Empirical Indicators, pt 4

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 13, 2004

4. The church understands itself as different
from the world because of its participation in the life, death, and resurrection
of its Lord.

What it looks like: In its corporate life
and public witness, the church is consciously seeking to conform to its
Lord instead of the multitude of cultures in which it finds itself.

Perhaps the trickiest balance to strike is the one between subversion and relevance.  This is a dynamic tension which cannot be codified.  We must be fluent in both biblical and cultural hermeneutics, with our praxis being directed by the authoritative presence of the Spirit.  How this praxis is developed and this authority is conveyed is worth a great deal of consideration.

Discipleship requires a willingness to follow the way of the cross and
share in the sufferings of Christ. The church is not getting its bearings
by the world’s standard of success– institutional status, power, or influence.
Rather, it witnesses to the truth of the Gospel that the one on the cross
is the way, the truth, and the life for the church. Jesus models what the
church is called to be. Thus the church is called to show hard evidence
that as a body of people it provides a collective witness to its crucified
savior. The church’s distinctive conduct, then, is frequently different
from and often in opposition to the world’s patterns of behavior. This
is particularly evident when the power of love, service, and sacrifice
for one another in the community is contrasted with the powers of hate,
violence, and domination in the world.

  • Members can readily give at least two or three instances when the church
    was willing to take risks, suffer, be looked down on, or be treated unjustly
    for the sake of the gospel.
  • Churches all too often play to the lowest common denominator, playing it safe as to offend as few as possible.  What would happen if the Church were to stand in solidarity with the oppressed?  Then the Church would be oppressed.

  •  The church practices love, sacrifice, and service
    in such a way that people from both within the church and in the wider
    community can point to their positive results.
  • This reminds me of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s proof for the existence of God. Our best argument for who Jesus is is our acting like him. 

  •  The church is becoming aware of, confessing,
    and turning away from its patterns of conformity to the world while it
    learns to follow Jesus Christ.
  • A friend of mine has been known to say "following Jesus is never cool."  Too often churches attempt to "attract" people by being cool, and afterwords inviting them to opt into deeper levels of discipleship.  The church shouldn’t be attractional in this way–we shouldn’t attract people with "the cool" only to challenge them later with the uncoolness of the Gospel. 

    for further reading . . .

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