This past week, dear Danielle and I drove down to Atlanta, Georgia. For Christmas, we had been gifted tickets by my parents. The Orange Conference is an incredible event. Over eight thousand people were in attendance, all with the heartbeat for reaching the next generation. There is something so refreshing being around people that think the same way as you, knowing that the future belongs to the youth and that we have a call to raise them up to be leaders. The speakers were incredible, hearing from those in ministry, secular world, and from a vast array of professions; all pouring out powerful information. There was a ton of information, all great, but a lot of it. Everything we learned and heard boiled down to one central idea.
You can have the biggest platform, the coolest building, unlimited resources, but unless you are personal, everything else is meaningless. It was a moment that made me stop and examine what I do in my life. Sure, I want to be known and have people read what I write, but do I obsess over the follows and views too much? The truth is, yeah, I do sometimes. Instead of focusing on these things that don’t really matter, I need to focus on the personal, how can God use my voice to impact someone’s life? I want to love others and help them enter into what God has designed them for. When you approach life and relationships like this, everything changes and countless lives are impacted.
Personal means real relationships.
It’s so easy to be fake. We can all easily put on a mask and hide behind our image, but that’s not where life change will happen. This goes for both ministry as well as our personal lives. Do we invest in people? Do we choose to live in community? If you are on staff at a church or attending it, where do they fund the most? Is it all going to the Sunday experience and trying to get people in, or is it investing in small groups and sending people to go beyond the walls of the building? We need to look at these factors because that’s what it takes to be personal. You have to be willing to do what Jesus did. Jesus chose to be personal. We rarely see Jesus in the synagogues, because that wasn’t where the need was. The need was from the people who were outcasts and lesser than the rest of society, Jesus chose to have relationship with these people. We are called to live like Jesus. We need to have real relationships the same way Jesus did.
Personal allows light to shine in the darkness.
In the same way that Jesus chose to reach the broken and the lost, it meant that he had to go to some of the dark places. Light doesn’t need to light up things that are already lit, light needs to be in the dark for it to make a difference. The only way we can do this is by focusing on Jesus, when he is at the center, when he becomes our aim, everything gets personal. We quit judging people who have wronged us and start being the light. We aren’t called to be comfortable, we are called to make disciples. You have to ask yourself, how am I choosing to be personal? Am I hiding in the church because it is safe, inviting people to come Sunday but now pursuing them regardless of their answer? We need to be the light in the lives of everyone we are connected to. We need to get personal, because when we are, we shine light in the darkness.
This past week was much needed. There were of course tough moments, like when people ask what you do, but you don’t really want to say “I was let go because of reasons beyond my control.” Yet in the midst of it all, I know God has something bigger for me and dear Danielle, together. Even in those tough moments, I am choosing to make it personal. I refuse to let image or the need for validation hold me back from reaching people that might not have a great experience with the church or even believers. I am choosing to live like Jesus, to have real relationships and be a light in darkness.
Orange Conference was incredible. I am so thankful for the ability to have experienced such a powerful week.
It’s time to make it personal.
About the Author: Joshua Thomas is a writer by day and superhero by night. When he’s not writing and crimefighting, you can find him reading a good book, sipping warm tea, taking pictures, or dreaming. The young writer doesn’t fully know what he’s doing, but is enjoying the journey of it all. You can tweet memes at him on Twitter @joshua_thomas__ or follow his hipster photos and Jack Kerouac musings on Instagram @joshua_thomas__