There is a scene in C. S. Lewis story of the ‘Horse and His Boy’ in the Narnia series, where the lost, friendless ‘boy’ Shasta journeying on a very unruly horse through deep darkness with tears rolling down his face, has a terrifying experience when he suddenly senses-
“That someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing. He bit his lip in terror. The Thing (whatever it was) went on beside him so very quietly that Shasta began to hope that he had only imagined it. But just as he was becoming quite sure of it their suddenly came a deep, rich sigh out of the darkness beside him. That couldn’t be imagination! Anyway, he has felt the hot breath of that sigh on his chilly left hand.
At last he could bear it no longer. “Who are you?” he said, barely above a whisper. “One who has waited long for you to speak,” said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep. “I can’t see you at all,” said Shasta, after staring very hard. Once more Shasta felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. “There,” the ‘Thing’ said, “that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your troubles.”
The ‘Thing’ of course is the majestic lion Aslan, a symbol of the presence of Christ in the dark place of a lost, terrified, friendless boy.
In his first words of public ministry Jesus said ‘The Kingdom of God is near”. (Mark 1:15). His meaning was that God’s Kingdom, in him, was breaking into a cursed world. This is the supreme example of what might be called a ‘Kingdom Nearness’, the shining of Light into the spiritually dark world, which is a ‘Presence’ of Justice, Truth, Hope, and Love in the person of Christ.
Sometimes people ask what is meant by an expression of the ‘Unbounded Church’ concept? A relatively short answer to that question is that they are Missional Communities that, no matter their shape, location or style, are in part to be defined as ‘Outbreaks of the Kingdom’ . These are to be ‘Kingdom Nearnesses’, through actively showing God’s Justice, Truth, Hope and Love in ways that are a practical, positive and beneficial presence to the lost around them. Missional Communities, that are-
• Acting for ‘Justice’, meaning working to ‘put things right’ in terms of relationships, how people are treated, how resources are used etc.
• Proclaiming ‘Truth, the ‘Truth’ of the Christ who is the ‘Truth’ (John 14:6) in the 21st century, postmodern sea of relativistic ‘truths’ into which western society has now descended.
• Beacons of ‘Hope’, the ‘Hope’ that lies in Christ, communicating the prospect of a better ‘Day’ in a society in despair, a Day that only comes through a real and dynamic relationship with Jesus.
• Demonstrations of God-type ‘Love’, in terms of practical, and often costly, action for the benefit of others, sources of blessing that expects no return as supremely exhibited in Jesus on the Cross.
They are indeed to be ‘Light’ in the cloying darkness of the lives of those they impact; to be the Light that not only shines in the darkness but defeats it (John 1:5). They are to be ‘Kingdom outbreaks’ of the exquisite fragrance of the love of God in the material wealth but despairing, hollow emptiness of the lost around them.
From the non-Christians perspective- ‘Kingdom Outbreaks’ are a distinctive, positive ‘presence’ of people who listen to their ‘Shasta experiences’, be supportive, are practically helpful when possible; people who will pray for their “troubles” if they want them to.
Kingdom Outbreaks are not just bible study/ prayer groups meeting in public spaces, but groups of people who by their behavior, their words and their attitudes will be the detectable fragrance of Christ in the nostrils of those who do not know him. This why it is an essential characteristic of an ‘Unbounded Church’ expression that the walls (bounds) between the ‘church’ and the lost are removed so that it is regularly observable by non-Christians.
They will be Kingdom-establishing agents in the darkness of the parallel universes where those enslaved in blindness by the ‘king’ of darkness (2 Corinthians 4:4) live their lives. Indeed, as the presence of the majestic King they will be a ‘Kingdom Nearness’ and this is not actually anything novel, but what the ‘body of Christ’ the church was always supposed to be!
What is an expression of ‘Unbounded Church’? It is a ‘Kingdom Outbreak” a beacon in the darkness of the lost, an active, dynamic presence, an ‘Aslan’ to the many ‘Shastas’ around us, indeed a ‘nearness’ of the King,