RESOURCES FOR LIVING THE "GREATER WAY"
What does life as a follower of Jesus Christ look like? What are the most important things a disciple of Jesus Christ should be doing? At Earle Street Baptist Church, we answer these questions this way: As disciples of Jesus Christ, we aspire to live the “greater way.” The “greater way” is a way of life modeled after Jesus Himself and based on His two great commandments (love God and love neighbors) and His great commission (make disciples). Loving God, loving our neighbors, and making disciples are the essential elements of the Christian life.
In 2018, our church decided to pursue the “greater way” as our identity and our overarching goal. We want to live the “greater way” as individuals and as a church. We want to be known as “greater way” people. In the fall of 2019, we introduced Our “Greater Way” Covenant, a document memorializing our commitment to living the “greater way” and setting out some practical examples of what “greater way” living looks like in our daily lives.
This webpage contains the text of Our “Greater Way” Covenant and a list of resources for exploring, understanding, and applying the terms of the covenant. The resources correspond to the individual statements in the covenant and include things like books, articles, Bible studies, devotionals, blog posts, podcasts, etc. We do not want this page to become stagnant – we want it to be fresh and relevant and useable, so we will update it as we discover new resources.
This page is all about sparking ideas and providing tools for living the “greater way” in our everyday lives. So jump in, look around, and go live the “greater way!"
Our Greater Way Covenant
Scripture: Matthew 22: 34-40; 28: 16-20
Our dream, our vision, for our church is that “the greater way” become our identity as a church, and the three components of “the greater way” to become our core values: love God, love neighbors, and make disciples. “The greater way” is not just about what we do. It is about who we are. It is our identity. We are “greater way” people. We are a “greater way” church. It is not a theme. It is a way of living. Jesus said “the greater way” is the way of love. And anyone who does not live “the greater way” is living a lesser way. But the more we got into this, the more we started realizing that some of us need more specific guidance in living the greater way. We all agree that we should love God, love neighbors, and make disciples. But how? What would that look like? Specifically, what are we challenging each other to do? How do we go about loving God, loving neighbors, and making disciples?
Accepting, Trusting, and Resting in God's Love
Scripture: 1 John 4: 10-19
Before there ever was a great commandment to love, there was a great invitation to be loved. God has shown love for us in countless ways, but the supreme expression of God’s love was the gift of God’s own Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. God’s love is reliable and trustworthy. It is a given - - no matter what we have done or failed to do. God’s love is not something we have to earn. We couldn’t even if we tried. In fact, it is when we realize that we cannot earn it that we are in the best position to receive it as the gift that it is, accept it as a given in our lives. There is a lesser way to love and there is a greater way to love. “The greater way” begins with the Source of love. God’s love for us was first. And God’s love for us will be last. God’s love spoke this world into existence, and God’s love will see this world to sleep. And if we can just accept that we are loved by God no matter what, if we can trust that God’s love for us in Jesus Christ is real and true, and if we can just rest in God’s love without feeling like we have to earn it, then we will be ready to live and love “the greater way.”
Spending Time Alone with God
Scripture: 1 John 4: 10-19
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Have you ever stopped to consider the sheer scope of this commandment? If we take it seriously, we will realize that this commandment demands an incredibly high level of commitment. But, as we heard last Sunday, God has made it possible for us to love Him that way because He first loved us that way. His love for us is the source of our love for Him. We love Him by returning His love for us. This kind of reciprocal love only happens in the context of a relationship. And, as with any loving relationship, one of the primary ways we demonstrate and deepen our love for God is by spending time with Him. When we spend time alone with God – by praying and studying His Word, by speaking and listening for His voice, by simply being still in His presence – we deepen our relationship with Him. We get to know Him better. We learn how to please Him. We appreciate His love more and more. And we communicate to Him that He is important to us – important enough for us to stop and give Him our undivided attention. Our lives are busier than ever, but, if we want to live “the greater way,” we must be intentional about creating a rhythm of living that prioritizes spending time alone with God.
Gathering Together in Worship
Scripture: Colossians 3:12-17
This Sunday, we continue the sermon series which we began three weeks ago on “Our Greater Way Covenant.” In this series, we are attempting to answer the very practical questions of what it means, and what it looks like, to love God, love our neighbors, and make disciples. The first part of “the greater way” is to love God; but how? How do we love God?
Two weeks ago, we were reminded that our love for God begins with our accepting, trusting, and resting in God’s love for us. Last week, Chuck reminded us that there is a personal dimension to our love for God; and that, if we love God, we will want to spend time alone with God. But this Sunday, the Scripture will remind us that, while our love for God might be personal, it is not private. It might begin with our quiet, alone time with God; but it does not end there. Our love for God is to be expressed with each other in worship.
So this Sunday, on “Love Our Neighbor Day,” we gather with each other and focus on the “one-another” language that permeates the New Testament. 100 times in the New Testament, we find the phrase “one another,” and three of those times appear in this single passage from Colossians 3.
Obeying the Teachings of Jesus
Scripture: John 14:15-23
As we have seen in this sermon series on “Our Greater Way Covenant,” loving God first involves accepting, trusting, and resting in God’s love for us. It involves spending time alone with God, and with other believers in worship. But this Sunday, we will be reminded that loving God also involves being obedient. At first, living a life of obedience might sound oppressive and restrictive. But the irony is that obeying Christ is the most liberating way to live. Obedience to Christ sets us free from all the competing priorities, entanglements, and complications that would keep us from living “the greater way.” There are many reasons to be obedient: fear, self-interest, duty, and guilt. But none of those reasons is the best reason to be obedient. In His farewell conversation with His disciples, just before His death, Jesus gave His disciples - - then and now - - the best, highest, noblest reason to obey Him.
