Bringing the Gospel to the World, What Do You Think We Should Do?

Gears“How much do you think a church should be involved in politics and advocate for change in the culture?” a friend asked me while sitting at my kitchen table.  He was considering a new church for his family; leaving a church that had been very active in efforts to reform the culture of the city in which it was established.  This is a tough question and I think it has become increasingly important as many para-church groups and churches in general have embraced “social justice” ministries. Some groups claim that some form of cultural reform or “social justice” activity is the mission of the church.  Now I am lumping a few different topics together: political activism, social justice ministries, fighting for cultural change, reformational worldview, or however you might think about the Christian’s responsibility to the world, but I think there are several common points of thought and belief that will determine what we think our responsibility as a Christian is in ministering to the world.  My goal in writing this article is not necessarily to persuade you of one point of view, but rather to expose the points of belief that are determining where we stand on these issues.  If you have never thought about why you think drilling water wells in Africa is so important for Christians or why you feel called to do evangelism door to door, then I encourage you to think about these four points of belief and investigate what you really believe about how the Bible has called Christians to engage in the world.

What is your eschatology?  What do you believe the Bible says about the end of all things?  Is the world passing away or is it being made new progressively?  How much continuity do you believe there will be between this world and the next?  Basic eschatological positions, like historic pre-millennialism, amillennialism, etc, influence the way we view the continuity of the current earth with the future new heavens and new earth.  On one end of the spectrum, 2 Peter 3:10 speaks about the world passing away and being destroyed when it says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” followed by 2 Peter 3:11 which encourages us to life holy and godly lives while we wait for the day.  Hebrews 1:10-12 also speaks of the world wearing out like an old garment and being tossed aside by God for a new one.  Rev 21:1 also speaks of the current world as going away.  The idea here is that everything is passing away.  Little of what we do to reform culture and sustain this world will have lasting affect.  Instead, we would be wise to “snatch people out of the fire” as Jude 23 speaks of.  If we believe the world is passing away then the Gospel is the only thing of lasting importance because it is what we use to snatch people out of the fire.  On the other side of the spectrum, many Christians think the Gospel is slowly redeeming the world.  You might look to passages like Romans 8:19-22 which speaks of the world being liberated from bondage and being redeemed.  The idea here is that every believer has the duty to be the redeeming force wherever God has placed him or her in this life.  In fact culture can and will be changed for the better through the influence of the Gospel and the church.  If you would like to read further on this second option.  Al Wolters book Creation Regained lays out this classic reformational worldview.  Some eschatological positions even see the world being slowly redeemed until we slide right into the millennium under Christ’s rule. Now there are a lot more nuances to these arguments than I have given justice, but the point is that your eschatology will fundamentally drive what you think a Christian’s responsibility to the world is right now.

What about Biblical Commandments?  As I mentioned above 2 Peter 3:11 calls us to live a holy and godly life while we wait for the day of the Lord.  So what does a holy and godly life look like?  Here are a few of the Biblical commandments that drive the way many strive for holiness and godliness until Christ’s return: the great commission Matthew 28:18-20, the greatest commandment Matthew 22:37-40, pure and undefiled religion James 1:27, justice is what God requires Micah 6:8, weightier matters of the law Matthew 23:23, God is love 1 John 4:7-8, and many more.  In popular Christian culture it seems that we have set up a false dichotomy between being full of and showing love, justice, and mercy verses bare bones evangelism when the Bible really wants both in the life of the Christian.  I believe the popular dichotomy is also false because it leaves out a primary command of the Bible to believers to keep themselves unstained from the world.  When was the last time you heard believers arguing over whether they should engage in “social justice” ministries or work on their holiness, but this is a major aspect of the Christian life that is all over scripture!  1 Peter 1:16 calls us to be holy as God is holy, quoting Leviticus, and 1 John 2:15-17 calls us to not love the world or the things in the world.  James 1:27 that is so popularly quoted in relation for calling people to love orphans and widows but ends with the phrase, “keep oneself unstained from the world.” We could also point to Deuteronomy 6:4-9 which calls for an all-encompassing devotion in our life to God as primary before we do anything else.  Dependent on the Biblical commands you know and how they have been speaking to your heart will determine a lot about what you think a Christian should do.  I encourage you to think deeply about the commands we find in the Bible.

What is your calling?  What is God calling YOU to do?  How has God gifted you and equipped you to serve people and share the Gospel?  So often we make the ministry God has called us to do the only worthy Christian pursuit.  We force our calling on everybody around us but God has uniquely called and gifted every person in the body of Christ for service in his kingdom.  1 Corinthians 12:1-11 is a good guide here as well as Ephesians 4:8  and Ephesians 4:11-12 which says that Christ “gave gifts to men” and he called some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry.  Ephesians 2:10 speaks of good works that Christ has prepared for all of God’s people to walk in before they are even saved!  Every believer has a specific calling from Christ to fulfill and none of these callings are the same.  If Holy Spirit has moved you in your soul to fight for “social justice” then do it.  If the Spirit has moved you to be a missionary overseas then do it!  If God has called you to work a regular job, raise a family, and be a faithful church member then do it!  But please do something and be willing to have grace for other believers to walk in their particular calling.  Now as a side note, we can learn a lot from each other and the outworking of the particular gifts that each has been given.  Take a moment to consider your gifting and calling and then think about how someone else’s gifting and calling can help you to grow and or support what you are doing.

How do you view the body of Christ?  1 Corinthians 12:12-31 speaks of the body of Christ being made up of many different parts.  Just as a church is made up of many members that make a whole I think it is logical to think of the body of Christ in any one city being made up of several different churches.  Some churches are going to be more about reforming the culture than other churches.  Other churches will be more excited about evangelism.  Some churches may be seeker friendly while others yet may be about serious about Biblical teaching.  I think we may need to tweak the way we think about several Gospel believing churches in any one area and be ok with the fact that one may be missional, while another may teach well, while yet another will be excited to reform the culture, while another is digging wells in Africa for the sake of the Gospel.  Don’t hear me wrong, every church should be Biblically driven, Gospel centered, and have some level of concern for evangelism, Bible teaching, cultural engagement, and care for the poor.  But some will major on one aspect of the Christian life over another and that is ok.  Think about how you view the people in your church, what are the different gifts in the body you are a member of?  Now think about your city, what are the gifts and callings you see in particular churches that together make up the body of Christ?  When we see the body of Christ correctly it is an amazing and motivating thing.  God is accomplishing his mission through the church, and churches in your city using people and groups of people with particular passions and interests.  Let us praise God for His ability to orchestrate infinite diversity into powerful complexity for the purposes of His will in one body, the body of Christ.

I hope these four points of belief (eschatology, Biblical commands, calling, and the body of Christ) have helped you think about the way you think about our duty as Christians to engage the world with the Gospel.  There are many views on what a Christian should be doing in this life but if we take the time to think through the beliefs listed above I believe we will be able to afford ourselves and others more grace in how we attack the task of bringing the Gospel to the world and influencing the culture around us.  If you have thoughts or comments on this article, I would love to hear your feedback.  Feel free to send me an email.

*The image above was used in accordance with the licensing agreements of WikiCommons and in no way reflects the views of the artist that produced the image.
Powered by Blogger.