Christian Existence and the Mission of the Church -- By: John Peter Lewis

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 013:3 (Summer 2004)
Article: Christian Existence and the Mission of the Church
Author: John Peter Lewis

Christian Existence and the Mission of the Church

John Peter Lewis

Today’s post-modernist culture has forced a new contextual reality upon the churches. The old modernist ways do not suffice anymore and new ways of doing local mission are needed. As these new changes occur the opportunity arises to reflect on the mistakes of the past and forge a new way grounded in a theology of the Word of God. As our environment is analyzed one can observe a Western culture that continues to excel in a growing obsession with itself and its consumer needs. Also important to it are its experiences, relationships, narratives and technology. There are important lessons to be learned from observing our new mission environment. In any place and time important cultural links need to be made between the gospel and culture. Problems arise, however, when older methods cease to be meaningful, when the science of evangelism amounts to shallow or poorly done theology, and a growing compliance to culture becomes pervasive. Donald Bloesch has wisely referred to this last phenomenon as the church’s “capitulation to demoralizing forces within culture.”1

The time is right for change. Many churches now find that the results once dreamed of have not materialized. In any case, modernist approaches, with their rationalist structures, statistics, surveys and “God delivered” strategies, make little

sense to a post-modernist culture. Indeed, surrender to the needs of the world has only left a needs-oriented generation hungry for more and divinely justified in its quest for self-actualization. What is needed, in contrast, are churches that pride themselves on their faithfulness to Christ, and who seek to evangelize on the Bible’s terms alone. The way forward can only be through a renewal based on the preaching of the Word and an accompanying theology of the Word. The church can only respond to the command of Scripture appropriately as it proclaims the message of the costly sacrifice of the Son of God, and the costly repentance and perseverance in faith required of all.

The foundation and center of this proposed renewal must be Jesus Christ. It is only in Christ that today’s church can understand its true nature and the task that is before it. However, a return to the past is not recommended here. A church based on a quest for doctrinal elitism or stylistic superiority only robs the gospel of its heart, and is unlikely to survive in our post-modern world. What is needed is a theology of the Word of God that engages meaningfully with its mission environment. Therefore, today’s church needs a relevant, thorough and passionate evangelical theology that is disce...

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