Don't Stay Behind: A Challenge for the 'Established Church'
There is often a disconnect between the role of established churches and church plants. This is usually manifested as distrust by members of both sides. Established churches are territorial and apathetic and church plants are offensive, member thieves. Neither impression has to be true, and a great illustration of this is found in the first chapter of the book of Joshua. The book begins by outlining the transition of power from the newly deceased Moses to Joshua. Since their days of wondering in the wilderness as punishment for disobedience have expired at this point in the scripture, Joshua is approaching the tribal leaders to plan their invasion of the “Promised Land.”
As the chapter progresses, Joshua comes to the few tribes that actually have already found their personal promised lands on the east side of the Jordan River. They’re already home. But their new leader reminds them of their obligation to see the conquest through to the end for the betterment of their brother tribes. In Joshua chapter one, verse 16, they make this response:
“Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.”
As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of the established churches facing the tough decision to come alongside church plants across the nation and around the world. Like these three groups of people in the Old Testament, they have already found their home. Their wives, kids, and maybe even their sheep are set for life. Infrastructure is already in place for them to live comfortably for the rest of their earthly spiritual existence, and they are asking themselves about the risk. For the tribes in Joshua, the risk was great. They would venture into the unknown, fight wars with all kinds of enemies, and hope that they didn’t die before they could return to enjoy the land they had waited so long to possess.
But like these tribes, God calls all of us in His Kingdom to unite and see His cause through to the end. This may mean stepping out of comfort and security that we have held on to so tightly. It is time that churches unite in the voices of the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh of so long ago and pledge that “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.”
We are fighting for the same cause, and there is no victory for those who stay behind to feast on the benefits of pioneers before them while turning a blind eye to their brothers and sisters on the front lines today.