Q. Is there a danger in the Church that we become ingrown or one-sided? Why don't we expand our horizons into the community? Are we afraid of the outside world?
The "birds of a feather flock together" principle creates walls of separation between different groups.
People, including church folk, tend to gather around common variables such as social class, ethnicity, political orientation, and so on. This "birds of a feather flock together" principle creates walls of separation and, frequently, alienation between different groups. Religion, not just Christianity, often facilitates rather than challenges this tendency-partially because of the exclusive language and zeal that may reinforce separation, prejudice, and discrimination.
Theologically, part of the Church's mission is to testify to the kingdom of God as it has been proclaimed in the words and person of Jesus Christ. The Church, in fulfilling this calling, is to look, think, and act like the Kingdom. In the Kingdom of God, the walls of separation have been broken down because of what Christ has done on the cross (Ephesians 2). This means that the Church is to resist the natural temptation of being defined by social variables. Instead, it is to be a community of people that holds "no distinction" (Galatians 3:26-28, Colossians 3:11) besides the lordship of Jesus Christ.
The Church is to be "a city set on a hill," a Christian community that is distinctly different from the world in its character of righteousness and holiness.
But the Church is also to be salt and light as it participates in God's incarnational mission of redemptive love in and for the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
The nature of God's holiness in God's people, Christ's love, and the Holy Spirit's power enables us to be a holiness and missional community that bears witness to the Kingdom and moves us to participate in God's mission in the world in ways we would never do as merely a sociologically defined organization.
Ron Benefiel is dean, School of Theology and Christian Ministry at of Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, and former president of Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City.