Monday, January 11, 2016

The Church must be the Church

A new year has begun.  Election years always bring the hot cultural debates to the surface and 2016 promises to be no different. 

I believe churches like Redeemer will play an increasingly important role in our nation’s strength and vibrancy.  I am not advocating for a certain political activism, instead I am encouraging the Church to a renewed and steadfast devotion to the ministry of the Word and Sacraments.  

A timely post by James Rogers in “First Thingslast month explored the chief reason evangelical churches (in particular) have been relatively unsuccessful in their effort to preserve a moral consensus that has been present in American culture for most of the country’s existence. Rogers thinks decades of Christians focusing on upholding and fighting for a kind of Christian moralism in American culture has left churches internally weak in their understanding of biblical identity and purpose. Church members know how to vote a certain way, but they don’t know what the bible says about living the Christian life. Somewhere in the past, instead of the Church dedicating itself to faithful proclamation of the gospel, exposition of the Word, and administration of the sacraments as it’s first priority, it became overly involved in fighting for morals outside the church.  The result is a relatively biblically anemic and ecclesiastically unaware church now living as a “moral” minority in a culture that has witnessed a shift in moral consensus.  Rogers’ concluding statement is worth pondering-

The Moral Majority, school prayer, ‘Take back America for Christ’ campaigns, all reflected more of an attempt to reassert ownership of America’s moral public space than to save souls or spread the Kingdom or strengthen the life of the community of disciples in the churches. Recovering a full-orbed ecclesiology for the Church—not for the Church in the abstract, but for the practical lives of Christian layfolk and leaders in the churches—must be in initial imperative for the Church today”.

The answer for Christians in America is to strengthen our understanding of what it means to be God’s people- His Church.  We are “called out ones” redeemed by the blood of Christ and commissioned to live and preach that message.  We are first and foremost a ministry of the Word and Sacraments. We make disciples of Jesus by God’s empowering grace.  As our members grow stronger in their biblical understanding, we will necessarily have an impact participating in aspects of the wider culture. So what if the culture disagrees with biblical Christianity? Rogers well notes, “The Church has survived, even thrived, in numerous times and cultures that did not share her moral practices.”.  The Church needs to be the Church first, then it can be an effective influence on our countrymen and culture.  But even if God doesn’t grant us the kind of cultural influence we long for, we should still be about the sanctification He has called us to.  This is why “Word and Sacrament” churches like Redeemer will be an important influence on this fluctuating culture we live in. 

To be clear, I am not suggesting Christians be politically inactive or disengaged. On the contrary, we who are well trained in the Word should be all the more involved by applying biblical principles in our actions and votes.  The Church must keep the priority of the Word and Sacraments which will serve to multiply our numbers and strengthen us for the opportunities God gives us to be salt and light in a morally digressed culture. 

1 comment:

Adam said...

Amen. Often Christians are asking non-Christians to live a 'moral' life before they come to know Christ. I believe this is a fundamental error. With Christian laws or without Christian laws people can still behave in lawless ways (ie, lying, cheating on people, drunkeness, etc). There are benefits to having an influence (say if abortion were to be be illegal) -- however that in it's focus is concentrated on stopping one kind of evil.

We need to look at that, but place much more importance on souls. The souls in the Church and outside, and working for their salvation and sanctification. We can never expect others to live a moral life without Christ and even if they do they've just become a legalist. We need the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of people to change out their hearts of stone so they can know Christ. Only in this equation of the Gospel can people not get crushed by failing to live up to some moral rules enacted by political means (if the Church succeeds in enacting political policy); yet be changed by Christ and sanctified day by day to live in the joy of walking with Christ.