NorthWood Church was recently featured in a blog post by Ed Stetzer. Many of you have heard Ed speak at NorthWood and the Global Faith Forum. He is the President of Lifeway Research and a Contributing Editor with Christianity Today.
Thank you, NorthWood Family, for being light to a dark world.
By Ed Stetzer | Monday April 29, 2013 | www.edstetzer.com
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating because the whole world system is working at convincing us this isn’t true. One of the reasons we don’t do a better job of keeping the lights cranked up in our window is because we forget how dark the world outside really is. We interpret the cultural situation around us as being more late afternoon than the dead of midnight. And since most everybody seems to be having such a good time out there, enjoying their pizza and fantasy football, we end up being more motivated just to compete for their Sunday attention than to represent before them the Christ-transformed life they so desperately, desperately need.
So we pull the blinds most weeknights and see what’s on television. We pour ourselves into our work and avoid the homeless man on the sidewalk as we’re walking to our car. We don’t like to think or be reminded how bad the conditions are around us, how deeply people are suffering, how many ways our lack of kingdom presence steals hope from those who need the Lord whether they know it or not.
I mean, we’ve got our own problems. We’re working hard to save for stuff and lower our debt exposure. We’re busy with the things happening in the lives of those close to us. We don’t really have time to be more active with our fellow church members than we already are because we’re so heavily invested everywhere else. In fact, just thinking about getting more involved as a church in tangling with the chronic ills of the world around us adds a layer of complication to our lives we don’t see how we can really afford.
Can’t we just keep doing church the way we’ve always done it? People seemed fairly happy with that.
But not when we realize God has stationed us here as an outpost of light because the world is so broken. Not when we realize that we’re in rebellion against the world’s rebellion. Not when we realize the vast difference between a life transformed by Christ and a life that’s attempted any other way. We are not just a light in the darkness; we are light in the deepest darkness. With the needs as great as they are and the stakes at such a high level, the church cannot just be a candle in the wind; it needs to be a city of blinding lights (with apologies to both Elton John and U2).
So get out there and look. See what’s really happening. Spend some time with people who are hurting and fatigued and hungry and lonely, and you’ll understand why they need a place where the lights are on and the kingdom is shining brightly.
The Bible gives us two ways for the church to view ourselves amid the harsh climate of our hostile culture: as both aliens and ambassadors. Peter wrote to the churches of his day.
I urge you as aliens and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do evil, they may, by observing your good works, glorify God in a day of visitation. (1 Pet. 2:11-12)
My kids love to tell people that I married an alien since my wife is originally from Canada and was a Canadian citizen when we married. They sometimes tell their friends, “Did you know our mom is an alien?” (You can imagine how much she loves that.) But truly we kingdom citizens are “aliens and temporary residents” on this earth, sent to carry out an insurrection of light against the world’s rebellion. And if we have any hope of doing our part well, we cannot cave to the temptation of blending into the fabric of this world or deciding we half-prefer its way of living over ours.
People don’t need to see any more status-quo examples, especially from the church. There are more than enough of those to go around. What the world needs to see are people who stay true to the values of another kingdom, who stand apart by aligning themselves with another King. And to do so, we need to remind ourselves constantly that our citizenship actually resides elsewhere.
We’re aliens. Get used to it.
But we’re not just here to stand around and be different. We have been given these kingdom distinctions so we can serve in the role of “ambassadors” (2 Cor. 5:20). We are “sent people,” meeting other people in their home countries, building relationships at close range from the “embassy” we know as the Christian church– God’s kingdom outpost on earth.
We do possess one key difference, however, from the type of ambassadors that would have been most familiar to Paul’s audience in the New Testament era. During the days of the Roman Empire, ambassadors were more likely to be diplomatic officials of lesser nations, dispatched for the purpose of negotiating peaceful terms with the Roman juggernaut. Rome, on the other hand, sent out armies, followed by governors, to rule those they had conquered. The strong did not send out ambassadors in those days; the weak did.
We are positioned on earth to represent the King of the entire universe, sent into the weaker, more unstable confines of the broken world, on mission to rescue those who are rebelling against Christ’s rule and reign. Rather then sitting back hoping the world finds us, we go out into the world under the authority of Almighty God himself, seeking to establish relationship with those who are far away from him, those in bondage to a culture that is darker than they know.
We’re ambassadors. Get into it.
Keller, Texas, is a wealthy, mostly white suburb north of Fort Worth, yet it is also home to citizens and immigrants from many countries of the world: Indians, Koreans, Chinese, Malaysians, Mexicans, Laotians, Iranians, Vietnamese, and a full range of others. As natives of distant nations, these transplants– even if Christian– are not immediately at home in the normal life and dynamic of an American church. Add to that the significant percentage who are resistant to Christian faith to begin with, and the field for subversive action is wide for kingdom agents, aliens, and ambassadors.
Into this melting pot of possibilities, NorthWood Church and its Global Impact ministry is attempting to bridge the gap between themselves and these various people groups. One simple way they’re accomplishing this goal is by hosting fellowship meals. NorthWood seeks to establish relationships with these men, women, and families of other lands around a common table, sharing both their food and their hearts with them. They took heat several years ago for inviting about a thousand Muslim citizens from the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area, just to come engage with them and get acquainted. Then more than twenty-five hundred showed up– proving the church’s point that respect and friendship is key to establishing opportunities for Muslims to hear of our faith in Jesus Christ.