If you call St. Pete’s home, you know we believe in going out. Not dating, but serving. We believe that as a community God has asked us to share our faith, share our story and share our experiences. We believe God asks us to give, to open up and to step out, because we do not live simply for ourselves. We believe God wants to heal the world around us and he wants to use us in this mission.
These concepts are grouped in our community in the word Outward. And it is part of living our lives in a Christ-like fashion.
Jesus modeled outward well. He spoke openly to anyone who would listen about faith and God. He offered his skills, talents, love, and power to any who asked. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, taught truth, gave people meaning and identity and mission. And he didn’t hide or run away from the challenges of going out.
This rhythm takes guts. It is bold and active. It is also a place of deep vulnerability. It is stepping into a space that could be scary or uncomfortable or messy or risky. In my life, it has been a struggle to engage this rhythm. I know I am not alone.
Outward events are often the place where our community has difficulty showing up. And I get it. Going out is not easy.
I am drawn toward inner reflection. My mind and spirit engage eagerly in gazing up at God. I find joy with others (usually after settling a little anxiety.) But outwards stirs me up negatively. I feel all the fears and “what-ifs” and possible failures. They pile up within me and it is like hitting a wall. I can work myself into a tizzy, if not an all out anxiety attack, when someone mentions “street evangelism” or “praying for strangers”.
The reason I am sharing this is not as an excuse for “ten reasons I do not participate in outwards”. I am sharing this because I know I am not alone. I know many of us find reasons for not participating, for not showing up, or even for hiding in some way if we can get out in the first place. My hunch is it is not apathy, but avoidance.
Please hear me, the point is not to highlight my fear. Our fears do not need to lead us. I think the point is to come into the light with our weakness and our vulnerability and struggle- and go anyway.
It is ok that I do not have the answers or solutions or justice or peace or love someone needs. It is ok to have limits or difficulty being present or trouble finding the right words. Going out is not always about our competencies and strengths. Going out is about doing what God asks us to do. It is about our obedience. Jesus said “Go”
This rhythm takes guts. It is bold and active. It is also a place of deep vulnerability.
Outwards calls us to be Christlike. And a major attribute of Christ was his obedience. He obeyed his Father in every minute detail of his life. This was not without struggle! This was not without feelings of weakness and vulnerability! In the garden of Gethsemane, we have this recorded for us, a man who wrestled with God’s call and will. He prayed and cried and sweat blood, but then he rose up and did it anyway. Jesus went to the cross obediently.
I do not think it takes a stretch of the imagination to say that that was scary for him, that he felt ill-equipped, or that he felt his limits as a human as he obeyed that command. To be Christlike in going out does not mean we are spiritual superheroes with no flaws or deficiency. To be Christlike in outwards is not to be like God, powerful and strong and fearless. To be Christlike in outward rhythms means we obey God, trust him ruthlessly, and abandon our will to his.
And I repeat, this is not easy. The best part of all this is that Jesus knew it was not easy. He knew obeying God to the point of death was not easy. He walked that struggle, he lived in that weakness. He knows what it is to be fully human, vulnerable in all earthly ways. Jesus knows this is not easy.
So, he has compassion on us. He still asks us to go, to be obedient, to offer ourselves to others, to share the gospel. But we do not have to do it on our own, alone or self-reliant. He knows that is unrealistic, if not impossible. He knows our weakness. So, he has compassion on us.
Jesus says: I will go with you. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Jesus says: I am actively working with you. “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16: 19-20)
Jesus says: I will give you my power, not your own. “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
Jesus says: I will send the Spirit of God to help you. “Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22)
Feel all the feels. Talk to Jesus. And go anyway. Go out with him.
This article is not intended to address men and women living with Anxiety disorders. If you struggle with a medical condition or mental health illness involving anxiety our hope is for your healing and peace, not to pressure you into changed behaviour. If you struggle with anxiety and have never sought help, and/or would like to have help, please reach out to our care team.