“I had it together. I used to be cool (I was prom king, for heaven’s sake). Then I met Jesus, and He wrecked my life. The more I read the gospel, the more it messed me up, turning everything I believed in, valued and hoped for upside down. I am still recovering from my conversion.” - Shane Claiborne
The Summer Ministry Team had a fantastic week serving the EFC Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting in Colorado at Quaker Ridge Camp. Half of our team served Middle School students while the others invested in High Schoolers. Each of us experienced our own joys and sorrows as we enjoyed journeying with students and taking in views of Pikes Peak every chance we could get.
This week I repeatedly witnessed the students in my cabin enter into uncomfortable experiences. We spent time in activities that were lots of fun and also challenging for some of the guys including: hiking Soldier’s mountain, a high ropes course with a zipline (quitting was not optional!), and mountain biking among others. At the end of the week I encouraged and affirmed the group in each of their willingness to soak up these opportunities while at camp. Perhaps one of the ways that they grew in Christ this week was learning to live in the uncomfortable.
Our guest speaker at camp this week, Jason, did an incredible job of casting vision for the students and the difference that the gospel can make in each of their lives. Here he emphasized the reality that the gospel of King Jesus compels His followers to move beyond what is comfortable. Not only from a pedagogical sense, but especially as exemplified in the life of Jesus. Jason took time examining how Christ spent his minutes, and how the message of God’s love for humanity made a difference in Jesus’ daily life. The incarnation alone included an immeasurable level of discomfort as the divine became fully man. His gospel does not guarantee comfort, but actually promises the opposite. Put simply: King Christ lived in the uncomfortable, and it made an inscrutable difference in the lives and souls of others.
Jason challenged all at camp to take their ordinary everyday life and leverage it for the King and His Kingdom. As we read gospel accounts it became clear that the way Jesus did this was primarily through three avenues: talking to, eating with, and caring for whomever came into his path. In a sense, these were his strategies for evangelism or living on mission. These three means of reaching others are quite feasible in theory, but in practice they challenge the comfort zone of Christ followers. As disciples of the Messiah, we take our cues from Jesus and if that means going into the uncomfortable, then let us press into radical discipleship at every opportunity!
For Jesus, this way of “gospelizing” was so countercultural that he was called a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). When was the last time you were addressed as a friend of sinners? I find this question quite convicting and challenging, and believe that it should be so for any disciple of Christ. In this question (and answer) I’ve found that I have a long way to go in my discipleship to Jesus; I have a lot of pursuing the uncomfortable to do. Jason went on to say that “as long as you stay in your comfort zone your world impact and kingdom impact will be small, it will be limited.” This only makes sense in God’s (upside down) kingdom, which runs counter to the kingdoms of this world. In this I was reminded and convicted that the gospel of Jesus does not want me to stay in my comfort zone, but beckons me to trust him in the uncomfortable. For in that space his power and presence will be most realized and his kingdom will be most advanced. I am mindful that Christ followers believe in a gospel that is uncomfortable. Christians can capitalize and maximize on challenging opportunities if they allow themselves to see each as opportunities to develop their relationship with the Spirit and intimately draw near to Abba.
This theme and conversation was not only a theme at Quaker Ridge, but has also been part of the bigger picture of my summer. It has been a common story line that I’ve seen week after week after week. My fellow counselors and I have invited our students to enter into uncomfortable games or activities at camp, and ultimately to go further in the (at times) uncomfortable life with God. The SMT itself has pursued an uncomfortable summer in choosing to sacrificially give of self for the sake of others (students, camp staff, other team members, etc.). We have found ourselves in uncomfortable situations every week, and perhaps even every day. In this, each experience has been an opportunity to drink deep from Jesus’ well as the source of our comfort and strength. Although we’ve experienced this intensely over the summer, we are also being trained for our everyday ordinary lives.
As we head into our last week of camp for the summer we invite you to join us in Jesus’ invitation of uncomfortable living for the sake of others. Consider how this might look in your context: What if sharing the gospel with others and missionally advancing the kingdom was as simple as talking to, eating with, and caring for those people that God has put in your ordinary everyday life?