The church in the West is undergoing rapid change.  We are shifting from an Enlightenment worldview to a Post-modern philosophy.  The positive side of change is a stripping away of cultural encumbrance that has kept us from fulfilling the Gospel.  The downside of our current transformation, is that we are all-too-often exchanging one cultural norm for another.  One form of church is torn down, only to be replaced by a newer more culturally acceptable form.   One set of political mores, is replaced by another.

One example of transformation comes under the rubric of Social Justice (ie. poverty, homelessness, AIDS, etc…).  In serving the needs of the world, one of the key purposes of the Church–Evangelization of the lost–has been replace with the purpose to befriending the lost.  The call to demonstrate the mature love of Christ has been supplanted by a childlike fascination with wordly-compassion.

Tokunboh Adeyemo writes a salient response from an African perspective in this article entitled, “Contemporary Issues in Africa and the Future of Evangelicals”

To the world, the Church has the responsibility of witnessing for Christ and discipling the nations (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19). This does not preclude works of charily which are an intrinsic part of the good news. However, caution needs to be exercised in this area. The Church is not an organisation for social and political asylum, nor are we to use divine resources to bribe people into God’s kingdom. Since the Church is in the world but not of the world, she should not be indifferent to the social, political, and economic struggles of mankind; neither should she sacrifice her ambassadorial function at the altar of social involvement. Our Lord Jesus Christ liberates the total man: the material and the non-material. Thus he says: ‘If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, you shall be free indeed’ (John 8:36). The Biblical sequence begins with an internal spiritual regeneration and reconciliation of man to God, manifesting itself in an external physical transformation and reconciliation of man to man in society. The task of the Church therefore is to confront (not maintain dialogue with) the world with the claims of Christ as deposited in the Bible. This mission, central to the heart of God, his Son, and the apostles, must be the mission of evangelicals to the world. The New Testament Church was a missionary Church; and so must be ours. We must go forth (i) with a thorough-going Biblicism which does justice to the claims of the Scriptures, and (ii) with a Biblicism that is both contemporary and relevant.

* World Evangelical Fellowship. Theological Commission., vol. 2, Evangelical Review of Theology : Volume 2, electronic ed., Logos Library System; Evangelical Review of Theology (Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Periodicals, 2000, 1978), 12.

Does the love of Christ include tangible expressions of kindness? Yes! But, our mission is more than alleviating the temporal pains of this world. We, the followers of Jesus, have a greater call to give the world a hope beyond the ‘now’.  We are ambassadors of God’s Kingdom to this passing world and we must live accordingly.

Lest we forget…

Thirst is not quenched by micro-loans for building wells, but by the eternal wellspring of the Spirit.

Jesus replied, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again. 14 But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life. (John 4:13-14))”

The hunger for meaning is not satisfied by wheat–bread, but through Jesus–bread.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I told you that you have seen me and still do not believe…

50 This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 Then the Jews who were hostile to Jesus began to argue with one another, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me, and I in him (John 6:35-36; 50-56).

The longing for love is not fulfilled in giving trinkets and bobbles, but in the person of God who IS love.

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. 8 The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. 10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

11 Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God resides in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:7-14).

I know how some folks will respond, “this kind of faith is not practical.”  But therein lies the problem.–Faith in the West is impotent.  The power of Christ, through His Spirit, to transform the world has been entrusted to preachers, politicians and pop-stars.  The church must not give Her grand place in the Kingdom to become the Sugar-Daddy to the world.  Do we really believe it?  Are we able to live it!

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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