Christian Ghettos and God’s Rest

 

And to the Reubenites, the Gadites and half the tribe of Manasseh Joshua spoke, saying, “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God is giving you rest and is giving you this land.’ Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side of the Jordan. But you shall pass before your brethren armed, all your mighty men of valor, and help them, until the LORD has given your brethren rest, as He gave you, and they also have taken possession of the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and enjoy it…” [1]

 

            Lately, I’ve been thinking about church growth, particularly growth as exemplified by the New Testament church. It’s exciting to see that Xenos and other churches are embracing the idea of planting many smaller churches rather striving to reach mega church status. Mega churches and the sprawling Christian ghettos (or campuses if you prefer a less sensational term) that follow are antithetical to what the church is supposed to be.

            The above passage strikes me as something the modern American church has failed to comprehend. As I read this passage from Joshua 1, I’m struck by its implications. Technically, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh had their rest. However, they could not fully enjoy this rest (at least the men who could fight) until their brothers and sisters in the other tribes received their rest. I think we can apply this to us today. Although we as Christians have our rest in God, we cannot fully enjoy it if we are not in God’s will (since we are striving against Him). We are not in God’s will if we are not trying to reach the lost and don’t get outside the “land” which He has given us.

            Mega churches suck in congregants from surrounding bodies with promises of protection from the corrupting outside world along with giving a weekly dog-and-pony show that titillates the senses while numbing the spirit. Non-believers who come to these churches are struck more by what the mega church can do for them (e.g., entertain) than what God can do and has done for them (you know, died for their sins and all). These churches expand and build various buildings that house ministries that are more for the congregants’ comfort rather than for reaching the lost.

The idea of sacrifice is a foreign and dirty word. Consequently, one sees these Christians as living empty lives. Privately, many of these believers are not truly happy. How could they be when they are outside the will of God? How can any of us be truly happy and at rest in God if we ignore the Great Commission that was given to us by Jesus?

            This flies in the face of what the two-and-a-half tribes had to do for the remaining tribes. God wanted those tribes to help others attain their rest before going to their own. The same is true of us. We are to reach the lost instead of wallowing in comfort. We are to pick up those knocked down by a fallen world, not create ministries that cater to American creature comforts. We are to engage people where they are, not worry about the dirt that may get under our nails. We cannot truly enjoy the rest God has given us if we don’t do what He has called us to do, which is take the Gospel to the lost. We can’t do the will of God by hiding in Christian ghettos in order to avoid the evils of the world. What we can and should do is grow our churches by going to the areas where the lost congregate. Once a church is planted in such an area (if possible), then it is time to move to the next. This is the model that Paul so brilliantly provided us. At the end of the day, I believe that God would rather see us meeting under tarps propped up by broomsticks in a place that previously had no church, more than seeing us in a multi-million dollar building full of empty suits and believers not wanting to take a risk of exposing themselves to the lost.


[1] Joshua 1:12-15 (NKJV)

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