From Pastor Mark
There are two temptations that our church must resist if we are going to make an impact on our city for the gospel. Pastor Brady mentioned these in his sermon on Sunday. It is critical that we understand these temptations and resist them.
The first temptation is that of assimilation. This typically occurs when a church wants so badly to fit in with its community that it will do anything to accomplish this—including compromising biblical truth. When this happens, the church blends in with the community so much that it loses its distinct identity. Over time, the people in the church adopt the culture’s values and worldview. When this happens, the church loses its ability to bear witness to the transforming nature of the gospel.
This is a very real danger for any church. As a church, do we desperately want to reach our city? Absolutely. Will we spend resources, invest in relationships, and sacrificially love our community? Yes. But, we must not fall into the trap of thinking that we have to do everything our culture is doing in order to reach people. We believe that the Word of God is powerful and effective at bearing fruit (Isaiah 55:11). We believe God is sovereign and delights in using flawed people like us to herald the glorious gospel of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:7). We believe that we should be a city on a hill that shines light in a dark world (Matthew 5:13-16). This means our light should actually be seen as light. We cannot assimilate.
My guess is that many reading this will readily affirm that we must not assimilate into our culture. If you have any background in evangelicalism you know that the greater temptation for many churches is isolation. This occurs when a church looks at its community with disdain and disgust. It’s easy to feel like our culture is so polluted with sin that we cannot fathom a way of interacting with the culture without also being tainted by the culture. When this happens, a church withdraws from any meaningful interaction with its community.
Without any meaningful interaction, the church is left with simply denouncing the moral decay of society, which leads to a sense of superiority and even hostility. My guess is, many of us know what it’s like to be in a church setting with this mentality. Like assimilation, isolation is an easy trap to fall into. Whose heart doesn’t break for the brokenness and sin we see around us? How can we not, at times, feel horrified by what we see happening? But, the question is, how should we respond? Does God not love the people of our city (Jonah 4)? Did God not go to the greatest lengths possible to engage a people who had rejected him? Did he not call us ambassadors to represent him as we live among a people who do not know him (2 Corinthians 5)?
The answer is yes. That means we cannot disengage and “hunker down.” We cannot isolate or assimilate. We must incarnate. We must be the living embodiment of Jesus Christ to this community. If you are thinking that kind of ministry will be messy, you are right. It’s hard to engage and stay distinct. It’s hard to love and not be crushed. But remember, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
We can do this church. Christ in us. Resurrection power. The Spirit. All this reminds us that we are not alone. God wants this city to repent and trust in Jesus. And God wants to use us to do this.
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7