Exiles in Our Homeland

 
How Much Do You Trust Your Lay-Leaders?

Bruce Bugbee, Regional Executive, Far West Region.

Author’s Note: In 2016 I wrote the following article for the RCA Today. I am reprinting the article in our Regional newsletter because in 2019, it seems that Barna president David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock (former executive director of Youth Specialties) agree in their latest book: Faith for Exiles (see links below).

We are increasingly becoming exiles in our homeland. On the surface, this seems to be an oxymoron or at least contradictory. But is it?

An exile is described as someone who has been displaced from their native land... a person banished or separated from his or her country or home by force of circumstances.

An exile is no longer living in a culture that supports or even allows then to live out their faith and relationships with freedom and openness.

In recent decades, there has been a significant shift in our culture that is evidencing a less tolerant community toward Christianity. Most new housing developments do not provide space for faith-based ministries. More and more local municipalities are not providing a conditional use permit for churches because they want the tax income that tax-exempt churches do not provide.

Less and less people know what the 10 Commandments are and there are forces to remove evidences of them in public centers, courts, etc. The general awareness that people have of Christianity is uniformed and not usually positive. They do not even know the basic story of Jesus.

The change in our culture requires a new way of understanding relationships and communication. The people we are talking to (our audience) no longer have the context or understanding previous generations have had.

So, while we have not been taken out of our culture to another one, a changed culture has been moving in around us. In our new reality, we see our schools, communities and culture are not providing the support systems as they use to.

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Jewish Exiles: The first exile of the Israelites was of the northern kingdom (Samaria) carried out by the Assyrians. It occurred in two phases, first in 734 BC (2Kg 15:29) and then, climactically in 722 BC when the city of Samaria was destroyed and the northern kingdom ceased to exist (2Kg 17:5-6).

The next major exile involved the destruction of the southern kingdom (Judah) and the city of Jerusalem. It, too, took place in several phases, all under the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 52:28-30), the most terrible of which was in 586 BC (Jer. 52:29). This was when Solomon's temple was destroyed and the dynasty of David came to an end.

The third major exile of the Jews took place under the Romans and also was in two phases. In 70 AD the Roman general and later emperor Titus destroyed Jerusalem and Herod's temple.

Hear what the bible says about God’s people and being exiled:

"All the nations will ask, 'Why has the Lord done this to this land . . .' Then people will answer, 'It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord . . . They began to worship other gods . . . Therefore, the Lord's anger burned . . . The Lord uprooted them from their land in His anger, fury, and great wrath, and threw them into another land where they are today.'" (Deuteronomy 29:24-28)

(Ed Stetzer, “The Exiles of Israel: A Closer Look” / Duane A. Garrett, PHD, 2012)

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We are more and more living as exiles in our homeland. But do we recognize what that means for how we relate our faith and live it out?

Do you and your church understand the nature of living as an exile? Does assuming, thinking or wishing that things have not really changed creating difficulties for you to meaningfully connect to those in the marketplace or those under 35? These sectors more clearly understand the new reality... and we need to listen more and better.

Exiles do not tend to express their faith as freely or as openly as they did in the culture they came from and where is was accepted. That does not mean they have lost their faith, but they are aware and sensitive as to how and when to communicate it in and through their relationships. The cultural norms are no long present or hold their same stature or value for exiles.

When Israel was taken into exile, practicing their faith the way they were use to could cause suffering or death. They had to find new ways to keep their faith rooted and

growing. Aware of consequences for unacceptable public expressions, their Internal values needed to find different external behaviors.

These cultural changes, and becoming exiles in our homeland, may not be to the detriment of the church, but to its refining, pruning and fruitfulness.

We must first be praying for the church and ourselves. How do we as an increasingly exiled people speak and live out the gospel and our Kingdom calling?

What does it mean for us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world... especially in a culture that appears to be less supportive and receptive while being more hostile?

Light is not needed in the day but in the darkness. It is there that we shine. Salt preserves something that is valued. If there is nothing of value, salt is not needed. God values lost people and we are to pray for the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29.7).

We need to have more meaningful conversations with our younger generation to better understand their world...which Is our world.

We need to listen to our cultural brothers and sisters to better understand their world...which Is our world.

Jesus affirms that we are not of the world because we have the word... the gospel and the power of it. And Jesus does not ask the Father that we be taken out of the world, but that the Father keep us from the evil one (John 17.14-15).

That world and its darkness is becoming more overt and more evident. Stand firm. Put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6.10-18), for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (I John 4.4).

Talk about this with your family, small group, ministry team and church.
How are you and those around you understanding how to live as exiles in your homeland?

Faith for Exiles (book):

Brief Video:

 
CultureBruce Bugbee