Summary: Second in a three part series exploring the need for the church to rise up, and go into the city. This message looks at the implications of operating with "strength and courage."
(This sermon launched with the utilization of Google Earth to provide screen shots of the community we are located in. Could be personalized to each church’s community.)
Kenneth Scott Latourette writes that from A.D. 500 to 1500 the church did not grow. It merely exchanged real estate. We gave up Africa and gained Europe. His research led him to the conclusion that there were about the same number of believers and the same number of square miles under Christian influence in the year 1500 as in the year 500.
Reflecting on this, Ray Bakke writes in his book, A Theology as Big as the City, "As I reflected on his research, it became clear that we may be doing this again in our time. But this time, we are exchanging urban churches for suburban ones."
With that backdrop, and reflecting on what Bakke writes, you are here! Very literally, this is where you are sitting. This is Stonewall Wesleyan Church from 1300 feet via Google Earth. Pretty cool, huh? It gets better.
Step back a few thousand feet to 3800 feet, and you see SWC, along with a few other familiar places: Beaumont Middle School, and one of my favorites, Burger King.
Pull back a bit further. SWC from 20,000 feet. Now you can make out Beaumont Center off Harrodsburg Road, some of our SWC family homes are in view, and Shilito Park.
If we step back to 13 miles above the surface of the earth, you can pick-up Wilmore and Nicholasville, lying just outside the city of Lexington.
This is the land. Two weeks ago we began looking at the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua that the nation of Israel experienced. Well, this is our 2006 version of standing on the bluff, looking out across the expanse, and God saying, “Moses my servant is dead. Arise, go into the land.”
Look at that passage with me. Joshua 1 (read through verse 9). God called His people to enter into the promise land, after 40 years of disobedience, stubbornness and wandering, and He called them to do it with strength and courage.
But this is what is happening in the land today. Let me give you one example, through the city of Lexington, of what is happening in cities across America today. Zoom into the city of Lexington with me, and you will find a boom of residential life and housing converging on downtown Lexington.
The Mark - at site of Faith Covenant Church – (1/4 to 1/2 million dollars)
Lofts at Gratz Park
The Blackhorse at Gratz Park – 26 Luxury Condominiums (1/2 to 2 million)
Luxury Penthouse Suites across from Rupp Arena
This is just a sampling of the many examples of new, often high dollar, residential housing, moving into the heart of the city. Inside New Circle Road.
Meanwhile, simultaneously, you will also find a movement of churches away from the center of the city.
RECENT CHURCH EXAMPLES:
Faith Covenant Church
Ashland Avenue Baptist Church
Porter Memorial Baptist Church
Quest Community Church
Central Baptist Church
First Baptist Church
If we went back further in history you would find older church examples such as Southland Christian Church. And even a little holiness church that used to be located on Short Street that is now Stonewall Wesleyan Church and First Wesleyan Church.
This is the current picture of the city of Lexington, and many cities across our country today. Residential life is being established in the heart of the city. Spiritual life and influence is moving out of the heart of the city.
Why does this matter? Well, something we are going to be looking at over the coming weeks includes my belief that the spiritual realm where angelic forces of good and evil dwell, to some degree reflects the physical world. Maybe not a direct mirror, but there are similarities between what is happening in the spiritual realm, and what is taking place in the physical world.
Likewise, the physical world often provides a reflection of the spiritual realm. And as we see people moving back to the hearts of our cities in the physical world, we are simultaneously seeing the influences of the spiritual world moving away from that same territory. Not an indictment on any of those churches. Simply a statement of fact.
Did you know that just 100 years ago, only 8 percent of the world’s population lived in cities? In urban centers. Today, more than 50 percent of the world’s population is found in the city.
So this is what I believe. I believe, the church. . .or churches. . .that choose to accept the challenge of the city with strength and courage, the challenge of forsaking an “if we build it, they will come” mindset, and accepting a posture of strength and courage to arise and go into the land. I believe that type of a church will be a church blessed by God.