mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation, conversion

In trying hard to include everything, a point can be reached where it becomes hard to exclude anything. Put a handful of topics on the table for discussion - mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation, conversion - and it won't be long before many of the older liberals (in the 1980s) and the younger postmoderns (in the 2010s), wanting to be authentic Christians, are experiencing authentic anxiety.

Not so long ago I was staying at a Christian ecumenical centre. A beautiful campus dotted with all sorts of signs, from the weird to the wonderful ... and with those signs, the bad ol' days battling the more liberal brand of ecumenicity as a young Baptist pastor came flooding back to me.

What was all that about?

One of my issues with that ecumenicity (in the 1980s) - together with some of the younger, cooler postmoderns (in the 2010s) - is that they go to the Gospels looking for love, but lose sight of some of the truth along the way. For example, they are big fans of the Jesus who said that love is the greatest commandment, but when it comes to Jesus saying, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me" - they run and hide, lest they be considered exclusive. For them, nothing could be worse than being exclusive. They are big fans of hammering the church in Ephesus (and today) for losing its first love and not being inclusive enough - but, keep going, folks. There are six more churches in Revelation 2 & 3. What happened to hammering the church in Thyatira (and today) for not being exclusive enough? This ain't no buffet-line where you pick and choose the bits you like - and leave the bits you don't like.

This is why I've tended to see evangelicalism to be the true ecumenism because it is transparently committed to finding the biblical tension in inclusion and exclusion, in loving what Jesus loves and hating what Jesus hates ... that is, until a few misguided Americans changed the meaning of the word 'evangelical' by over-politicizing it and right-wingifying it. What a sadness this has been. Now the word is damaged goods...

But the words on the table do not change.

Mission. Evangelism. Dialogue. Salvation. Conversion.
Every generation needs to engage them - biblically.

In the 1970s, John Stott did so in his little Christian Mission in the Modern World. Now, in the 2010s, in a publishing masterstroke, the same book has been 'updated and expanded' - and doubled, effectively - by having Chris Wright contribute chapters on the very same topics. The invitation was 'to relieve the (earlier) book of some of its more dated material and to add some reflections of my own on each of the chapters' (12). It works well.

I was reading this book while I was reading those signs at the ecumenical centre. It provided quite the conversation in my head! Sure, sometimes the book can feel like the Lausanne Covenant (with John Stott, as its chief architect) is playing ping-pong with the Cape Town Commitment (with Chris Wright, as its chief architect) - but there is no denying its usefulness (or, the usefulness of these two creed-like documents). It remains a book for close study - personally, in home groups, in classrooms - by those who wish to have God's call to their vocation be marked by a gracious and courageous biblical faithfulness.

My generation needed that book by Stott so desperately. It fed us. It settled us. It focused us. It emboldened us within the ecumenical milieu. Now my children's generation desperately needs 'the updated and expanded' version - but do they realise it? That is the question. It would feed them. It would settle them. It would focus them. It would embolden them within the postmodern milieu.

nice chatting



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