It’s official – we live in a world that’s been turned upside down. Our society has been sliding down a slippery slope of moral relativism for decades, while the church has been turning more inward every day – isolating itself from the chaos yet losing sight of the mission.
To say we’re in a missional crisis is an understatement, yet the standard Christian responses to this crisis are to ignore, deny, or defend our lack of evangelistic passion. The vast majority of Christian churches in America are either plateaued or declining, but this decline in numbers is only a surface consequence of some deeper spiritual issues.
How should a Christian respond to this chaos? Should we run and hide, stand and fight, or just kneel and pray? One thing is certain; our current strategy of isolation and separation is not working. It’s time to turn the church inside out again.
I want to suggest five simple solution steps found in my book, Inside Out: Christian Hope in a World of Contradictions. I will present the first here, and another step in each of the next five issues of The Christian Index.
What can possibly reverse this social trend and bring spiritual awakening to our society? The only hope for a world turned upside down is a church turned inside out. So how do we do that in the Twenty-first Century? The first step toward turning our churches inside out is to drop the rocks.
When facing the cultural chaos of the day, believers tend to do one of two things. We either aggressively confront the lost world with militant debates that push people away from Jesus, or we turn our frustrations inward on other Christians. Some people choose both options. Many Christ-followers believe they’ve been called to convert people to adhere to a particular form of Christian morality, hoping to force the social change necessary to make America the nation it once was. But this approach makes a lost man or woman the target of aggression rather than a prospect for grace.
God has not called His church to a militant “ministry” strategy that makes sinners the enemy of the church. In fact, sinners were the entire reason Jesus came to this world. Consider His words in Luke 5:31-32, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Yes, Christians are surrounded by a wicked world that has no spiritual power to truly live righteously, yet we posture ourselves in an argumentative position, attempting to twist the arms of handcuffed men and women bound by their own rebellion. While believers must stand for truth without compromise, that stand must be wrapped in God’s love. We must drop the rocks! Stop hurling hurt at the world Jesus died for.
In addition to the Christian militants attacking the lost world in the name of biblical defense, there are compromisers who surrender their convictions completely, assuming there is no real hope for missional success without doctrinal compromise. While Christians must be a living demonstration of God’s love, we will never reach the world by diluting the gospel! Watering down the truth is just as bad as casting stones at the guilty.
Still, the vast majority of Southern Baptists are doctrinally sound on major issues of the faith, yet these external extremes create a tension even within our convention that turns brother against brother on a number of theological and methodological issues. So internal battles rage, brother against brother and Christian against the culture. Neither war sanctioned by the King, and both are destructive to the mission assigned to us 2,000 years ago.
So what is the answer? If we’re going to turn our churches inside out we must embrace the complete gospel, which is a practical balance between message and mission. Some people are extremely committed to an intellectual understanding of the scriptures, but are not as committed to practically living out the gospel in everyday life. Many believers hold the false assumption that missional success can only be a result of doctrinal compromise. This has led to a perceived separation of evangelism and doctrinal integrity. A growing number of believers seem to do everything they can to discredit and demonize the evangelistic methods of others simply because they themselves are not faithfully reaching out to the lost.
Can a Christian be faithful to both the doctrinal message and the missional method? The answer is yes! When did we start criticizing churches for obeying the Great Commission? We have developed a battle plan, not against the true enemy, but against our brothers in Christ. Friendly fire abounds as we throw stones at young and old, contemporary and traditional, Calvinist and Armenian, mega churches and small churches, racial majority and racial minority, and any number of additional categories.
It’s so easy for pastors to become self-righteous and prideful, declaring other churches to be weak or other pastors to be soft simply because they do things differently. It’s easy for church leaders to defensively vilify others simply because they are not experiencing the same level of evangelistic success. The church is the vehicle by which Christ is redeeming His people. You’re it! We must stop making excuses and get to work!
Yes we live in a crazy day where the world has been turned upside down. But the truth is still truth, and Jesus still changes lives. He has called the church to be the light in this darkness, and to rescue the perishing who are hopelessly lost in the chaos of the day. The only hope for a world turned upside down is a church turned inside out. So let’s drop the rocks and get busy building bridges to the cross.