It made us wonder if God might have someone for us to engage in a meaningful, intentional relationship to let that person know they are loved by God.
  • Deep inside we begin to awaken to the idea that we have been created in Christ Jesus to do the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

So, we have much to celebrate. We did it! But this is not the end. It’s only the beginning. What do I mean?

Take the Olympics. They begin with a giant opening ceremony where the athletes parade in and the host nation puts on a giant show. Over the years, watching these, I’ve seen fireworks, bands, light shows, and spectacular dances. But these are just the prelude, the sign that there is more to come. These celebrations of the coming games serve as a precursor to the games themselves, where the athletes will compete for the medals and the records and for glory.

Explore God Chicago served the same purpose. It’s only the beginning. It can’t be the end. It is the “opening ceremonies” of a long walk in the same direction. It got us started. Taking this seven-week journey through these seven “Big Questions About God,” began a good work in us and through us.

Cultures are built over time with consistent focused effort and energy. When you see a church “break through,” it is tempting to think that it happened in just one moment, but the truth is, there were many small and bigger steps that led to it. Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, calls this “the flywheel.” When you turn a giant metal flywheel with a large number of short pushes, the wheel picks up momentum and keeps spinning on its own. Once it is spinning, you can keep increasing the momentum with no more effort exerted than on the first push.

Jim Collins says that pursuing the same focused goal over and over again creates this flywheel effect. It starts with many small actions that lead to slow movement, but then with every push you make, others join in and everything works together to build momentum toward reaching the goal.

Over the past seven weeks, a mom with a heart for her boy and his friends began a conversation that is softening the hearts of these boys. A group of thirty single mothers, some in Spanish, gathered in the Garden Room to discuss their spiritual questions, and sometimes through tears, wonder about the purpose of their lives. A group of nursing home residents wondered about how God might be at work in and around them. Four of my neighbors show up every other week and talk together about a God they believe in but don’t yet know.

The flywheel is beginning to turn…one small push at a time.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if this kind of Kingdom work became part of the normal life of our church? What if more people engaged someone where they live, work, or play in a relationship where our hearts moved with compassion for the people around us? What if God began to move through our lives, through your life, to walk alongside someone you find in your path?

The Apostle Paul carried the good news of Jesus all over the ancient world. He thought of his life like an Olympic race with a task that needed to be finished and finished well.

Paul said it this way, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).

Explore God Chicago is over, but our race to engage people with the love and grace of Jesus has only just begun.

Rev Klein

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