Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Mission Shaped by Hope

Presently, I am reading the insightful book by N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church. In the final chapter, he argues that the hope that he has described in the book (a hope that is rooted in God's promise to recreate all things, including the physical bodies of his children) is intended to shape the mission of the Church. He writes:

"A mission-shaped church must have its mission shaped by its hope; that the genuine Christian hope, rooted in Jesus' resurrection, is the hope for God's renewal of all things, for his overcoming of corruption, decay, and death, for his filling of the whole cosmos with his love and grace, his power and glory ... Think through the hope that is ours in the gospel; recognize the renewal of creation as both the goal of all things in Christ and the achievement that has already been accomplished in the resurrection and go to the work of justice, beauty, evangelism, the renewal of space, time, and matter as the anticipation of the eventual goal and the implementation of what Jesus achieved in his death and resurrection."

I could not agree more heartily with Dr. Wright. Here is what I want to explore though. How does the NT link the hope of new creation to the mission of the church? I can already think of several times that the Apostle Paul makes the link. For example, after a lengthy exposition for the Corinthians of our hope of resurrection that is rooted in the resurrection of Christ, the second Adam, he concludes with this commission.

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Cor 15.58, NIV).

Thus, I would like to pose this question. "How does the NT root the mission of the Church in our hope that was secured by Easter?" This is especially relevant for our church as in God's providence, we prepare for Mission Month in April, right after we celebrate Easter!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Confessions of a Small Gospel

Many are writing today about the smallness of the Gospel that many evangelicals are preaching. For example, Scot McKnight wrote an excellent article in Christianity Today this month on the need for "A More Robust Gospel."

One of the weaknesses of the gospel many are preaching today is that the Church is no where to be found. All too often it is never mentioned that a commitment to Christ also includes a commitment to his people. The Apostle Paul did not separate these two commitments. Rather he saw them as one and the same.

"... while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what it good" (Titus 2.14, NIV).

The Anglican theologian, John Stott, agrees. "From the Day of Pentecost onward it has been clear that conversion to Christ means also conversion to the community of Christ, as people turn from themselves to him, and from 'this corrupt generation' to the alternative society which he is gathering around himself. These two transfers--of personal allegiance and social membership--cannot be separated" (The Cross of Christ, pg. 249).

Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us love and proclaim the gospel that is as large as the one proclaimed by the Apostles!