Let’s Revise the Popular Phrase “In, but Not of”


by David Mathis | August 29, 2012/DesiringGod BlogPermalink

In, but not of”— if you’ve spent much time Christian circles, you’re probably familiar with this popular phraseIn the world, but not of the world. It captures a truth about Jesus’s followers. There’s a real sense in which we are “in” this world, but not “of” it.

In, but not of. Yes, yes, of course.

But might this punchy phrase be giving the wrong impression about our (co)mission in this world as Christians? The motto could seem to give the drift, We are in this world, alas, but what we really need to do is make sure that we’re not of it.

In this way of configuring things, the starting place is our unfortunate condition of being “in” this world. Sigh. And our mission, it appears, is to not be “of” it. So the force is moving away from the world. “Rats, we’re frustratingly stuck in this ole world, but let’s marshal our best energies to not be of it.” No doubt, it’s an emphasis that’s sometimes needed, but isn’t something essential being downplayed?

We do well to run stuff like this through biblical texts. And on this one in particular, we do well to turn to John 17, where Jesus uses these precise categories of “in the world” and “not of the world.” Let’s look for Jesus’s perspective on this.

Not of This World

On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prays to his Father in John 17:14–19,

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Notice Jesus’ references to his disciples being “not of the world.” Verse 14: “The world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” And there it is again in verse 16: “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

Let’s all agree it’s clear that Jesus does not want his followers to be “of the world.” Amen. He says that he himself is “not of the world,” and his disciples are “not of the world.” Here’s a good impulse in the slogan “in, but not of.”

It’s Going Somewhere

But notice that for Jesus being “not of the world” isn’t the destination in these verses but the starting place. It’s not where things are moving toward, but what they’re moving from. He is not of the world, and he begins by saying that his followers are not of the world. But it’s going somewhere. Jesus is not huddling up the team for another round of kumbaya, but so that we can run the next play and advance the ball down the field.

Enter verse 18: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” And don’t miss the surprising prayer of verse 15: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

Sent into This World

Jesus is not asking his Father for his disciples to be taken out of the world, but he is praying for them as they are “sent into” the world. He begins with them being “not of the world” and prays for them as they are “sent into” the world.

So maybe it would serve us better — at least in light of John 17 — to revise the popular phrase “in, but not of” in this way: “not of, but sent into.” The beginning place is being “not of the world,” and the movement is toward being “sent into” the world. The accent falls on being sent, with a mission, to the world — not being mainly on a mission to disassociate from this world.

Crucified to the World — And Raised to It

Jesus’s assumption in John 17 is that those who have embraced him, and identified with him, are indeed not of the world. And now his summons is our sending — we are sent into the world on mission for gospel advance through disciplemaking.

Jesus’s true followers have not only been crucified to the world, but also raised to new life and sent back in to free others. We’ve been rescued from the darkness and given the Light not merely to flee the darkness, but to guide our steps as we go back in to rescue others.

So let’s revise the popular phrase “in, but not of.” We Christians are not of this world, but sent into it. Not of, but sent into.



Getting To Know You – Wesley Sweigart

The Getting to Know You series is a series that we will be starting on the blog to help the church get to know our faithful interns that support M28, the college ministry here at CrossWay. On our first post, we have the privilege to introduce you to Wesley Sweigart.

Who I am

Hello, my name is Wesley Sweigart. I’m here today to say a bit about how I got to where I am and where I’m going from there. I am a Charlottean, born and raised, and I have been a part of CrossWay my entire life. I’ve been blessed to be a part of Mission28 the past two years, and have helped serve on the Leadership Team over the past year. It has been encouraging to see all that God has done through this ministry, from people committing or recommitting their lives to Christ, to those who realize a new depth in their relationship with their heavenly Father. I’m currently in the middle of my college career, but I’m taking a year off to focus on evangelism at UNCC, and I couldn’t be more excited about this new period of my life.

What I’m doing

This year, I have the opportunity to serve with Mission28 as a full-time intern. I will be on campus reaching out to students as well as helping with ministry administration, planning, and coordination. I’m so excited to see what God has in store for us this year at M28.

Please join me in praying

1)    That I would receive support for this year. It is my hope that I would be able to raise all the funds that I need for this year so I can have my focus fully on the mission at UNCC.

2)    That the Lord of the Harvest would send out workers. There are multitudes of lost souls at UNCC, and there is a need for students with a heart heavy for the lost, who will go out and share the gospel. The Lord will build his church.



