It's a mobile world. Our dad, The Chester, always gives us his personal commentary on contemporary life and he's been saying for years the reason American manufacturing and productivity numbers are down is because no one is working...they' all driving around in their cars. There may be some truth in that. We are a mobile culture.
When The Chester was a child eighty eight years ago, there were 8,000,000 cars on American roads. When I received by Learner's Permit in the 1960's there were 61,000,000+ automobiles registered in the U.S. When our daughter Elizabeth passed the driver's test, she had to deal with a few of the 121,000,000+ vehicles on U.S. roads. If your teenager is hitting the highways today he or she will be facing the congestion of 254,000,000+ cars. In just twenty years www.cnbc is predicting that there will be 1,700,000,000+ vehicles clogging our already taxed (no pun intended) roadways. That is billion, with a "b".
So, thanks Mr. Retired Guy for the history of cars primer. Get to the point. Well, the point is that the mobilization of America has in great part re-defined our entire culture. Ours is a sleek world on the move, a maze of fast tracks, merges, exit ramps, and intersections. We're no longer inhabitants of slower, rural America but reside in the inner cities and suburbs, the fast lanes of life. The nation of farmers and city folk migrating to the country has morphed into a population of town houses, condos, and patio homes. And, there's the industry and technology that must support a world on the move---mobile devices and apps, hot spots, USB ports in cars, a travel industry for every like and pocket book, a new world of information that moves us faster and faster.
Then, there's the church, clunking along humming Take Me Home, Country Roads (the John Denver hit from 1971). Much of the disconnect between culture and the church today is simply rural church models trying to exist in the exurban world. Not only do many churches and spiritual leaders fear the intersections of contemporary life and faith, there's the uglier truth that we don't know how to go there. Like the summer missions parade happening all around us, there's a rush to go to exotic lost places in Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth but an inability to handle the dangerous intersections down the street. So, what needs to happen to thrust us into the fast lanes of American traffic? There are a couple of transitions that will move us into the intersections of modern America---
escape to engage | the church is often seen as an escape capsule from the hectic
and often chaotic life of America in the fast lane. For this reason, we tend to fear the
dangers of these intersections. When Jesus sent his followers to the highways and
hedges, he expected them to engage, not escape that culture.
congestion to confidence | the traffic in the intersections of life is often crowded
and congested. It's rush hour all the time. We shouldn't dread it, but find confidence
in it. It's what he commissioned us to be and do, his witnesses right there in the
crowded places. When we're where and what he wants, he is with us in a
tranquility to traffic | church may be the ultimate comfort zone, especially in a
racially tense world. Few of us, however, could argue biblically for our separation
from the world that needs to experience the love of Christ and the influence of his
mind. Jesus was most often in the traffic, the multitudes of people who followed
him, those with him, and those against him.
slow to flow | not only are the intersections of life and ministry today complicated,
they are also fast. This happens at a new twenty-first century pace. Except the
church. Using a broad brush, the church typically moves slow and is slow to respond
to community and even national needs. Christ's church must respond to a rapidly
changing world more efficiently and effectively.
detour to depth | many of us avoid the heavy traffic areas because there are
issues we are not prepared to address. So, detour in often our travel strategy. Stay
off of the main roads, on the back roads to avoid the traffic. Of course, there's little
need for God's promises or power is those easy lanes. Which means there's little
trust, and then, little spiritual growth.
Genuine mission happens when God's people meet the world at the complicated and fast intersections of life. They 'e often places where people are looking for directions, trying to navigate the complex issues of life and faith. So, these transitions are adjustments God's people must make to place us in the middle of the fast track with absolute truth that doesn't escape, always produces confidence, places his church right in the middle of the heavy traffic, keep up with the world, and moves people to the depths of spiritual reality.
Jesus told a parable about a man who gave a banquet. The servants made every excuse about the poor turnout. They had even gone into the streets and lanes of the village to bring "...in the poor and crippled and blind and lame" (Luke 14:22). Then the master of the house said, "Go out to the highways and the hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:23). Jesus wanted his disciples to know that they should be in the busy thoroughfares of their culture.
Tomorrow, I'll examine the intersections that have given us pause in these complex times. For now we must know that he expects his church, his spiritual leaders, and his people to go to the intersections of life and bring the word of life to a hectic, rushed world.
You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem...
Acts 1:8, ESV