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BB-JULY-2024

Circling the Wagons

by Jamison (Jim) Brown


In pursuit of a better life, the pioneers of the old West faced innumerable challenges. Their trek westward was a testament to resilience and determination. They would “circle the wagons,” creating a defensive ring for protection when under attack. While this offered temporary security, it slowed their advancement toward their destination.

The modern Christian church has similar challenges, facing external pressures and internal conflicts. Jesus calls us to advance the “Great Commission,” spreading the gospel to all nations. However, societal pressures, internal strife, and hostility can make us feel threatened, just like the pioneers did. The instinctive response is to withdraw and focus inward, seeking safety in familiarity. While this may provide short-term comfort, it can lead to stagnation, diverting us from our mission.

The early disciples faced persecution, imprisonment, and even martyrdom. Yet, they never abandoned their outreach. They recognized the importance of spreading Christ’s love beyond their boundaries, laying the foundation for the global church we know today.

Though less violent, modern threats are just as insidious. Complacency, apathy, and fear of cultural scrutiny can lead to a defensive stance that places self-preservation above spreading the gospel. This can manifest as an excessive focus on internal programs and a hesitance to interact with diverse communities. Yet, with Christ’s presence, we can break free from these limitations and step into our communities with love and compassion.

How can we reclaim the focus of our mission? We must shift our efforts outward while still caring for our congregations. This involves balancing internal growth with external outreach. Practical steps include fostering a welcoming culture, engaging in community service, and building relationships outside the church. This not only serves the community but also provides opportunities for meaningful dialogue and witnessing. It means stepping out in faith, even when the path is uncertain.

We carry the assurance Jesus gave his disciples: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). With this promise, we can confidently break the circle and advance into the world—not in fear but in love, not in retreat but in mission.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

– Matthew 28:19

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    Jon Hauerwas says:

    Jim,
    I appreciate your thoughtful consideration of life in Christian community. You are correct in your assertion that the Great Commission is, at its core, externally focused. This insight is a meaningful reminder for Christians in every season of the journey. As we mature in our faith, we begin to look beyond self and increasingly ask how we can be of service to God’s Kingdom. Thank you for sharing your gifts of time and talent to further God’s purposes in the world. You have given us much to ponder for such a time as this.

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