A couple of weeks ago, Eric Hesse preached on living sent. He talked about Jesus’ instructions and his practice of going to dark places and shining the light of the gospel. One of the metaphors that Eric used was the light department at Menards. His point was that lights were meant to light dark places, not sit next to each other and contribute nothing to an already lit place. Lights aren’t for huddling any more than they are for covering.
However, many Christians have also heard another story about light. The story is about a gentleman who had stopped going to church, and his pastor paid him a visit in the evening.
He and the pastor sat down by the fireplace and there were no words, only an action. The pastor took the tongs and pulled one of the coals that was red hot out of the fireplace and set it on the hearth. In less than a minute, it was no longer bright and no longer red. The story goes that the gentleman nodded that he got the point, and the pastor left.
The obvious spiritual point is that Christians are like coals of fire and need each other to maintain their spiritual heat. That is, we need to be together. We need community or fellowship.
So which light are we supposed to be? I pushed Eric on this point over lunch after church. I knew he agreed with me that Christians need each other, and he knew I agreed with him that Christians must live sent. So how do you put these two metaphors together?
The answer was the whole purpose of the sermon. He told us we had to live sent, and he told us all together. That is, we have to live sent together. Think many campfires, rather than a couple of bonfires. It’s also the reason that Eric isn’t going to Berlin by himself. He is going with the team and his family. When he’s there, he will be part of a church. But nonetheless, he is going, and he’s going to one of the most unreached cities in the world.
To put it in different language, the church needs to live gathered and scattered. God created us as a people who need him and each other, and he has given us a task to be there for the whole world. But remember, community and fellowship that is effectively supporting you doesn’t necessarily have to be involved or exclusively Christian. Alexi and I do a lot of evangelism in our home. We support each other and create a place where people can explore the gospel. We have fellowship, and we try to use our home as a light. We teach our kids that our family exists for both of these purposes, and they seem to get it and it usually works.
This can also be done with hobbies or at work. The thing that you are doing allows for people with different beliefs to gather around a single task. It allows a subgroup to be in fellowship with each other and yet be a light where the work is being done. With hobbies, the fellowship may be the majority. For example, I’ve been planning a hunting trip in which half the group will be Christians and half non-Christians. I’ve also worked at a restaurant where there were three or four of us who were Christians and about 200 who were not. The four of us supported each other, but we also agreed that we were on a mission and tried to be a light in everything we did.
The two go together, and sorting it out is just a basic part of following Christ. We’ll do it together.