By Mike Ruhl | November 1, 2016
I never even ordered the book.
It simply showed up in my mailbox. Skeptical at best because ‘freebies’ usually come with a ‘hook’ or a ‘catch’, I opened the book and quickly scanned the pages, always looking for ‘nuggets’ to enhance and accelerate the ministry of mission planting and training.
I was already in a contemplative mood while preparing to vote in two weeks in the U.S. Presidential Election, ruminating over the progressively secular movement in U.S. culture toward hindering the Christian Church and abrogation of divine and civil law and order. I was struck by the author’s reference to America’s Pharaoh.
One recalls how ancient Israel wandered into idolatry during the Exodus and how the nation ended up in oppression and bondage in Egypt. After Moses emancipated the Israelite nation from the cruel enslavement of Pharaoh, they found themselves in the desert between bondage in Egypt and the Promised Land. While they were literally ‘on their way’ to the Promised Land - but had not yet arrived – many Israelites complained: Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt? (Numbers 14:3). God’s People had been delivered from the bonds and chains of a culture that did not acknowledge the One True / Triune God and the True and Revealed Will and Word of God. But there they stood in the desert – contemplating a decision to ‘give in’ and return to a culture which would deny them their legacy and high calling in messianic (Jesus) salvation history. One can almost see the Egyptian Pharaoh smiling with glee as the Israelites discussed the implications of that Numbers 14:3 question. Surely he would have welcomed them back into those bonds and chains of spiritual and societal darkness.
Now let us fast forward to November, 2016. America’s Pharaoh is not a person, a particular presidential candidate or a political party. America’s Pharaoh is simply a power-source other than the Triune God upon which people erroneously and foolishly depend – and even begin to worship. It replaces God – substituting and exalting an unprincipled, unbiblical worldview. America’s Pharaoh and accompanying advocates of this secular and utilitarian system ‘chip away’ and undermine divine absolute principles while rejecting at worst (marginalizing at best) the truth of the inspired Word of God.
So here we Christians stand, contemplating that same Numbers 14:3 question: Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt? Do we ‘give in’ and ‘give up’ – and allow cultural trends to stifle our confession and our witness?
That scenario looks very similar to what the apostles saw as they looked through the telescopic lenses of the apostolic age right after Pentecost. That same Ancient Pharaoh (reliance on pagan power-source which exalts an unbiblical worldview) had myriads of people rattling their cultural chains of secular/utilitarian bondage and spiritual darkness.
But the leaders of the apostolic mission realized that the Holy Spirit was calling them to transform culture – not flee the culture, abhor the culture or destroy the culture. Some missiologists have observed that there are five possible ways that contemporary Christians relate to secular culture: (1) WARFARE - Christ against culture (2) COMPROMISE – Christ of culture (3) POWER – Christ ABOVE culture (4) PARADOX - Christ and culture and (5) TRANSFORMATION - Christ transforms culture.
Those same apostolic mission leaders also recognized that one of the keys to transforming culture was accelerated mission planting. God’s call to Israel in the Old Testament centered on being a light to enlighten the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6 and Luke 2:32).
(The Lord says) It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:6
Missiologists like Rodney Stark (The Rise of Christianity) estimate that, despite the looming cultural threat of the Ancient Pharaoh in the Apostolic Age, the actual number of Christians may have grown from 25,000 in AD 100 – to 20,000,000 by AD 310. Obviously, the primary power behind this dynamic transformation of culture was and is the Holy Spirit working through the witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And one of the ways by which that precious Gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed was through the planting of new missions which systematically supported the God-pleasing transformation of that culture.
Ecclesia plantanda … let the church be planted! Almighty God wills the spiritual transformation of both human hearts and human culture.
Questions for Discussion
1. How is your church or ministry encouraging disciples to ‘speak the biblical and cultural truth in love’ … without preaching politics from the pulpit?
2. To what extent should a Christian congregation become engaged in politics and government?
3. Do you feel that ‘separation of church and state’ is a valid and biblical concept?
4. How is the Holy Spirit leading you as a Mission Leader to look beyond the “smaller things” (Isaiah 49:6) of maintenance ministry – and engage in being a light for the Gentiles that brings salvation to the end of the earth?
5. How can the sponsorship of a new mission plant move your congregation toward the fulfillment of Isaiah 49:6 and Luke 2:32?
Resources You Can Use
Book: The Triumph of Christianity by Rodney Stark, HarperOne, 2011
Book: The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch, Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007
Article: How Does Church Planting Relate to God’s Mission by Ed Stetzer
Mission Moments is the e-newsletter sent by the Center for U.S. Missions to bring information and encouragement to all who desire to share God's great love in Jesus Christ with others. Permission is given to copy this article for distribution within your congregation or organization. Please credit the author and the Center for United States Missions. For more information contact the Center at (952)-221-0362, or visit our website: www.c4usm.org
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