Monday, August 16, 2010
comfort zones hinder the gospel
Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
The concentric circles of gospel impact keep growing. So far the gospel message has been a purely Jewish phenomenon. It has primarily been centered in Jerusalem. But that is changing. A persecution rose throughout the church after the martyrdom of Stephen and the scattered disciples kept at the preaching the gospel. The result of the persecution was continued growth and maturity of the church. Philip winds up in Samaria and proclaims Christ to the people who had traditionally been the religious enemies of the conservative Jews. The gospel is warmly received.
The apostles travel to Samaria to investigate the report, and have the good news confirmed, even with the dilemma of Simon's offer to purchase the gift of the Holy Spirit's power as part of the experience. The gospel comes, with a rebuke, but it still comes to the city and powerfully transforms the people involved. The old prejudices melt away and in the end the event is clearly the advance of the gospel and not only the Samaritan capital city, but villages in Samaritan territory becoming recipients of the gospel message. The command that Jesus gave to His sent men to preach the gospel into Samaria has been obeyed.
I think about this in the light of modern prejudices. And we evangelicals like to think we are a "great commission" people who are reaching our world, but I think there is still a lot of changing to take place. It amazes me that most large seminaries, when they turn out church planters, turn out young men who seem to be most concerned with going to their own generation and people group. In the eighties and nineties it resulted in the mega-church movement with starry-eyed seminarians thinking suburban dreams of box church mall goodness. Ten years ago, the backlash was generational, with youthful church leaders reaching gen-Xer's and post baby boomers. Now the move is to go urban and hip (again... just a new hipness), but primarily we seem to be finding the white middle class, or the children of them, and trying to win them.
This tendency is why I am thrilled to be part of a church, that though it is suburban in its core, is Great Commission in its roots. We have young christian leaders committed to serving in Islamic lands, in China, in hispanic ministry, and to truly serving the poor in Kansas City's urban core. And we partner with these opportunities, not just promote them with 30 second commercials! I love to see the shake up and what it does to our comfortable white bread world! I think it is what the church ought to be doing. It had to be what shook the First Century church forward. May it always do so, even today, until our Lord returns.
- Posted with my iPad. The Apple Kool-Aide tastes fine.