I have the privilege of serving as the Lead Pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames, IA. When this church was planted in 1994, the founding group of believers stated they wanted to be “a local church with a global vision.” From a cornfield in Iowa, we’ve had the deep privilege to be a small part of God’s global work.
We are people with village-sized hearts living with an internet-sized awareness.
As I’ve tried to lead a church with a global heart, I’ve noticed some unique tensions that are present in a “digital world.” I write the phrase “digital world” with air quotes because, frankly, there is no such thing as a digital world. In God’s created design, humans made in his image are bound to physical bodies in physical spaces. Given these God-designed limitations, our internet age presents a unique challenge. I’ve heard someone describe the challenge this way: We are people with village-sized hearts living with an internet-sized awareness. Every day, my social media news feed is flooded with a set of images and stories about the needs of the world. All of those needs are REAL and IMPORTANT and PRESSING. And almost all of those needs I can do absolutely nothing about, and my inability can lead to guilt and a constant sense of being overwhelmed.
How do we navigate the incredible gap between our awareness of the needs of the world and our ability to meet the needs of the world? Here are a few principles that have helped me learn to live in this tension with wisdom.
Turn Cares into Prayers
When I feel overwhelmed by the needs of the world, I often pray this prayer: “God, I have just seen the news of these people in (INSERT COUNTRY HERE). They need the hope of the gospel so badly. I never knew this need, but you have seen this need, and you love these people. You care far more than I care, and you can do far more than I can do! Father—help!” I don’t want to close my heart to the needs I see, but I cannot hope to hold all of those needs in, so I cast those cares on God.
We have to be faithful with the slice of the Great Commission pie Jesus has given to us.
Embrace God’s Limited Call on My Life and My Church
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Rather than living in the guilt of the everything I cannot do, I’ve tried to focus on the something I can do. Our local church in Iowa cannot fulfill the whole Great Commission. But we do have to be faithful with the slice of the Great Commission pie Jesus has given to us. I’ve tried to wrestle honestly with the limits of what our church is called to do for God’s global cause.
Watch Less Internet Stuff
If I have a village-sized heart, then I need to be honest with the limits of how much information is necessary and helpful for me to know. I try to limit my sources of information to a very small number of reputable outlets. I don’t want to be an internet information glutton.
Global needs can overwhelm me and extend far beyond my reach. But no one is beyond the reach of the powerful Good News of Jesus.
Trust the Gospel and the Power of God
Romans 1:16 grounds me: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. ” Global needs can overwhelm me and extend far beyond my reach. But no one is beyond the reach of the powerful Good News of Jesus.
Mark Vance has been on staff at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa, for ten years and lead pastor for four years. As lead pastor, Mark has had the opportunity to further the global reach of the members of Cornerstone through sending and financially supporting cross-cultural workers.