Just moments ago I began reading the book Antioch Revisited. I got less than two pages into it when I was stricken almost to tears. Now to our staff at Here2There Ministries, this would not be a surprise, as just yesterday I told them of my extreme empathy; my ability to deeply identify with an emotion, a situation, or the condition. I often find myself on the brink of tears when I hear of tragedy in someone’s life or see visual evidence of the same. It is not uncommon for me to get teary-eyed or cry when I think of what Jesus Christ has done for me, that He is even willing to do through me (in spite of who I am), and when I think of those who do not know the Him.
The book I mentioned began with an acknowledgement of a divorce. A divorce more shocking than any I have ever experienced or heard of. If you have experienced your parents announcing to you that they will be divorcing, you still do not know what shock was stirred up in me when I read about this divorce. Even now, I am having a hard time keeping it together, as this is so disturbing that I cannot even understand the emotions that are stirring around in my heart.
Think for a moment of a couple you identify as the one most dedicated and loving couple ever. One who serves in your church (and even in your life) as the perfect mentor couple. A couple who you love so much that you hurt every time there is a problem in their life. When he had his heart attack, you were by his bedside, where also was his dedicated wife. The same guy who mowed your yard when you were sick from the flu, while his wife made chicken soup to soothe your sore throat. That same lady who stood by your wife when your unit was reported missing in Afghanistan. Imagine the shock when you heard from your spouse that they, your pastor and his wife (for example), announced that they were divorcing. Your heart would just drop to the floor in pain.
Sounds crazy, does it not? Can you imagine it for just a moment? That is so disturbing that it is almost painful to even imagine. That is how I felt when I read the book’s first sentence: “It is one of the great tragedies of church history—the divorce between the church and her mission.” About now you are probably thinking to yourself – “wow that was a lot of build up for such an innocuous situation;this is just the way it is today.”
Maybe like you night; I moved right on past that statement and read even to the next page. Though there was not another mention of this divorce after the first paragraph, I could not get this condition out of my heart. There are many reasons why such a divorce is a problem for the church. The loss of purpose, missionaries left stranded, missionaries not being sent, people losing their understanding of the best their church can do for the Kingdom, and the complacency of the sleeping church, but isn’t that just people today?
As I read on, I found that I could not pay attention to what I was reading. That was just minutes ago and I cannot tell you what I read. This hit me in a profound way.
The church? Peter’s church? Paul’s church? Jesus’church? Divorced?! [Are you crying yet – I am.]
It hit me hard. The love of Jesus’ life, is (in many cases) separated from Him –Divorced from the One who most Loves her. Remember this?: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it …” (Eph.5:25) If you have ever experienced your spouse announcing to you that he or she wants a divorce, and then wanted so much fort hat person to turn around and repent from that weak moment, you may understand (just a little) how the Lord feels when He experiences His church disconnected from Him. Consider that the Lord told the church how to Love Him:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.(Acts 1:8)
If the church is not doing this, she is not showing Jesus the love He wants her to express to Him. Sure, He wants us to repent from sin, worship Him, learn His word, trust Him in faith, seek His glory, tell those we meet of the good news of salvation through Him, and love our neighbor as ourselves, but these are the things the individual does. The church is to love Him by being missional. Not doing so is paramount to the church divorcing Jesus Christ Himself.
Your call to action today is to take this message to your church. Help her understand that the Lord wants her back. Teach her to turn around and say, “this is crazy…of course I do not want to leave you!” At a minimum, Love God by going out into your Jerusalem, but remember— He gave His life for the church, so consider Judaea, Samaria, and the uttermost.
If you need help with connecting your Jerusalem with Judaea, Samaria, and the uttermost, consider attending the Here2There Ministries AMPD cohort program. Find out more by visiting our homepage at www.here2there.org or asking any Here2There representative.
Mark Painter MCM
Missionary Care Lead
Julien, Tom. 2006. Antioch Revisited: Reuniting the Church with Her Mission. Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books.
All biblical references from the KJV.