I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:14–19 ESV)
Planting churches and revitalizing churches calls us to move outside the four walls and into the world. Moving into the world, however, presents more than a few challenges. I was looking back at some work I'd done in the book of Proverbs and came across the following words. I don't remember if I wrote them or if they came from another source, nevertheless they reflect a reality that many of us struggle with as we get outside the four walls.
"On the surface, cultural separation masks itself as a form of godliness, but a closer look reveals an enterprise driven more by self-preservation than anything. We may bemoan a moral decline in the country. Our actual concern, if truth be known, is not to see a vital Christianity flourish, but rather to secure a more orderly and less violent society in which to live out our comfortable and self-satisfied lives. In other words, we want a safer world. We are not as concerned about the salvation of those in the world as much as we want them to behave better around us for our comfort.
This is where so much of our current attitude and approach to the world differs from God’s will as expressed in the prayer of Jesus in John 17. We want to be safe in a safer world; God wants us safe in an unsafe world. We want to protect ourselves by removing ourselves from danger; God wants to protect us in the middle of danger. These differences may seem insignificant on the surface, but in fact they are huge, involving entirely different worldviews and ramifications.
This theory of safety through removing ourselves from the world could be one of the most dangerous doctrines to invade the church in recent years. It is now thought to be more spiritual to be safe from the world than to interact with it.
What would it look like if we traded in a doctrine of safety for a doctrine of engaging the world? What impact would it have on the way we do ministry, teach children, call adults to discipleship, and live out the gospel?"