Cross-posted from the Exodus Blog
In 2009 I spent ten days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Prior to going, I spent time researching the country, its people, and the state religion of Malaysia—Islam. Months before my trip I called one of my Malaysian friends and asked her a number of questions about how the Christian Church is treated in her country. Her answer both surprised and comforted me. She said, “We are guests of Islam and Islam is a gracious host. We are guaranteed freedom of religion, worship and practice as long as we do not proselytize (seek to convert others).”
Once I was in Malaysia, I saw a thriving Christian Church and population, one that wasn’t fighting its host country or culture, but rather co-existing quite nicely and peacefully. I found the Christians there incredibly servant-hearted and patriotic, loving a country, culture, government, and people of whom they were the minority by far. In my own hotel room there was a Koran, an arrow on the ceiling pointing to the east, a mat for me to kneel on, and instructions on how to pray. I also learned that all citizens of Malaysia, regardless of the religion they are allowed to profess and follow, are considered Muslim.
My time in Malaysia, as well as the dozens of other countries and cultures where I have traveled and lived, taught me a great deal about being missional rather than evangelical, servant hearted rather than demanding, and listening before I speak. The more I think about these experiences and the lessons that I’ve learned, the more I realize that this is what I believe the role of the Church must be in our post-Christian world.
Recently I spoke at my home church in Orlando, and I had three main points based on the topic:
First, Our World is Changing, and we can have peace. John 16:33 says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
I’ve been paying very close attention to our changing world, and it seems our culture has taken a quantum leap beyond traditionalism in the last five to eight years. For those who haven’t been paying attention, it must seem as though our world changed overnight. Some think this has to do with changes in our political landscape, because we treat presidential elections as if they were our only hope.
As one friend recently put it, “Get the right King on the throne and the Kingdom will come. According to the book of John, THE KING is on the throne so we need not live our lives based on election results or legislation changes.” According to Hebrews 13:8, Our King (Jesus Christ) is the same yesterday, today and forever. When we know Jesus, we can live in peace without the ups and downs of our ever-changing society.
Secondly, We are Missionaries in this Culture, and we must learn to serve. As my friend Jon Tyson, pastor of Trinity Grace Church in New York City says, “Most of us act like prosecutors when we are only called to be witnesses.” The Church must realize that over the last decade we have become a guest in this world. We are no longer in charge. We must step out in humility, grace, and peace as we seek to serve others.
When I wrote to you last month, I shared a motto that we are operating under these days at Exodus: Live your faith. Share your life. I believe this isn’t just for Exodus, but for the Church at large. Living our faith is essential. Being who I am, a transformed believer in Jesus Christ, is how I live my life. People will know what I believe not by what I always say, but by how I live. One of the best ways to highlight living my faith is to share my life with my neighbors.
Thirdly, I believe the Church is a Beacon of Hope, and we must be different. We cannot confuse that with being separate. Romans 12 is a wonderful chapter to consider when thinking through this point. We are called to be different, but also to be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
There are 33,000 Christian denominations out there divided over one issue or another. When it comes to the “gay issue,” churches are either “welcoming and affirming” of gay people and gay life or “welcoming and NOT affirming”. Professor David Fitch of Northern Seminary proposes that we become welcoming and mutuallytransforming. ALL are welcomed here, and all will be transformed as they pursue their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Remember, Exodus exists for many reasons: to support the men and women with same-sex attraction who hold to the biblical orthodox view of sex and sexuality; to support families of gay and lesbian people in need of a community where they can talk, grieve, and learn to build strong relational bonds with their loved ones; and to encourage the church to be first responders to all people and learn how to serve as missionaries in a culture that isn’t their own.