There’s always been an area of tension in Christianity about where we should serve. Every Christian is called to serve—somehow, in some capacity, somewhere. If we don’t understand that concept, we need to get back to basics.
This area of tension is that of going vs. staying. You can make a good case from Scripture that we should be on the move. We should be going into the world to make disciples. We should be out in some sort of mission field.
The most obvious argument from that viewpoint can be made by pointing to Matthew 20:19 where Jesus gives us the Great Commission to “go” make disciples. We can’t make them by hiding out at home or even in some church building. Going is not always comfortable, but it’s certainly Biblical. I remember the late Keith Green saying we’re all called to go, and we should only stay if God specifically tells us to do so.
Would That Make Sense?
On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for staying as well. We can’t all go (at least, I don’t think we can). Someone’s got to hold down the fort. Besides, if we all head out into the hinterlands, who’s going to minister to our current neighborhood? A missionary from somewhere else would have to take our place. I’m not sure that would make much sense.
The arguments for staying are encapsulated by sayings such as “bloom where you’re planted” and “brighten the corner where you are.” One making this argument might actually point to the passage where Jesus tells the disciples they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea (Acts 1:8) as well as the rest of the world. Jerusalem and Judea was home to those folks. So, for them at least, ministry was to begin at home.
Consequently, we’re back where we started. We have the same old tension. Do we go because we’re sent, or do we stay because God put us here? There’s no easy answer except to seek out God’s wisdom and clarity.
Going While Staying
Not to attempt a stab at an easy way out, but I would suggest a third route is opening to us these days (and maybe a fourth). With the spread of the internet, our ministry can be much larger and deeper than it ever was before. We can reach people in places we’ll never be able to go. I understand there’s no substitute for face-to-face, hand-in-hand relationships, but electronic media can go a long way toward plugging the gaps.
There’s also this. The church as we know it is dying. Old, formerly burgeoning congregations are dwindling. The institutional church is capped by white hair. She is becoming less relevant by the day.
To avert a total demise, God seems to be raising up new, creative ministries to take the place of the old, dying ones. This means we can “go” into God’s new thing while we “stay” in the hood. I can’t wait to see how God puts it all together.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]