Over the years I have attended many conferences, conventions, and seminars that often will have famous keynote speakers. It always amazes me how long the introductions can be. I was at a convention a few years ago and the introduction lasted 10 minutes. I, and everyone around me, could not believe the monologue and deluge of facts concerning the speaker whom we all knew. We had all watched the videos and read the books. We would have drunk the kool-aid had there been any to drink!
His reputation preceded him. We knew his beliefs. We knew his ministry. We knew him.
At the beginning of Joshua we find Moses dead and a new leader in place. Joshua was going to lead the people across the Jordan and take the land. As they began preparations for moving the camp across the river, Joshua sent two spies on a reconnaissance mission concerning Jericho. As they came to Jericho and found it tightly shut up, they came into contact with a prostitute named Rahab.
“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and everyone who lives in the land is panicking because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the waters of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings you completely destroyed across the Jordan. When we heard this, we lost heart, and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below.
Israel’s reputation preceded them. She, a pagan, recognized that God was blessing the people and was going to give them the land. They knew about the Red Sea 40 years earlier and the defeat of local kings more recently. They lost all hope and fear gripped their hearts. Israel was being exactly what God wanted them to be: a light. God wanted them to serve as the way for the world to see God’s glory, grace, and mercy. The power of God was on display with the Red Sea and defeat of the kings. God is working through His people to reach fallen humanity.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Until the very moment of conversion, we are completely separated from God. We are on our own, helpless and hopeless. At the precise moment of faith and repentance that engages the transaction of forgiveness and purchase of our lives, we become His. We are His people. We are His workmanship. We are His prized possession. From that moment we become like Israel. God wishes to work through us to proclaim His majesty and glory, grace and mercy to the world around us.
Our reputation is to precede us.
When we walk into a room, the light of Jesus is to shine through. When we engage in our hobbies, clubs, and teams they should taste the salt. Our lives reflect the relationship we have with God both good and bad. We are witnesses. Jesus did not say what kind of witnesses because that is left to us. A common thread among evangelicals is that to be a good witness we are to segregate and isolate from anything that is not church related or approved. I have found a direct relationship between church involvement and weakened effect among the public. Unfortunately, what we have been taught for decades is that we should get involved with church, sunday school, committees, and leadership. As we climb this ladder of religious success we cannot maintain outside relationships. The very relationships that need to be leveraged for the good of the Kingdom. So we find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum. If I increase involvement with the church I decrease my potential impact. If I remain loose on church involvement I get judged by the ones who supposedly house the grace and mercy of God to be shared.
Our reputation must precede us. It is time for the church to begin partnering with our people to increase impact. The people of Jericho had already given up and recognized God was going to win the battle. In an age of skepticism, tolerance, and relativism, the gap has widened. If we continue to shore up our boundaries we lose traction. If we continue to hole up in services, programs, and meetings we lose impact. We must be in public letting our reputation precede us. Does this mean to quit church? No. It means that the responsibility is on the church to equip the saints to do the work. What is this work? The very same work that began in Genesis 4 – the redemption of fallen humanity. Beating people up with scripture will not win many converts. In fact it will be as effective as attracting flies with vinegar. Let us live in community out in the culture. May we be integrated into the Body of Christ through faith, but also involved in our villages, towns, and cities.
What reputation is preceding you?