Coming Together on Culture, Part 2: Practical Issues

In the last post , we Talked acerca a number of recent books That critique Both the Cultural Transformationist and the "Two Kingdoms" Approaches to Christ and culture. But for many churches and Christian leaders are the more practical issues. Is the mission of the church to evangelize locally and produce disciples? Or is it to do justice and transform culture? Or is it an equal emphasis and combination of both?

Those who talk more engagement of justice and culture are fearful of social marginalization. Without That emphasis, THEY believe, non-Christians in Their settings will see the church as a useless and divisive institution That should not be tolerated. Those who stress evangelism and discipleship talk instead of the reality of limited resources. It would simply overwhelm the Local church to try to meet the endless economic and equipment needs of the city, they say. Besides there are plenty of agencies Doing That, while the church alone is calling people to conversion through faith in the gospel. So Should the church use its limited financial resources almost exclusively on evangelism and the ministry of the Word.

How do we resolve this? First, We Should Establish That the ministry of the Word is the priority for the Local church. The first thing I need to tell people When they come to church is "believe in Jesus," not "do justice." Why? First, Because believing in Jesus meets a human need more radical and, second, Because If They do not believe in Jesus That They Will not have gospel-motivation to do justice in the world. So the first priority of the church under its Local elders is to make disciples, not to do housing rehabilitation or feed the poor.

However, the church must disciple and support its members so they "love their neighbor", integrate Their faith in Their Work, and seek a more just and wholesome society and culture. This means That Within the church there must be a great deal of teaching, preaching, and emphasis on how to be Christian in the public sphere and how to be loving servants in our neighborhood. And of course There should be strong "deacon" or mercy ministry Within the congregation to meet the economic needs of members and materials. Nevertheless, while the church disciples its people to help the poor and be Christian film-makers, the congregation Should not, for example, own low income housing nor start a film production company. So, we hold the institutional church That Should Give priority to Word ministry. However, We Also Teach That Christians must do Both word and deed ministry in the world, and the church Should equip them to do so.

What about the notion of "limited resources"? Most of the members give money for Redeemer Within the congregation mercy ministry and service to the needy in the city comes out through special offerings and Designated annual giving. One special offering is taken at Christmas and goes to diaconal ministry Within the church. Another special offering is taken at Easter and goes to Hope for New York , a Christian 501 (C) 3 birthed out of Redeemer That does all sorts of mercy and justice ministry in the city. A lot of other giving to mercy and justice comes from our membership through personal gifts. Many Reformed churches have diaconal ministry This Way funded over the centuries, With second or "special" offerings taken on communion Sundays or on other special occasions for the diaconal fund. The money was then used to meet needs inside the congregation and in the neighborhood. Meanwhile basic Word ministry is funded from Regular offerings and not from special or Designated giving.

This works very well. The special offerings do not cut into the Regular offerings very much. They are Generally new monies over and above regularly giving. The existence of dynamic and compassionate ministry to the needy draws out giving That would not eat if you did not give people the opportunity to give as direct Their Hearts. So Word ministry and acts of service are not an "either-or." It is not a zero sum game. In fact, I have Seen That When people see a church caring acerca its community in tangible ways, there is a lot of goodwill, and it makes people more willing to give to the Regular offerings as well. So there is no trade-off. We have found That if you fund mercy-justice in This Way, it only Increases the overall giving to Word ministry.

What about the charge That "we do not have the money or resources to feed all the hungry"? But we do not Have the money or resources to "take the gospel to every creature" in the city either. We do what we can with what we have.

What about the concern for "relevance"? If the church is giving a priority to Word ministry, our city will think us useless? No. We have shown how a church can give priority to the Word and show great concern Nonetheless for the poor in its message and raise lots of financial and human resources for the poor in its ministry. And the better the church's ministry of the Word, the more it will fill the City with mature Christians doing "salt and light" work, tackling the needs of the needy in sympathy and service. The Local church and its Lord can and Should get a lot of credit for that.