Brad House » Mission Church Evangelism Community

Does our community own the mission of God for our church, or do we just agree with it?


Agreement simply means that people like the idea of the mission and are excited about someone at the church carrying it out. They may not, and probably don’t, see themselves as the church, or at least not the part of the church that lives out the mission.

This manifests in casual attendance and participation in programs and events that serve their needs but don’t require anything of them. Agreement can even involve serving in various ministries if the bar is low enough—but if the mission is not owned, if it is not internalized within the people, then they will not take risks for the sake of the gospel. They won’t risk comfort, time, money, or self-interest for the mission to see Jesus glorified.


Our churches are filled with people who agree with the mission but do not own it. Ownership is marked by joy-filled sacrifice that sees kingdom work as a “get to” because of what Christ has done, rather than a “got to” out of Christian duty.

Ownership looks like people serving the church and the city with a passion for the gospel. It looks like people cheerfully and sacrificially giving out of love for Jesus to see the work of the gospel move forward. Ownership looks like people participating in the messiness of community and being inconvenienced for the sake of another’s sanctification.


If we want to be a missional church that sees the lives in our cities transformed by the gospel, we must foster a holy discontentment with the status quo and resist apathy toward God’s mission. Compelled by the grace of God manifested in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection, we can take ownership of proclaiming the truth of the gospel and living it out in community.

Joining The Family Business


In Matthew 16:18 Jesus tells us, “I will build my church”—and he has been about that business for the last two thousand years.As God unfolds redemptive history in his plan to reconcile the world to himself, he has done so by building for himself a people who worship him, love one another, and join him in proclaiming the good news to those who do not know him.This means that as we are made new in Christ and transformed into the redeemed members of the church, we are also called to participate in this process for others.This is one of the coolest aspects of being adopted into the family of God, that we are invited into the family business.Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 28:18–20:All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.In this commissioning of the church, he is calling us to continue the work through him and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The church, then, is not a passive club we join but a pursuit that we actively participate in.At Mars Hill, the most tangible place in which we participate in this commissioned work is in our Community Groups. Jesus uses these groups to continue the work building the church in two distinct ways that we see reflected in the great commission.


The first way Community Groups are used to build the church is in the building up of believers. This is the practice of maturing and strengthening the church. As we gather together as a people who love Jesus, encouraging, challenging, and loving one another, we are part of Jesus building the church. We are making disciples as we grow in love and obedience to the Word. This happens in conjunction with the preaching of the Word, but it is also essential that Word take roots in our hearts.


Community Groups are also used in the building out of the church. This is the growth of the church through conversion as people encounter Jesus and are made new through the power of his gospel. As we invite our neighbors, friends, and coworkers to enjoy the blessing of community, Jesus uses the witness of a transformed people to open the eyes of the lost to the truth and power of the resurrection. We see examples of this in 1 Peter 2:12 and John 13:34–35 as the love we have for one another and our love for our city bear witness to the work of Jesus.It is pretty amazing that God invites us into such an amazing business. It is a business of miracles as we get to see new life born in new believers and lives continually transformed by the gospel. And we get a front row seat as God uses our Community Groups to build the church up and out. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get to work!

Brad House is a pastor and the director of ministry development at Mars Hill Downtown Bellevue.

The Gospel Is Big Enough to Fight for Itself


by Jonathan Parnell | DesiringGod.org
Russell Moore:

Sometimes believers will throw up their hands in frustration with non-Christian people they know. “I have said everything I know to say to her about the gospel,” one might say. “She already knows it all and doesn’t believe.”

Often what we seek is another argument, a hidden angle that our interlocutor hasn’t thought through before. But that’s rarely how the gospel is heard and received. Think about it in your own case. Did you believe the gospel the first time you ever heard it? Perhaps you did, but if so, you’re quite unusual. Most of us heard the gospel over and over and over again until one day it hit us in a very different way.

And what was different about it? Was it a new argument? Did you say to yourself, “Wait, you mean there’s archaeological evidence proving the historical existence of the Hittites?” or “Hold on, there were five hundred witnesses to the resurrection? Well, what must I do to be saved?”

