Singapore, Day 5

The Pasir Panjang Church supports (fully or partially) some eleven different missionaries in nine different countries: Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, India, VietNam, Thailand, Myanmar, China, and a Pakistani church in Manchester England. Many of those missionaries gather each year around the time of Pasir Panjang’s Family Camp to report, renew, and fellowship with their sponsoring congregation. The church hosts a “pre-camp” gathering for these missionaries and it was my honor to do some teaching and training with this group on Monday and Tuesday.

We talked through the Beatitudes. I chose this material to share because I thought it might be helpful to the group as their return to their various mission points and engage in the hard work of making disciples. What do you do with people once you’ve baptized them? Where do you begin to grow them up into the image of Christ? There is no more basic or helpful place to start the discipling process than by rooting people in the Beatitudes.

They were the first words Jesus spoke to his gathered disciples. They describe the sort of people Jesus wants them to become. They describe (if you look closely) the character of Jesus himself. By starting where Jesus started, by focusing on character rather than doctrine or practice, we have a chance of doing what Jesus wanted to do—grow disciples from the inside out.

We explored three basic idea in approaching the Beatitudes:

1. There is a sequence to the Beatitudes that must be recognized and respected. We don’t get to choose which Beatitude we like best and start there. Everyone must begin with “poor in spirit.” Until you wrestle with the first Beatitudes, you are not capable of wrestling authentically with the Beatitudes that come later.

2. There is a shape to the Beatitudes that helps us understand individual Beatitudes and shows us the fundamental ‘movement’ of the Beatitudes as a whole: from ourselves to God to others. The Beatitudes are shaped like a mountain. The first four lead us from an acknowledgement of our own brokenness to a submission to the wisdom and priorities of God. The second four lead us from the safe and pleasant presence of God down into the press and busyness of every day life … the messiness of other people. The first four Beatitudes describe attributes we develop to relate to God. The second four describe more interpersonal attributes.

3. There is a cycle to the Beatitudes that permits us to understand them in ever-deepening ways. Just as when we read the Bible, the first time through is shallow and broad … only later encounters take us deeper in our understanding and appreciation. We think through the Beatitudes once, and then again, and then again. We live through the Beatitudes once, twice, a third and tenth times. And, gradually, we begin to understand God’s wisdom in them, the character they describe, the spiritual depth contained there, the goals that are worthy of a life-time’s pursuit.

Then we took up each of the Beatitudes in turn, unpacking these masterstrokes of compression and synthesis to understand just how much ground eight brief statements—just 96 words in total—can actually cover. I based this teaching on my book Walk This Way. It was a joy to be with these good men and women. I hope I gave them some tools that will be helpful as they work with disciples in this distant part of the world.

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© 2012 by Tim Woodroof. Reproduction of this material requires permission from the author.