This year I have been writing about the character traits and skills of effective missional community leaders. I wrote about missional leaders being proactive, hospitable, generous, available, attentive and persevering. This post will look at how missional leaders are holy. To do so I will reference John 17 and I Peter 2.
In The World
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. John 17:15-18
Jesus did not ask his Father to take his disciples from the world. He asked his Father to protect his followers while in the world. He asked that we would not only be protected from evil in the world, but that we would be sanctified (made holy) in the midst of it. Jesus left his “holy huddle,” came into the world, and lived a holy life. He wants us to do the same. “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”
Too often we do the exact opposite of what Jesus prayed. We have separated ourselves from the world by creating our own music, schools, apparel, language, films, social networks, clubs, etc. Often we do this because we think that in order to be holy we need to isolate ourselves from the world. But this need not be the case. It cannot be the case.
Not of The World
“They are not of the world.” It’s a matter of identity. We have a new identity in Christ. We are members of another family, another kingdom. Spiritually speaking, “our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20),” but physically we remain in this world where what is true spiritually is being worked out in us physically.
“Sanctify them by truth; your word is truth.” The key to holiness is truth. As missional leaders we need to spend time in worship, in prayer, in the scriptures, and in fellowship with others who are doing the same. In doing so, our minds and our hearts are renewed. We are transformed and made holy even in the midst of the world and its temptations.
The enemy would be pleased to have us seek holiness through separation. He would love to tempt us to lose our influence in the world by isolating ourselves. We may think we’re becoming more like Jesus by separating ourselves, but Jesus did not isolate himself. So how are we becoming more like him if we do so? This is one temptation.
The other temptation is to get us to remain in the world, but end up becoming more like the world than like Jesus. He would love to tempt us to lose our influence in the world by making us fall victim to the temptation of the world. We may think we’re becoming more like Jesus by being missional, but Jesus was always holy. So how can we be like Jesus if we’re caught up in the sins of the world?
Missional leaders know how to balance these temptations. They are able to live in the world while remaining holy. This balance is their greatest witness.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession,that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. I Peter 2:9-12
Peter reminds us of the powerful effects of holiness, when missional leaders live “in the world but not of it.” He begins, like Jesus did, with our identity. God has made us holy and created us to “declare his praises.” He then urges them, as strangers and aliens (in this world but not of it), to abstain from sin and to do good works so that others will want to follow Jesus with us.
This kind of testimony can only be witnessed up close and personal. When missional leaders are able to walk in the world yet live holy lives in it, people take notice. It is one of the chief apologetics that we have for our faith. But when we isolate from the world or succomb to it’s temptations, the opposite is true. Then our witness is ruined.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.