Not a Small World After All: Glimpsing the Kingdom Church

We live limited lives until we cross over into the concrete world of another country, another culture, another tradition of worship,” Sister Joan Puls once said.

When did this crossover happen to you, dear reader? Or is it yet to occur? Have you left the valuable, yet “small world” of your culture to breathe the fresh air of the kingdom Church?

My crossover occurred in late 1989. I was planting a church in northern California (USA) and seeking to reach people who were remarkably similar to me. I loved my work and I loved the people God was bringing to our church. They spoke like me, looked like me, even drove cars that I would like to drive. We listened to similar music, read similar books, saw the same films and enjoyed similar foods. Little did I know that God had a magnificent awakening in store for me.

I was surprised and deeply honored to receive an invitation to a global meeting on “world evangelization.” The Lausanne II Congress would be held in Manila, Philippines, and leaders and thinkers from all over the world would meet to strategize, worship and pray for the salvation of the world. I expected to be no more than a “fly on the wall.” In Manila I joined men and women from over one hundred nations in listening to leaders and thinkers such as J. I. Packer, Leighton Ford and Ajith Fernando. The world became larger and more diverse while the gospel of Jesus held us as one. On several occasions I remember being overwhelmed by the diversity of the Church. Music from many lands and people dressed in colorful, national attire filled the meeting halls.

I learned that Manila needs Jesus, just like Chicago or New York or any other city in the world needs Jesus.

My hotel was a few miles from the stadium in Manila and each morning my new friends and I would walk to the meetings together. I experienced the beauty and the sorrows of the Filipino people and their kindness gentled me, a brash American. One night I was unable to sleep so I took the elevator to the first floor of the hotel. I found the lobby filled with Western men, drinking and cajoling with prostitutes. Although I was shocked, this did not surprise me nearly as much as the night when I heard gunshots out my window and saw a street fight in action. I learned that Manila needs Jesus, just like Chicago or New York or any other city in the world needs Jesus.

It is difficult to express how much those two weeks changed my view of the Church and the world. But I was indeed changed. For the first time I had glimpsed Revelation 7, where every tribe and nation is gathered in worship of God. There is nothing quite like worshipping while Latinos play music, Thai people dance, Africans sing and Koreans pray. Oh for the sheer joy of it! I long for it again. But even more, I long that the whole world may know of Christ. Although the task of taking Jesus to the world is daunting, the king who proclaims through us is more than able.

Dr. Lon Allison is executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. He also serves as director for the Institute for Strategic Evangelism at Wheaton College. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.