“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” - 2 Cor. 5:20.
Which of these words best describes your church: embassy, bunker, or school? Schools are institutions with which the community is required to support through attendance or taxes. Bunkers are for protection and are often hidden from view. Embassies are outposts sent to serve the will of a sovereign in a foreign land. Each of these represents a mindset. Which mindset is most effective for #churchrenewal and #churchrevitalization: the school, the bunker, or the embassy?
Some churches are like schools - they do a lot of instruction and assume that the community has to interact with them out of habit or social pressure. Some churches are like bunkers, a place for Christians to seek refuge from the opposing forces of the world. Some churches are embassies - outposts of a sovereign on a mission to a foreign land.
Neither the school, with its social clout, nor the bunker, with it’s hidden protectionism, represent the mission of Jesus. Yes, churches should educate and it’s good if they are a safe place for people - but Jesus didn’t establish an institution of the culture and he didn’t send us a hiding place.
Jesus commissioned the church to make disciples through baptism and discipleship. The only fully sufficient reason that each day dawns is that Jesus is still gathering his people. The ordinary way Jesus does that is through the preaching of the gospel and the witness of his people.
Like ambassadors, Christians are sent by the king to represent his message and his culture to a foreign culture. Like an embassy, a church is an outpost of the king - his sovereign territory on foreign soil.
What would it look like for churches to recover the embassy mindset? Three things come to mind: Communication, Culture and Curiosity. An embassy communicates the message of the king to the surrounding people. It is the place where you hear the message, ideas, and truths about the one who sent the ambassadors. When we teach the Word of God we are communicating the good news of the king to a community that has no native knowledge of that message. Our primary mission is to teach that word to people who don't already know it. Yes, we must build up the brethren, but Jesus sent us to gather worshippers from among the nations and not just fill up the information tank of believers.
The embassy also demonstrates the culture of its sovereign. Thanksgiving feasts are often celebrated at American embassies and foreign citizens are invited in to observe and partake. The church can be a place that invites the world in and says, “come, see, this is what it’s like to be part of the kingdom of God.” The way we love and care for each other demonstrates to the world that there is something different that binds us together - our union in Christ. We're not just sent to enjoy each other at church potlucks - we are sent to invite the world to come in and taste and see that the Lord is good.
Finally, ambassadors have to be curious about the culture and community to which they are sent. It's not their native culture. They report their findings to the sender. It’s not that Jesus’ knowledge is deficient and he needs our help. Rather, an embassy mindset in a church reminds us that this world is not our home, we are on foreign soil, and we can’t assume that we know or understand the culture around us, even if we grew up in it. We have to be curious. If we're not curious it might be a sign that we are more of the culture than of the kingdom of Jesus.
The church has largely forgotten that she is an embassy of the king and that her members ambassadors. Instead, institutionalism and protectionism have captivated the hearts of many local congregations.
The best way to recover the embassy mindset is to recover the joy of the gospel. If the gospel is “working” for us - that is, having an affect on our lives, emotions, self understanding - we can’t help but share it. If we are more conformed to the world than the gospel then we don’t have much reason to bring people the good news. To be ambassadors we have to be transformed by the grace of God.
On the Church Renewal Podcast and in our blog this week we’ll continue to explore the embassy mindset and the temptations away from it - the institutional and the bunker mindset. Reach out to us and tell us what you think about the embassy vs. the school vs. the bunker mindsets. How is Jesus reminding you of your identity as an ambassador?