No, in most cases what we heard was the same old gospel — Christ crucified for us, buried, raised from the dead — and suddenly there was light (2 Corinthians 4:6). Suddenly what had seemed boring or irrelevant to us now seemed quite personal. We heard a man’s voice in that gospel, and we wanted to follow that voice (John 10:316). We saw a light of glory that overwhelmed us (2 Corinthians 4:6). The same is true with the as-of-yet unbelieving world around us or the as-of-yet unbelieving relatives we have waiting for us at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

You need not be intimidated by unbelievers, as though what you need is a more nuanced “worldview” to protect the kingdom of God from their threats. Yes, we engage in apologetic arguments, but those aren’t at the hub of our mission. By talking with unbelievers about arguments against the existence of God or scientific evidence for blind natural selection or whatever, all we’re doing is listening to the defense mechanisms of those who are, as we were, scared of the sound of God’s presence in the garden. We should talk about those things lovingly, but not so we can defend the faith. We engage others only so we can get to the only announcement that assaults the blinding power of the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4).

The gospel is big enough to fight for itself.

Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ110–111, paragraphing added.


By Trisha Wilkerson / TheResurgence.com


The world of Pinterest is an art heaven. Ideas, photos, projects, and creations galore invite you to enter and explore. We peruse the art, drool over the recipes, marvel at handmade gifts, and get inspired by mid-century modern designs.

Beauty is from God because he himself is beautiful. Made in his image, we all long for beauty. A room redecorated with skill and imagination draws us in. As we engage in our culture, we often notice excellence, creativity and beauty all around.

Pinning favorites on Pinterest can be a form of worship. It’s like an art museum displaying what’s in our hearts, what we think is most beautiful.

Sometimes life online seems more fun and beautiful than the life we are in.

At first, Pinterest is blissful. It paints a picture of the “good life,” where our food pantries and closets are perfectly organized and our kids are served the most exciting, healthy, and delicious foods.

All of this can be inspiring and helpful as long as we simply enjoy the art and use it as a resource to generate ideas for reasonable projects to improve our homes and serve our families well. But endless fashion photos and crocheted masterpieces can also generate mile-long lists of “someday” projects that we can feel guilty for never completing. Before long, we’ve created an alternate world for our “best self,” an ideal we’ll never live up to.


Like the Proverbs 31 gal, we are slightly inspired, but more often we are deeply intimidated. Overwhelmed with what is lacking in ourselves, we allow the whispers of condemnation to enter into our minds. As with Pinterest, what could inspire worshipful expression and gratitude drifts from enjoyment to envy. Rather than simple gratitude for beauty, we are tempted to lust for more.

When our hearts are content, we can enjoy creating beauty, appreciating new and fun ideas, and undertaking creative projects without them taking over our lives. A heart like this can enjoy Pinterest with joy and without the pressure to keep up. We can save that new project idea for the right time, and in the meantime feel satisfied. If nothing else, we’ve had fun appreciating someone else’s creativity.

God is the author of art, and his masterpieces are breathtaking.

When are hearts are covetous, rather than content, we see someone else’s home, food, and clothes and feel shame and jealousy for what is lacking in our own selves and lives. Comparison and bitterness fuel the heart to copycat and catch up. We might even believe the lie that people’s judgments of our home, fashion, meals, or appearance matter. If only we could do “that” project, someone will be impressed. It also presents yet another form for escape from our individual realities. Sometimes life online seems more fun and beautiful than the life we are in.

I have heard some women say that they feel horrible for not making gourmet dinners or handmade birthday party invitations that they see online. And, others feel depressed when they compare their clothes or living rooms to those of the Pinterest princesses. For me, I have felt that sneaky whisper of covetousness when a photo captures my decorating dreams.

Are you trying to live up to some man-made or self-made standard? We have to fight to remember who we are in Christ when these temptations certainly come.


Pinterest is new and exciting, but the heart experiences are as old as the hills. Imagine those ancient women who read Proverbs 31or Titus 2, or any other biblical woman description. Surely their hearts were tempted to envy too and to believe lies about who they were. I can just hear the women saying, “That Proverbs 31 lady, she is impossible. I’ll never be like her.” We might as well say, “That Pinterest lady. My home will never be as beautiful or as organized.” We can, because of grace, fight temptation and not give in to envy and covetousness when we see beauty. God lovingly reminds us that we are not defined by appearances but by his Son, which is far more glorious. The Spirit prompts gratitude and worship as we enjoy Jesus.


God is the author of art, and his masterpieces are breathtaking. All art invites us to worship Christ. From enjoying nature to music, we stand in awe of his creation. Created by him, we create beauty with him. We are given beauty all around us to enjoy and inspire us to see him in it. Let’s put away envy and instead enjoy his beauty.