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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

the big sort

I have been reading lately about what is being called “The Big Sort.” It’s a kind of sociological observation (see www.thebigsort.com and also Michael Kruse's blog, where I first read of it). The gist of The Big Sort is related to the red state, blue state phenomenon, but is far more startling and comprehensive. The author looks at voting, religious preference, ethnicity, education, economics, and other factors at the county level across the nation, and the trend in almost every case is from a blended “melting pot” in these categories to an increasing withdrawal of like with like.

There is much more that could be said here, but the point I want to make is that evangelical Christians are participating whole-heartedly in The Big Sort, and baptizing the withdrawal into our all-Christian enclaves with Scriptural warrant where I don’t see any. In fact, this kind of withdrawal looks exactly like the American culture around us – our withdrawal is, in fact, a part of the world, not distinctly Christian behavior.

Let me say this clearly: it is not God’s desire for us to withdraw from the world!

Why can I say that so definitively? Listen to Jesus’ prayer in John 17…

I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (John 17:15-18)
Jesus declares (and prays!) that we are not of the world. He prays for the Father to send us into the world, set apart (sanctified) by the Word and Spirit of truth.

We are not to withdraw! We are to turn from sin and cleanse our hands and hearts on a regular basis. But we are supposed to get our hands dirty. We are supposed to have friends who are not Christian – lots of them! We are supposed to leave our Christian enclaves and mix and mingle “out there.” We are supposed to be salt and light in the world, not a warehouse full of unused saltshakers and boxed light bulbs!

What about hot issues and thorny topics? While the exact strategy and words and tone will vary from situation to situation, I can tell you that we are supposed to be active, engaged, and plugged into the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. That is the commitment of our (Good Shepherd) leadership and something of which I am convinced. We may be convinced of the Bible’s clarity on issues of morality and sexuality, but if we either give in to the world’s view or cut ourselves off from those struggling with those issues, we have missed God’s mission altogether.

We know how to be a lighthouse – what to do when people seek out the church and seek out the Lord. But our great challenge and our great mission is to fully embrace our calling as a searchlight church – a sent church. God has given us all we need; Jesus has even prayed for that specific mission. That is our prayer; that is our mission!
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Excerpted from the April 19 sermon - text and audio HERE.


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