I believe wherever hell is breaking loose is God’s way of saying to people who love him and want to follow him, “Over here!” Often we see the tragedies and catastrophes taking place on the news, and our response is something akin to “poor people” or “how sad.”
How many times have we seen the pictures of starving children or heard the details of horrific war stories? How many of us will ever forget the images of people like mice trying to outswim a tsunami, or jagged rubble crushing the life out of a city after an earthquake, or AIDS patients dying en masse in Africa? The response is always the same, “Someone should do something…let’s pray for them.” A few reach for their wallets and checkbooks.
Those responses miss everything. God is calling the church to the hard places of the world, not just the safe, easy, or welcoming places. If the physical presence of Jesus were here today, where would he be? If he were ministering, serving, healing, teaching — where would he go? Would he get on the speaking circuit? Perhaps he’d do his own radio and syndicated television program. Would he hold big rallies? I honestly don’t think so.
I think Christ would head to the places that hurt the most and start sweating with the people, giving them hope just like he did two thousand years ago. If Jesus were here in physical form as he was in the New Testament, I believe he’d be headed straight for the hellholes of the world. Remember what he said, “It’s not the well who need a physician, but the sick.” If that’s what he, the hope of the world, would do, and if he’s placed us here to share that message, how can we do any less? What makes us think it’s okay for us to see those images and do nothing?
In my first book, Transformation, I challenged the church to find a place in the world: look, study, learn, focus, pray, and choose. I believe that God is calling individuals to nations, but I also believe he calls the church as a community to engage society as well. When you are seeking God’s face, you cannot ignore what is taking place around you.
What would it look like if a whole church mobilized around a hurting place in the world for the next five, ten, or twenty years? So often, we fund a few “called” people and take up a lot of money for someone else to do it. What if we tackled these issues as individuals and churches as whole communities of faith? What if we categorized and strategized our congregations by expertise and abilities and engaged a society head-on at their legitimate points of need? Better yet — why haven’t we? Wouldn’t it make sense?
I fear we haven’t done so yet because we don’t know how to hear God’s voice and recognize what he is doing in the world. The Congo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Iran have all had major catastrophes in recent years. By the time you read this, there will be more disasters in other places. Even prior to the disasters, most of these countries were having serious issues that followers of Jesus could have made a difference in serving. The tragedy gets worldwide attention and it’s really put in our face. What do we do with it then?
When I began to read the Sermon on the Mount regularly in the nineties, I realized that the church was the ultimate peacemaker. When we think of peacemakers, we traditionally think of the United Nations, the Red Cross, or governments. However, when we think of the kingdom of God and the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus defines and describes them, the number one peacemaker in the world should be the church. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Notice that Jesus did not say “peacekeepers.” There’s a big difference. If the church will engage society — not in a religious way, but in a developmental, vocational way — we can bring peace. We should be bringing peace to the world and be making a difference as we engage others and connect with them.
There must be a bias toward action. A tsunami hits Indonesia, and we’re going to have prayer meetings to ask God if we should do something? Certainly, the church starts by recognizing the problem and then gets down on her knees, but next she gets up and starts going! Our churches, denominations, agencies, and institutions debate if they should help and how. Millions are starving in Niger — go! This is God’s call on the church — where all hell is breaking loose, Jesus should always be present, through his church.
From Glocalization by Bob Roberts Jr.
Copyright © 2007 by Bob Roberts Jr., published by Zondervan, used with permission.