We know the Church ecclesia – called out from the world and separated unto God. Every Sunday, we exercise this aspect of church. Driving out of our neighborhoods, we pass hundreds of homes with families not connected to a life-giving congregation. We pass the super-centers and schools where we work, hospitals and health centers, office buildings and industrial structures. In some of these places, daily life goes on as if there were no God.
At church, we will hear wonderful words, sing inspiring choruses, and listen to a motivating lesson that challenges us. And then we return to those same neighborhoods and workplaces. In some cases, they are like two different worlds. Some may have wondered, “How could I get the spirit of what I sense on Sunday into this office complex?” For others, such thinking may not only seem novel, but foreign, perhaps unthinkable and unachievable. Many places in the city have no witness to the life giving, changing power of Christ. The salt has remained in the salt-shaker. The light has been placed carefully under a cover to not offend.
When Moses descended from Mt. Sinai after being in God’s presence, he found ancient Israel drunk on the spirit of the golden calf. They could not stand the light of God in the face of Moses, so he was veiled (Exodus 34:33). America has been in the process of veiling the Church for almost 50 years and we have compliantly been fitted with both muzzle and mask. That must change or we will completely lose our nation.
Our mission must be accomplished without intentionally offending. We will gain nothing by insensitivity. But love without truth is only half the gospel. The present arrangement of bold hymn singing on Sundays only to make our faith a secret during the week, must be replaced by an more open declaration of our devotion to Christ.
What if we were to take seriously the words of Jesus – “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them? (Matthew 18:20)” Is it possible, that we as lively stones (I Peter 2:5), actually give place to His presence only when we are intentional by invoking his name, prayerfully and in unity (Psalm 133)? Only when we deliberately invite His presence? Only when we are mortared together by demonstrated love and aligned by truth? What if we believers all over the city were to recognize that we were in our current vocational positions primarily to offer the life of Christ to those around us? What if we were to envision ourselves as a new construct of the church mobile, the church diaspora – scattered and sown into the city Monday through Saturday?
Dia – means through. Spora is the Greek term for seed or sowing. We Christians are sown into every sector of culture. Thus, God seeds a city with His presence by scattering us through the city. We are in the schools. We are in the hospitals. We are represented in the board rooms – maybe only by the presence of a clerk or waiter. But we are there, as salt and light. Tragically, the church is divided into dozens of different ways – racially, theologically, liturgically, denominationally, in style and substance, in emphasis and ethical theories, educationally and sociologically. We are so divided. We experience only a measure of unity on Sunday. But any workplace synergy disappears for the next six days.
How can we affect the darkness when the light is so diminished by our separation? How can we overcome intimidation in our fragmented state? On Sundays, our light proudly shines in the sanctuary. We sing bolding and declare our faith! What if, we could connect even the two or three believers at any given work-place during the week and insist, “You are here to give place to Christ by your prayer and unity!” A small group of dedicated believers – one a Presbyterian, another a Baptist, then a Pentecostal, and yet another a Methodist – could make a difference if they were to believe that God had sown them into their place of work for a witness. What if they quietly prayed together once a week to consider the claims of Christ – on that place? And on the lives of the people who worked there? Is the earth not the Lords and the fullness thereof? Does he not own every business enterprise that exists for the good of mankind? Is it not his will to be glorified in all our lives? Would it not please him for a group of diverse Christian people to work together in godly fellowship? For prayers and praises to be lifted constantly all over the city by people as they labored? For thanksgiving and psalm-like language to be more common, not something strange when it appears in daily life? Would it not please him that those in that work-place that did not know God would experience his love and grace in the lives of the believers who testified of Christ by their behavior? Would he not bless the city and its marketplace? Are we withholding a blessing from the city and the places at which we work – by our secular practices?
God wants a living temple through which he can manifest himself! And show himself glorious! The fact that a few Christians work in a given place is not enough. Stones delivered to a site and neatly stacked there but never joined by mortar do not make a building. The church gathered is not the church assembled. A small group of Christians at the same place does not make a living temple – until they come together “in His name” to invite His presence into that place. We should empower, instruct and release our people to create prayer fellowships everywhere in the city! We should say to them, “Join yourself to Christians whose faith is sound, whose lives are holy and whose hearts long for Christ to be glorified by the salvation of many!”
Become the church – disapora. Join together at your place of work or in your neighborhood to give place to the presence of Christ. Pray together for grace to be a witness in the darkness. Care about the business, the owner, your supervisor, those who work around you – especially those who do not know Christ. As you pray, God will begin to love the most unlovable people through you and the other believers. It will not be your love improved, but His love imputed.. Be a caring support team one for another, seeking to improve your demonstrated faith and witness. Raise the level of mutual accountability so that it positively affects the quality of your collective witness. Look for opportunities to share Christ. They may not be overt. They may be more indirect – requests for prayer, opportunities to listen, a ready shoulder, the kind response to an unkind word, faithfulness on the job, being a model employee and more.
Meeting even once a week, just two-or-three believers, brings together the lively stones and invites a manifestation of the presence of God in that workplace. This is the reason you are here! You have been sown into this environment as a missionary. Once you have established the church diaspora in that place, keep it going. Here are some suggestions:
Make your prayer times, first, about the quality of your own relationship with God – “God, I want to live in unbroken communion with you, even at this [ungodly] workplace.”
Second, make your prayer time about the credibility of your witness. Ask God for favor with fellow-employees, with the owner and management. Daniel gained the favor of God even in the administration of Nebuchanezzar. Paul found favor as a Roman prisoner. Esther, the Jew, was favored and chosen as Queen of Persia, modern Iran. God can give you favor – for His glory! Pray for that grace upon your group.
Then, pray for the salvation of those with whom you work. Pray for their needs. Give them the gift of prayer. After you have solidified your relationships as believers from divergent denominational backgrounds, add a weekly Bible discussion and prayer group over lunch! Make it light – devotional. Avoid theological wrangling. Keep the focus on Jesus. Conclude with prayer. Let it be an entry point for enquirers. Now you have two meetings per week. One is for a believers meeting – for prayer. The second is an open gathering for inquirers.
Paul boldly declared in the midst of the storm,
“Men, you should have listened to me, and not have … incurred this disaster … I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you … For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid … God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God …(Acts 27:21-25).”
The group was astonished! The watchful care of God over his life radiated grace to those with him on that ship. We must believe that we are also highly favored and blessed of the Lord! And we are not to shut up such blessings to ourselves. As missionaries, God blesses us, and through us makes us a blessing to others. By association, others are blessed – as Lot was blessed by his association with Abraham (Genesis 13:1-6); as Egypt was blessed by Joseph (Genesis 41:46-49); as the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite (II Samuel 6:11) was blessed by the presence of the Ark of God.
We must cease to see ourselves as beleaguered, disempowered people who must keep quiet about our faith or lose our jobs and our retirement. Such thinking is not only faithless, it is the mindset of orphans who live in fear. We are the sons and daughters of God. We should never act in arrogant ways, but in humility we must know whose we are and that the presence of God upon on lives carries with it a blessing that flows over even into the businesses that employ us (Acts 3:25-26).
We are missionaries!