POSTED ON AUGUST 10, 2011:
Individuals, more than the church, are champions of change
I am passionate about Christ-followers living out their gifts in the domains of society. In fact, I think the church would do well to develop a more robust theology of work for their people. Far too many see the work of "ministry" as relegated to only a select few. Not until we "clergify" everyone will we see culture renewed and restored. But what about the institution of the church?
This may surprise you. I think that the church as an institution should be slow to see itself as a "culture maker." I believe the Bible is clear that the church is supposed to champion individual Christians enacting the Gospel through their gifts and callings in society, but to view the established church as a means by which society should be changed is too lofty an ideal.
I like how James Davidson Hunter, author of To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World describes the approach he believes Christians should take in society. He calls his approach to "culture making," "faithful presence."
Hunter says this, "Evangelism, political action, and social reform are worthy undertakings, but they aren't decisively important if the goal is world changing...The point is not to change the world but to serve faithfully in our relationships, tasks, and spheres of social influence...the desire for faithful presence in the world calls on the entire laity, in all vocations--ordinary and extraordinary, common and rarefied--to enact the shalom of God in the world."
So how does "faithful presence" change anything? Hunter is quick to state that it is not remaining quiet but rather "fully public. " He continues, "If there is a possibility for human flourishing in our world, it does not begin when we win the culture wars but when God's word of love becomes flesh in us, reaching every sphere of social life."
Those who claim to be Christians make up what the Bible calls "the priesthood of believers" (1 Peter 2:4-10). All that come to Jesus are being built up into a spiritual abode. We are the stones being placed together to proclaim the excellence of the Chief Cornerstone. This happens wherever we are. And whatever we are. Pastor, firefighter, politician, homemaker, student...in these spheres, we have the opportunity to shape and transform culture.
I have always loved to write. God instilled a love for words at an early age. My mom tells me I would read the newspaper to my grandparents as "entertainment" when I was the wee age of 3. One of my college professors would always tell me that I was in the wrong line of work (music) and that I should seriously pursue something in the English field. I didn't listen to him. At least not in the way he saw it.
A couple of months ago, I was having coffee with a fellow church planter and friend in town and he asked me if I had any interest in contributing once a month to the religion column in the Urban Tulsa Weekly. I told him I needed to pray about it but would get back to him soon. Within a few days, I felt like God wanted me to pursue this. I've had the honor of writing a few articles for UTW -- it has been an awesome privilege.
What does this have to do with culture making? Well, as a pastor, I am regularly getting the opportunity to winsomely share my faith in a secular news medium. I believe I'm doing Kingdom work "outside" of the institution of the church. Is this culture making? Is this "faithful presence?" I think so.
I am praying that in some small way, God uses this opportunity to make Himself famous. I'm thankful to bring the good news of Jesus within the pages of a weekly that is passionate about many things that I'm passionate about: urban development, the arts, issues of justice, and more.
Amidst the cornucopia of issues in UTW, I'm praying my faith -- and my Jesus -- shines through.
-- (Brad Andrews is lead pastor at Mercyview)
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