Sunday Sermonizing: A Different Starting Place
The gospel changes everything.
That’s what we say.
It’s actually what many of us believe.
This is something we know and imbibe. Jesus followers stake our lives on this. This is the ultimate starting place, the grid for every conversation.
I’m stating this first because I wish to be clear. I don’t consider this to be “The Starting Place” because I consider it the entire field we’re playing on. It’s the ground beneath our feet and the air we breathe.
As I think about the work of the church around the world (with feet on the ground of the Gospel and breathing the air of the Gospel), I wonder about where we begin that work.
Most churches and organizations start with mission. “Missional” has been a buzzword of choice in the evangelical community for a couple of decades now. The Mission of God (Missio Dei) is a critical concept and a part of our theology.
Again, taking nothing away from this, I wonder if this is actually our starting place. Is this our point of departure, as we seek to change society and affect eternity with Good News?
A shared vision is also a popular launching point. This is the work of leadership. The evangelical church has emphasized leadership as a critical part of her work, and, in fact, has led the way in many ways. Leadership studies in the academic world have been largely influenced and shaped by the foundation of leadership inside the church. The idea of vision and vision-casting is largely evangelical. But is leadership the real launching pad for new work? A new church? A new mission?
A world in need is another starting point. It has been the starting place for hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations and non-profits. Churches, even.
Need is real. There are 27 million refugees in the world today. 3 billion people (1 billion children) live in abject poverty (less than $2.50 per day). 40.3 million people are trafficked around the world every year. 3+ billion people have no or limited access to the Gospel.
The need is more than real.
The need is overwhelming.
It’s difficult to even navigate a starting place that makes sense.
Renee’ and I spend several weeks every year in Southeast Asia, working with people who have vision. Who know their mission. Who live in the middle of the needs. Almost everyone arrived at where they are from a different starting place. There are people on healthy teams, unhealthy teams, and people with no team at all.
The question I am asking myself at the end of this particular trip is about origin stories. The beginnings. The genesis.
What if the starting place isn’t vision. Or mission. Or need.
What if the starting place is a community knit together by a set of values?
Would there be different outcomes?
What if, while firmly on the ground of the gospel, deep breathing the air of the Gospel, we began with community?
I have more questions than answers right now.