We have more in common with the Old Testament Israelites than we would like to think: kicked out of Jerusalem, taken captive into a foreign land, thrust into an environment where they were no longer in charge, beholden to another king, uncomfortable, yearning for safety and assurance.
There may be value in US “rediscovering ourselves as exiles.” (Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-churched Culture, Michael Frost)
“Just like the Jewish exiles, the church today is grieving its loss and is struggling with humiliation. The ground has slipped out from under the church. It has lost its footing and needs to express a resentful sadness about what was, and now is not, and never will be again. The passing of Christendom might be compared to the fall of Jerusalem, and there is no going back. Exiles feel like a ‘motherless child’-abandoned, rootless, vulnerable, orphaned.” (Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-churched Culture, Michael Frost)
A couple of months ago, spending time with church leaders from around the country, I was reminded again and again how difficult a thing it is these days to lead an effective ministry that reaches people. I was reminded that we need to learn anew what it means to be the church in our contexts; contexts where the church has largely lost her voice and influence.
We wrestled with the reality of the answers to some of these questions:
- As the church today, what does it mean to no longer be at the center of society, not calling the shots in determining right and wrong, not setting the agenda in politics, and education?
- How do we function, live, carry on, when we are no longer in charge?
- How do we move deeper, past our natural tendency to pine for the “good old days”, and actually dwell on the radical love and call of Jesus to “follow me?”
What contexts do YOU live in where being a follower of Jesus means that you are not in charge?
It was by God’s design that the children of Israel were scattered from Jerusalem to Babylon. More nations got to learn the name Yahweh in Babylon than in Jerusalem. Could it be that you and I are also being scattered today? Could it be that these are the very environments that God wants to scatter Good News? And, could it be that He has placed YOU there for that very purpose?
Instead of ringing our hands that we are in exile, perhaps we could embrace the opportunity as God’s design. I would suggest that more people learn the Name of Jesus while God’s people are scattered in exile, out in the world, than when they are gathered in the sanctuary.
So, as God instructed Israel how they were to live in exile, perhaps we could learn from Him today.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper”… “Do not let the prophets and diviners deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name, I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:4
What is one simple way you can show that you are embracing your “exiled identity” as God’s chosen way to scatter Good News?