Of the many issues that the church is tackling these days is how does the church meaningfully engage with the culture that is around us. We live in a culture that is increasingly secular. This secular culture has caused individual believers, churches, and denominations to really set themselves on a course of cultural engagement that falls somewhere on a spectrum of completely removing themselves from culture to completely embracing culture and adopting some or all of the secular values that go along with it. The struggle with either of these two extremes on the spectrum is that Jesus called us to do neither. Rather, Jesus called us to engage the world in meaningful ways without adopting the worlds values. The question becomes: how do we meaningfully do that?
The Great Commission
The last thing that the gospel of Matthew records Jesus saying to his disciples before ascending into heaven is what we refer to as the Great Commission. Jesus says, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus sent the disciples, and the believers that would come behind them, into the world to engage it. Not to be overwhelmed or distracted by the world, but to meaningfully engage the world with the specific intent of leading them to a relationship with God through the gospel.
Accordingly, the church carries the same mission; to meaningfully engage our world with the gospel for the purpose of seeing people come to a saving knowledge (both cognitive and experiential) of Jesus Christ. The church cannot follow the mission of its savior and lord if it has sequestered itself in ivory towers of echo chambers. The church must be in the culture building relationships so that the gospel may go out to the people who are wondering in darkness. Equally, the church cannot fulfill the calling of the Great Commission if it has sacrificed the biblical values for the secular values of the world we inhabit. Jesus called his disciples to be light, to be a city on a hill. His analogy made sense because light stands out against the darkness, it is something wholly different from the darkness. The values of the church are different from the values of the world, if the church adopts the values of the world than it will lose its distinctiveness from the world, and the gospel the church preaches will become meaningless to its secular hearers. Only when the church lives a better way, and loves a better way does the church fulfill the Great Commission.
Love Your Neighbor
Jesus tells the church that there are two great commands. The first is to love the Lord our God. The second love our neighbor as ourselves. Loving our neighbor is not always an easy task especially when we disagree with our neighbor on social and moral issues. Jesus, however, left
the church no wiggle room. Jesus loved us when we were sinners, when we were in willful, open, hostile, rebellion to God. He calls us to the same love for our neighbors, because that is how Jesus loves our neighbors. If the church is to carry the moniker of “people of God,” then we must love and live as such. Loving our neighbor, we must speak truth carefully, winsomely, boldly, and passionately before our culture, yet with gentleness and respect. Too often the church has been willing to substitute speaking the truth dogmatically for speaking the truth lovingly. That is not to say we back away from the truth, or downplay the truth, but to speak it lovingly by hearing the hurts, the struggles, and the needs of our communities and stepping into those hurts, struggles, and needs with truth, love, and resources.
Again, we cannot love our neighbors from ivory echo chambers, and we cannot love our neighbors by sacrificing the truth. If we are to love our neighbors, we must walk the line of lovingly listening to the culture while applying truth to the cultures struggles, challenges, and misunderstandings. After all, we love ourselves by giving grace to our failures, we love ourselves by submitting our failures to God’s truth, and we love ourselves by not vilifying ourselves in our failures. Jesus command is to love our neighbors in the same manner that we love ourselves.
Why is this podcast important? We want to have a conversation about how we meaningfully engage our culture with the truths of the gospel. We want to equip those who hear this conversation to have good conversations with family members, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances about their faith and the world that we all live in. Mostly we want to live what we believe in the way that brings the gospel into our community and put on display how much God loves that which He created.
Let the conversation begin…
Small Groups' Pastor at Northcliffe Baptist Church in Spring Hill, Florida.