Lighthouse and Flint—(1st of 8 Illustrations)

Understanding the Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission

I am comparing the church to a lighthouse. God bless our churches. A lighthouse can be seen from a long way off, and all who turn toward it can get their bearings. However, “There is another,” as Yoda said. Missionaries carry a flint in their backpacks walking to “the regions beyond,” where there is no lighthouse. (2 Corinthians 10:16). Missionaries strike the flint on a stone or a piece of steel that God will show them. Sparks fly and a small fire begins.

All lighthouses began this way. Before there were lighthouses there were simple missionaries carrying their flint into the regions beyond.

Today there are 300,000 “Christian lighthouses”—churches—in America. That’s 24 churches for every Starbucks! In America it takes a lot of work to build a lighthouse, and a lot of money and a lot of administration to make sure the light shines bright. It’s the American way, probably. But out there, in the regions beyond, God sends simple, pioneering people “where there are no lighthouses.” One day our Lord Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well; our Lord “struck the flint” and a light went on for her entire village. Paul and his missionary band struck the flint against the steel to start small churches “from Jerusalem to Illyricum” (Romans 15:19). These two, the lighthouse and the flint, are the two kinds of Christian mission.

A Problem to Address. The administrators of the lighthouse and carriers of the flint both have duties to fulfill. They have a Symbiotic Relationship: Having a relationship which is positive for both parties. The one cannot say to the other, “I have no need of you.” Yet that happens too often. Is there a biblical basis for mission agencies? Some say there is not. Some say, “If only the church were organized as she should be, we would not need the parachurch agencies.” I hope to brighten the day of everyone who thinks that way. More about that soon.

I am grateful to Dr. Ralph D. Winter for writing his superb article, “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission” and for letting me study with him. You can read my article, “Still Two Structures After All These Years,” here.

Next: Warp and Woof: Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission (2nd of 8 Illustrations).

Here are links to all eight illustrations in this series:

Lighthouse and Flint

Warp and Woof

Two Fishing Boats and a Great Catch of Fish

A Double-Helix–Churches and Mission Agencies

A Double-Helix–”Missional One” and Missional Two”

William Carey’s Two Structures

Modalities and Sodalities

Swiss Watches. Southwest Airlines. H20. Binary Code. Male and Female.

Click here to find out how to start a fire with flint and steel.