It has been a while since my last post. I confess to struggling mightily with motivation for blogging (or social media in general) when I get into really busy seasons in my life. I am finally sitting down to write this while on vacation, though I’ve been planning a blog on this subject since March! Well, I resolve to write a little more frequently, which at my current pace shouldn’t be too difficult!
In all seriousness, I get a little fatigued by the constant tension between American culture and church life/practice. So, now we live in a post-DOMA world. Who could’ve have seen that coming (sarcasm!)? Christians reacted to the news in every way from righteous indignation to gleeful celebration and everything in between.
I have decided some time ago to not be shocked when the world acts like the world. What is distressing to me is when the church can no longer respond in any significantly unified way no matter the latest cultural shift. I believe this is largely due to the sad reality that there is not a common source of authority shaping the church anymore, but rather the American church has imbibed the individualistic mores of its host culture.
I’m not saying that every Christian should respond to the latest cultural development with the same political action or attitude. Rather, I am saying that we ought to, at least, know how to respond spiritually. Or maybe ‘respond’ is the wrong word. We ought to know what we ‘believe’ so that we aren’t simply responding/reacting to the world around us.
I also don’t mean to separate spiritual concerns from political ones. But ultimately politics are concerns of the world and my focus is concerned with the beliefs and practice of the church. A Christian may be simultaneously involved in both spheres, but they are still two spheres and we do well to remember the difference.
Back in March, I read this quote from an article by Wendell Willis, “Such reluctance to be a distinct institution reveals the church’s lack of faith in its mission and its dependence on its surrounding culture.” Willis was lamenting the church’s insecurity and its desire for acceptance by the world. How is the church defining its mission? Whose voice are we (the church) listening to?
While I agree that the church is bettered when it is in dialog with other vantage points, I do not believe the church’s mission is shaped one iota society in general. If you think that I am overstating the point, then consider it hyperbole to make a point. Yes, the needs of real human beings in society impact the way we carry out our mission, but these do not formulate our mission. Our mission is given by Jesus himself, who is, according to the theology of the church, the voice of God in human form.
Our mission is to make disciples of all nations (peoples, cf. Matt. 28:19-20). If we are going to doubt ourselves every time someone criticizes this mission, then we are not going to be very effective at fulfilling it. And doubting the mission Jesus gave us is tantamount to doubting Jesus himself. In the void created by failing to embrace the mission given to us by Jesus is a mission given by the world—to be the instrument of the world for its ends.
Yes, I believe that “God so loved the world…,” but the world is not saved through allowing it to define the mission of the ones chosen as a vehicle of that salvation. The world is in opposition to the God who created it. We are given the task of reconciliation through the preaching of the gospel (2 Cor. 5:20-21).
We are given this mission by Jesus and through Scripture. It is Scripture that must return to forming our beliefs and by extension our responses to what we witness in the world. We must get back to being the people who can hear and discern the voice of God and live accordingly. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27).