Brandon Hatmaker’s book Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture was one of those books that came at just the right time. I finished it in one evening, I couldn’t put it down.
Hatmaker’s book is not about a model of church, although you will read a lot about missional communities and how they play out in a church. It is not about whether a church should be attractional or missional, as it should be both. Instead, you will read about the heart condition of a church, what the lives of those who claim to follow Jesus should be like and what happens in the world when they are sold out to that.
Right now, I am preaching through the vision of Revolution Church and the identities that define us as individuals and as a church. God has really been working on me as I think through how this plays out in my life, especially the identity of being a servant. For me, being a missionary or a learner is quite natural. Even being family with those around me is a challenge, but not insurmountable. The identity of being a servant pushes against everything in me. I said this past Saturday, “The identity of being servant, what makes it so difficult is that it will kill the American dream in you because it is difficult, if not impossible, to be a servant and accomplish the American dream.”
Hatmaker makes the strong case that as followers of Jesus, we are to serve and care for “the least of these.” While this often gets translated as poor, marginalized, those on the fringes of society, which it is. Hatmaker also believes this can be seen as “anyone with less.” This puts a completely different spin on it and makes all of us accountable. We all know someone with less. In The Message of Matthew, Michael Green makes this point about Matthew 25:
Matthew 25 tells me that I am accountable. I am free to live my life just as I please, but at the end I shall have to give an account to the one who gave me life. It tells me that judgment awaits everyone. There will be no exceptions. There will be no favoritism. There will be no excuses. It will be totally faith. It tells me that we are not all going in the same direction by different roads, as we would dearly love to think in this tolerant and pluralistic age. We will not all end up in the same place. It is possible to be utterly lost, and Jesus warns us of that possibility here. It tells me that there will be great surprises on the day of judgment. Lots of people who were very confident of their condition will be undone. Lots of people who rated themselves very lowly will be astonished by their reception. It tells me that the heart of Christianity is a relationship with Jesus himself, which shows itself in loving, sacrificial care for others, in particular the poor and needy. It tells me that people who have never heard the good news will be judged by their response to the what they did see. But most of all, this passage tells me that we will come face to face with our judge.
Here are a few things that jumped out to me from the book:
- Need is everywhere, but we often fail to see it. If we don’t see it, we won’t be bothered by it. If we’re not bothered by it, we won’t engage it.
- I’m not convinced we even know what it means to love our neighbor. I’m not convinced we care. I’m not convinced because if we did, it would change the way we live.
- Any authentic and genuine commitment to Christ will be accompanied by demonstrable evidence of a transformed life.
- Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it. But, I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.
- The gospel declares that everyone in need is our neighbor.
Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.