If there are two things I want people to remember from all I teach, they are:
(a) The Christian faith is a way of life. It’s a not a hobby to be pursued in the confines of your own home, or with like-minded people on a Sunday morning. It is a faith that should impact on every area of your life, at home, at work or wherever you happen to be.
(b) The Christian faith is not just about my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is also about my relationship with others. The moment I believe, I am in Christ, and part of His body. I am a stone in His temple, alongside my brothers and sisters, a member of His household, a subject in His kingdom. That means my life needs to be lived out in community with others, for there the reality of my love for Christ is seen, in the way I relate to my fellow believers, and to the wider world.
Those were two convictions which drove Paul’s ministry. It’s why he could write to the Corinthian church, for instance: Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Cor 11:1). Paul didn’t just teach and preach during office hours, then go home in the evenings to make tents or watch the footie. His whole life was a pattern which he consciously adopted so that others could see, could model and could learn.
And whether we are in leadership or not, I think Paul’s example is one that we all need to think about this Lent. After all, what are the two most common misunderstandings have about the Christian faith? “My faith is something that’s private”; “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian”. I don’t know how such ideas became so firmly attached in popular imagination, but surely their prevalence suggests that somewhere, someone along the line we have spectacularly failed to communicate something essential about our faith. We can try and argue to correct such misconceptions, but if you really want to win the argument, then it’s our lifestyle more than our words that will carry the day.
So, what message does my life convey about what I believe? That’s a question definitely worth pondering.