Happy New Year friends! I trust you had a great Christmas break. At the start of a new year, we launch a new blog theme: the biblical calling of the church today. Since I am first to address the new theme, I am going to cheat – I am going to emphasize what the church is not called to. I will let my esteemed colleagues take the first shot at the positive side of this question.
I was reading Matthew 10 and was struck anew at Jesus’ call to the disciples. He sends them out to “go and announce…that the Kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!” That’s quite a call! It is a call to generous sharing – of God and all He has given us by His Spirit to this world. This sounds very romantic. However, Jesus reveals that His people will not always be accepted by this world. They will be rejected, flogged, stand trial, and betrayed by brothers and parents. In effect Jesus says, “I am the master of this household and they called me the prince of demons…the members of my household will be called by even worse names!” (10:25).
The call on the church includes a call on each of us to not be afraid of those who want to kill our body but cannot touch our soul (Matthew 10:28).
It is a call to acknowledge Jesus before this world (10:33). It is a call to take up our cross and follow Jesus, even when that costs us friends and family (10:35-39). Jesus makes it clear that He is not calling His people to popularity, political power, or even good old fashioned “family values.” This is a good reminder to a North American church that feels it is losing its good standing and influence. Many Canadian Christians long for the “good old days when the church was viewed positively – a beneficial institution that created good citizens. In that old world we enjoyed popularity, privilege, political power and moral hegemony. It is too easy for us to assume that our good standing in the old world is the plan of God. Many who believe this want the church to work politically to reclaim that power and privilege or to save “the family.” But the call of God has always been to pick our cross and follow Him. Jesus seems to call us to something bigger than the nuclear family. He calls His church to be a family of faith that welcomes prophets and offers a cold cup of water to the least of His followers.
We all understand how much the culture in Canada has changed. I will be sending you an extended book review on Bruce Clemenger’s book “The New Orthodoxy” very soon. He outlines how the political and moral landscape in Canada has shifted over the 30 years he has worked in Ottawa with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. What we are not called to is fear. And the church is also not called to forcibly try to recapture the popularity, privilege, political power and moral control that we once had. Our call of announcing the Kingdom is not as difficult yet as it was for the early church. But it may get more difficult for us than it has been. May we avoid reacting in fear and looking to political saviors to restore the old good standing in society that was so comfortable for us.
EFCC Executive Director