Seeking Out Our Neighbors
Scripture: Hebrews 13: 1-2
This Sunday, we will continue our sermon series on “Our Greater Way Covenant” as we begin to unpack the second movement of “the greater way.” Already in this series, we have explored the commandment that Jesus said is the greatest commandment of all - - the commandment to love God with our heart, soul, and mind. Our loving God begins when we accept, trust, and rest in God’s love for us; and then out of the overflow of God’s love for us, we express our love for God when we spend time alone with God, gather together in worship, and obey the teachings of Jesus. But Jesus said the second greatest commandment is just like the first; and if we are going to love God, then we will love our neighbors as ourselves.
Strangers become neighbors when we show mercy, love, and hospitality to them. We do not wait for them to ask. We do not dismiss them or pass them by. We seek them out; and when we do, we might be surprised to find out who they are.
Scripture: Ephesians 2:12-14
You certainly do not have to be an astute observer to notice how polarized our culture has become. All you have to do is just watch the news or read the paper or get on Facebook, or listen to almost any politician. People are divided in terms of race and creed, politics and lifestyle, geography and culture. Many of us go out of our way to avoid people who are not like we are, fearing that we might be labeled a certain way if we associate with them. And yet, as we were reminded last week, the gospel calls and compels us to live “the greater way,” the way of love, the way of Jesus, who taught us by word and by example to go out of our way to seek out the very people who are strangers to us that we might become neighbors to them. When we take the time and go to the trouble of seeking out the strangers among us, something amazing happens in the exchange. Walls start coming down - - not so much because of anything we do, but because of what Jesus has already done.
Serving Our Neighbors
Scripture: Galatians 5: 13-15
In Christ, we are free from the burden of the law; but our freedom is not a license to indulge ourselves. Our freedom in Christ sets us free to fulfill the law, not to disregard it. And the whole law is summed up in a single commandment: to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are set free through love to serve each other.
Getting to Know Our Neighbors and Building Relationships with Them
Scripture: Romans 12: 9-18
This Sunday, we will continue our sermon series on “Our Greater Way Covenant.” In previous sermons, we have talked about what it means, and what it looks like, to love God. In the previous three sermons, we have explored how to love our neighbors by actively and intentionally seeking them out, overcoming barriers between us, and serving them. This Sunday, we begin to make the transition from loving our neighbors to making disciples as we focus on getting to know our neighbors and building relationships with them. We can actively seek out our neighbors and overcome barriers, and we can even serve them without ever getting to know them and actually building relationships with them. So this Sunday, we will be looking for biblical guidance in how to make deeper connections with our neighbors than just occasionally doing something nice for them. Even though acts of service can be an important step in loving our neighbors, we will be able to love them so much more meaningfully if we actually take the time to get to know them and develop relationships with them, and if we add a simple word to our vocabulary - the word “yet.”
Examples, Prayers, and Spiritual Conversations
Scripture: Colossians 4:2-6
This Sunday, we will resume our sermon series on “Our Greater Way Covenant.” We began this series by talking about what it means, and what it looks like in our lives, to love God. Then we explored how to love our neighbors by actively and intentionally seeking them out and serving them. A few weeks ago, we made the transition from loving our neighbors to making disciples by focusing on getting to know our neighbors and building relationships with them.
This week, we continue looking at the process of making disciples with three examples: (1) Showing our neighbors the way of Jesus by the way we live; (2) Praying for them; and (3) Seeking opportunities to have spiritual conversations. There is another transition happening here – in the context of the relationships we build with our neighbors, we begin to teach them how to be followers of Jesus.
A disciple, by definition, is a student, so it follows that the process of making disciples will necessarily involve teaching and learning. We teach others how to follow Jesus by both the things we do and the things we say. We teach indirectly by example, and we teach directly through spiritual conversations. And the whole enterprise must be saturated with prayer, because, ultimately, it is God who does the work of transformation.
Helping Our 'Neighbors' Understand and Live the Greater Way"
Scripture: Matthew 4:18-20
This Sunday, we will conclude our sermon series on “Our Greater Way Covenant.” In previous sermons, we have talked about what it means, and what it looks like, to love God, love our neighbors, and make disciples. And this Sunday, we will consider how “the greater way” cycle is continued and repeated as we make disciples who understand and live “the greater way” themselves - so that they make disciples, who make disciples who make disciples. The best way I know to illustrate the multiplication principle of discipleship is to take a fresh look at the way Jesus called His first disciples. He called them to follow and then to fish. Discipleship is all about following and fishing.
A Kingdom Covenant
Scripture: 2 Kings 23:1-3
Commitment is a personal matter. But when individuals voluntarily enter into relationships with other people, commitment very quickly takes on a public dimension. Talk to people at Weight Watchers or Alcoholics Anonymous or Planet Fitness or Janice’s running group. The reason those programs are so successful and effective is because of the community that is formed around a shared commitment. When a commitment is made public, there is mutual support, encouragement, and accountability.
That is exactly what is going on the Scripture we will consider Sunday. King Josiah makes a personal covenant with God and publicly invites the people of Judah to join together with Him.
This Sunday, we will be making individual pledges and commitments, but we will be making them together publicly to show that we are in a kingdom covenant with Christ our King and with each other. Jesus has taught us and shown us a greater way to give and a greater way to live. This Sunday, as an act of worship, those who feel comfortable coming forward will bring pledge cards to support the church financially, and also embrace “Our Greater Way Covenant.”