It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. — Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings
J. R. R. Tolkien didn’t have to try hard to imagine a war-torn world filled with evil and darkness. In his lifetime he witnessed two world wars, genocide, famine, dictatorship, economic collapse, and more. Tolkien could write of a world oppressed by darkness because that was the world he experienced. The darkness of Middle-earth was fictional, but it was based on reality. Our sin-stricken world is encompassed by darkness. The everyday stuff of life is stained by the effects of sin.
But it hasn’t always been this way.
A couple pages into the story of the Bible, our attention is drawn to an incredible locale on planet earth: the garden of Eden. Humanity’s story began in a place free from pain, suffering, sorrow, and sin. The kingdom of God and the dwelling place of man overlapped in a real, time-space location. Eden was literally heaven on earth.
Then came rebellion. We were kicked out of the garden—out of that kingdom marked by security, peace, and joy—and we were plunged into a new kingdom dominated by darkness and death (Gen. 3:14–19).
The rest of the Bible is about God’s plan to bring us back to Eden—actually, to something even better. To reinstate his eternal dwelling place, and to once again welcome humanity back into his kingdom.
But we’re not there yet.
Reign of Darkness
Just look at the news or your social media feed. Our world today brims with oppression, racial injustice, war, crushing poverty, abuse, and hunger.
Church planting is about establishing outposts of light in a land of darkness.
But even as the shadow of darkness blankets our landscape, there are an ever-increasing number of embassies of the kingdom of light. That’s what church planting is about: establishing outposts of light in a land of darkness. Church planting is about pushing back the darkness as the gospel’s light shines forth through churches around the globe.
So we enter communities in despair and we preach good news about the victory of our King. Christ has overcome the evil empire of sin, death, and hell. As we plant churches, we not only preach this good news, we also embody it in our life together.
Jesus says that we shine the light of the kingdom through good works that illustrate the gospel and demonstrate the hope that is found in this kingdom (Matt. 5:14–16).
Demise of Darkness
I’ve seen this promise play out in our young church. In a small Southern town, we’ve pursued reconciliation in a city long divided by racial injustice. Our church, along with a few others in the area, partnered to host a conference that addressed issues such as racism, poverty, immigration, and community development. We have a long way to go, but through gospel-centered partnerships, we’re beginning to see cracks in the enemy’s efforts to keep people divided.
We’re also seeking to push back the darkness of abortion. Over the last year, we’ve helped fund the adoption of children from mothers experiencing unplanned or crisis pregnancies. In the coming year we’re planning to support at least three more adoptions in our church.
And it’s not just in our midst that we see darkness receding. We’ve partnered with other churches around the world to plant more embassies of this kingdom of light. Just this year we’ve received reports of these churches baptizing new believers in unreached people groups. We’ve heard about children rescued out of sex trafficking, lives saved, and entire villages, neighborhoods, and city blocks turned upside-down by the gospel.
Even the blackest darkness will not win against the light. As we plant churches that hold out the light of the gospel, we catch small glimpses of Eden.
Even the blackest darkness will not win against the light. As we plant churches that hold out the light of the gospel, we catch small glimpses of Eden. Our return to Eden is previewed throughout the world as God’s people gather to sing the gospel, hear it preached, and see it dramatized through baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
End of Darkness
As we illustrate the gospel with our actions, we announce a message of hope with our words: the days of darkness are growing short. The tide is turning and the light is invading every corner of the world. Things are changing.
Yes, it will happen slowly. It will, at times, seem like the darkness is winning. But the world we long for is coming. Indeed, it is previewed now as his kingdom expands through planting churches—churches that bring light to desperately dark places.
Your local church is God’s master plan against the darkness.
Perhaps all of this seems too ordinary. Maybe we think we could have come up with a better plan. But God’s ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8–9). His plan to push back the darkness is through planting churches—churches that display his manifold wisdom (Eph. 3:10).
It’s all too easy to look at the pain, suffering, spiritual blindness, and wickedness in the world and become discouraged. Why doesn’t God do something? Why doesn’t he act to change all this? we ask.
But the reality is this: God has done something. In Christ, he has decisively acted. And now he has deployed us, his people, to push back the darkness. Your local church is God’s master plan against the darkness. After all, “even the darkness must pass. A new day will come.”