Maybe you’re old enough to remember the epic 90’s song “History Maker” by Delirious?. It became somewhat of an anthem for many in the church at that time. Perhaps you were one of those blasting the words out with whole-hearted zeal:
“I’m gonna be a history maker in this land. I’m gonna be a speaker of truth to all mankind…..”
Many at that time had great aspirations to be huge change-agents for God and His kingdom. And as the years have gone by some of us haven’t quite been the history makers we thought we’d be. Jobs, families, leadership, “real life” have crept in and it’s just not “happened”. Or some of us are leading people who have big-picture vision to be history makers but don’t know how to make that a reality.
Mike Breen recently wrote a post called “Small things with great love” which we would highly recommend reading. The title comes from a quote from Mother Theresa, who said “Don’t look for big things. Just do small things with great love.”
Kingdom history-makers are ones who do small things with great love. Below is an extract from our new Missional Communities book with a great example of history makers, and how starting an MC is all about doing small things with great love, and trusting God to do the rest.
In 165 AD, a devastating epidemic swept through the Roman Empire. Historians don’t really know what the disease was (some suspect smallpox), but one thing is certain: It was extremely lethal. The epidemic lasted 15 years and killed anywhere from a quarter to a third of the empire’s population. Almost a century later, another plague ravaged the Roman world, killing massive numbers of people. It is reported that in the city of Rome alone, 500 people were dying per day at the height of the epidemic. In the midst of the daily horror of family members and friends dying all around, many people fled the cities and sought refuge in the countryside—especially those among the privileged classes, who had estates where they could retire until the devastation passed. The pagan priests and philosophers of the day were powerless to explain the disaster or curb its advance, so many simply ran for their lives. These responses seem like what you would expect in a time of great disaster and upheaval.
The interesting thing is that one group of people didn’t leave the cities in panic. In fact, this group of people purposefully stayed in the cities to look after the sick and dying, providing whatever they could for those who were suffering, even if it was merely a decent burial once the disease took their life. These people extended care and love beyond the boundaries of family and tribe and took care of any sufferers they came across.
The remarkable people who stayed in the cities to care for those being ravaged by the epidemics were Christians.Many actually lost their lives while caring for others. Here’s what Dionysius, the Bishop of Alexandria, wrote in an Easter letter around 260 AD, during the second epidemic: “Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ…Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead…Death in this form…seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.”
These early followers of Jesus weren’t trying to do anything heroic or significant. They were expressing simple obedience to Jesus’ command to “do to others what you would have them do to you,” and living out his word that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Because they did these small things with great love, they gave sufferers hope that stretched beyond the grave and a compelling vision to root their lives in from that point on.
It is likely that many of the sick who did recover simply became Christians and joined the communities that had nursed them back to health. Because of these kinds of dynamics, Christianity went from a marginal sect on the fringes of Jewish society to the most dominant faith of the entire Roman Empire within a few hundred years. All because of small things done with great love. This is ultimately what starting an MC is all about.
As we learn to become an oikos together, our job isn’t to try to do big things. It’s simply to do the small things we see around us with great love, trusting that God will take our small things and all the other small things we don’t see and weave them all together into a tapestry that announces His love for humanity and calls all people to new life under God, who is making everything new.
(image from zulily.com)