In general, if you tell people that you go to church they will think it’s because you’re religious and it’s what people like you do. Or they will think it’s where your friends are and that it’s a good place to connect with people.
Whilst there is a grain of truth in these views, they miss what the New Testament suggests the church is all about.
according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by being set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with Jesus Christ’s blood. May grace and peace be yours in full measure!1 Peter 1:2
In 1 Peter 1:1-2, when Peter begins his letter to small groups of Christians scattered across ancient Turkey, he wants them to understand what it means to be the church. He does it by helping them see themselves as part of the Old Testament people of God. He uses two key words and a stunning truth. Firstly, God’s elect.
God’s purpose from Genesis 12 onwards was that Abraham, and all his descendants, would be blessed and would be a blessing to the world around. Not all these early Christians would have been Jewish by birth. Yet Peter draws them into the ongoing story of God’s intention for the world by using the language of calling.
Whatever our journey to faith in Jesus was, when we surrendered to his Lordship, we became part of this ‘called’ people. In the UK around 6% of people worship in a Christian church once a month or more. It’s not many, but it is significant. When we gather as worshippers, we remind ourselves that we believe a very particular story about the world. We believe it is God’s – he created it. We believe it’s broken – because of sin; we believe that Jesus’ death makes new life possible; we believe that one day everything will be transformed. We live as people with a distinct story in a culture that may not believe any of that, who will no longer embrace Christian values. When we gather we do so to strengthen and encourage one another to be who we are – God’s chosen people.
But our mission is to our Frontlines, our work places. We are called to make a difference in the world, we are salt and light – Monday through to Saturday is our mission. In order to grow as disciples in these frontlines, we need one another; we need to be together as a worshipping community. Culture could be defined as the glue that holds the organization to gather. What is holding us together at All Nations? On Sundays we worship, but do we have a vision of reaching out and connecting with a broken world?
The second term that Peter uses, exiles, is one that recalls the great disaster of the Old Testament – when Israel lost their land. At first, they hoped for a quick return. But the prophets told them that most of that first generation of exiles would not return, though they could remain distinct and be a blessing where they were (Jeremiah 29).
Today, we are also scattered for most of the time. We don’t spend all our time with fellow Christians. We may be the only disciples of Jesus at home, at work, or in our class. These are the places where we are called to shine. What does the Kingdom of God look like in broken situations, where people have no understanding of God, no hope, no life?
Read Philippians 2:14–16. It’s important that we don’t ‘grey out’, lose our distinctiveness, and become the same as the surrounding culture. God has a plan in placing us in our scattered contexts. The culture we live in should not influence our values, we should be influencing our culture.
Frontlines are everyday places where we live, work, study, or play and we’re likely to connect with people who aren’t Christians. We are all the scattered people of God. We all have frontlines. If our ministry model revolves around expanding what we do within these walls, if our emphasis is on our programmes then as a church we are in danger of dying and losing our influence. Do we extend grace to a broken world? Do we connect with the lost? Or do we shut the gospel to them at a distance, but we don’t get involved in their lives, we don’t connect?
Peter concludes his opening greeting with a reminder of the wondrous work of the Trinity in their lives:
- Our situations are known by God – his foreknowledge.
- We have been set apart by the Spirit – his sanctifying work.
- We can be confident of our relationship with God – the sprinkling of blood is a sign of being included in his covenant .
Peter rejoices with his readers in all that God has done for us. And he reminds them, and us, that we live out the implications of the gospel in our scattered places. We are elect and we are exiles.
We need conviction of Gods purpose for our lives. As we go into our work place, or whatever our Frontline maybe, we need to be secure in our identity. We are called, we are His church, kings and priests unto God, we have been given the Keys of the Kingdom.