By Al Barrera, Church Planting Catalyst, Front Range
“…in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”2 Cor. 5:19-20a
In today’s world, the term “ambassador” carries various connotations. A person could be an “ambassador for goodwill”, advocating for a specific cause in a region or culture needing change. Another could be an “ambassador of peace”, working towards negotiation or ceasing of conflict within specific circumstances. “Ambassadors of industry” promote specific brands, causing perception of that industry to change in the public eye. Ambassadors, by definition, act on behalf of a culture, as official representatives of particular beliefs or values, within a different culture.
In this passage from 2 Corinthians, as Paul addresses the Corinthian church, he calls for believers to embrace their role as ambassadors. In doing so, the church finds a personal place within Paul’s call towards this identity. Paul drives the church to become “ambassadors of goodwill”, forgiving the sin-laced flaws of the world for the sake of reconciliation with God. In that reconciliation, “ambassadors of peace” can strive after a melding of heart and soul, longing for the day when human beings will stand unhindered, arm in arm, with tears of joy and gratefulness surging out of the overflow of love, basking in the forgiveness that abandons personal and corporate condemnation. Even the uniquely commercial ideal of “ambassador of industry” can be seen in this text. As the church partakes in the rebranding of “true religion”, it surrenders a work’s-based perspective on forgiveness for the sake of grace-driven, soul-freeing, Christ-centered salvation. God asks His ambassadors to carry this “rebranding” message to the masses as emissaries of His true intent within a sin-stricken world.
Over the past few months, the church has taken on the responsibility of becoming ambassadors of goodwill, peace, and yes, even representatives of industry. Church planters, replanters, and pastors of established churches have recognized the uniqueness of our time and grabbed hold of the opportunity to advocate for change. The “technologically challenged” have been pushed and transformed into “experts” on in-studio production, sound quality, and digitally impacted online platforms. Outreach has become strategic and the church facility has become momentarily obsolete for the sake of mission. Matt and Kirsten Funk, church planters in Parker, CO, have become “driveway worship leaders”. What a joy to see formerly spiritually-apathetic acquaintances, sitting in lawn chairs on driveways up and down the block, absorbing the words of hymns and praise songs aimed at adoring the King of Kings. David and Carrie Fox, planters in Colorado Springs, provided Chick-fil-A to two local hospitals and the result positively impacted relationships and reputation within the community. Ricardo and Molly Cardenas, pre-launch church planters in Commerce City, CO, used the time to connect more deeply with both the lost and believers, through encouraging online meetings. With each difficult and unrelenting quarantined week, Ricardo and Molly continued to encourage, instruct, and point others to Jesus. As a result, Ricardo has developed an increasingly devoted core group of community missionaries and will be launching soon even more confidently prepared for what the Lord might do through this small group of ambassadors. The list could go on and on with planters, replanters, and pastors making the most of a difficult time. Each one, like so many of you, saw the potential within the situation to turn what the enemy “meant for evil” into something gloriously life-altering and eternally good.
Everything changes. What “is” today will not necessarily “be” tomorrow. The question for each of us to ask is how will the events of today impact the future actions and attitudes of the church? How will our methods of engagement continue to adapt to those who need to be reconciled to our gracious God? Public gatherings will most likely resume as they have in the past; online venues will not always be the primary source of Gospel-proclamation. For followers of Jesus, what remains the same is the timeless instruction of the words of Paul to act and behave as ambassadors of God’s appeal to the people around us. Will our methods reflect our rediscovered passion not simply for gathering, but for acting as sent emissaries to the cultures in which we exist? As we’ve recently discovered, Sunday gatherings can be quickly taken away; will this disconcerting reality drive us to despair? Or, could it move us closer to the cross and towards the even more specific purpose for which we were designed? May we all embrace our roles as ambassadors on the move, and in so doing we will become proclaimers of reconciliation in ways we could have never imagined.