HOW IN THE WORLD?: 

THE GREATEST CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH IN THE  21ST CENTURY

 

Scriptures:  Matt 16.16ff; Matt 25; II Cor 5.16ff; Cols 1.17; 24ff; Eph 1.10; 4.11ff

 

How The Church is in the world is the single most vital challenge to The Church in the 21st Century.  A viable solution to this challenge must necessarily answer the following six questions:

 

                  1.  What is the role of The Church in World History?

                  2.  What strategies are appropriate to its mission?

                  3.  What is the relationship of the ChurchŐs life in an authentic community and the message it proclaims?

                  4.  What are the identify marks of authenticity?

                  5.  How can the message be contextualized without being compromised? (Role & Identity)

                  6.  What is essential to an Authentic Witness in contrast to such examples as:

                                    a.  Correct Organization

                                    b.  Clerical Structure

                                    c.  Perfection in Lifestyle

                                    d.  Ecstatic experience of the Holy Spirit

 

Historically, the following six models of The Church have each in their own way attempted to answer these questions:

 

                  1.  Classical Roman Catholic Model (modified since Vatican II, eg. Kung (Pilgrim/Servant;

                  2.  Reformation Model, egs. Augsburg Confession (1530 A.D.) affirms that the Nature and Unite of The Church is grounded in right teaching and the practice of baptism and the LordŐs Supper;

                  3.  Mystical Model, i.e., the real Church is invisible;

                  4.  Charismatic vs. Institutional Model, i.e., no form or content, only freedom and fellowship;

                  5.  Denominational Model, i.e., Religious Pluralism;

                  6.  Restoration Heritage Model--unity imperative for evangelism.

 

In Matthew 25, JesusŐ supreme concern is for The Church: Deeds of Men/Verdict of God judged in accordance to the reaction to human need.  Presently, few if any of these classical models are effectively carrying out GodŐs design for His Church.  Today we plunge into some of the essential features of GodŐs design, function and strategy for positively responding to the urgent question, How is The Church to exist in the world?

 

GodŐs Design and Functions of The Church:  Functions in Society:

 

                  1.  The Church functions as Worshipper.

                  2.  The Church functions as An Advocate conserving function of affirming human needs and means of meeting them.

                  3.  The Church functions as A Critic as it cannot uncritically affirm anything that is purely human.

                  4.  The Church functions as A Teacher who instructs, empowers, directs.

                  5.  The Church functions as A Pastor with concern and care.

                  6.  The Church functions as A Partner who cooperates with both public and private agencies which care for those in need.

                  7.  The Church functions as A Pioneer more than a critic and co-worker.  It must stimulate and inspire.

 

But how is the Church to carry out these functions?

 

Design and Strategy for Fulfilment:  Often individual congregations are organized to accomplish only a single factor of GodŐs revealed design, such as-- (cf. Conversion and Commitment)

 

                    Organized to:                                                                                   Activity

                  1.  Save souls                                                                                 1.  Winning

                  2.  Fight evil                                                                                  2.  Warning

                  3.  Inspire                                                                                         3.  Wholeness

                  4.  True home                                                                                 4.  Fellowship

                  5.  Separate from the world                                     5.  Witness

                  6.  Invade                                                                                         6.  Liberation

                  7.  Reconcile/Healing                                                                  7.  Discipling

 

The Challenge of GodŐs Design in the 21st Century:

 

                  Eight Dimensions of our salvation in the body of Christ:  GodŐs strategy for His Church is at least the following as The Church has both a ministry to itself and to the world.

 

1.  Share GodŐs concern for justice (Isa 1.17; 42.1,3; Prov 29.4; Ps 146.7)

2.  Share GodŐs concern for reconciliation (II Cor 5.19,20; Matt 5.23,24)

3.  Share GodŐs concern for liberation from every kind of oppression (Isa 61.1,2; Gal 5.1; Col 1.13; Lk 4.11ff; Jn 8.36; II Tim 4.16,17; I Cor 7.21)

4.  Share GodŐs respect for the dignity of every person (Jas 3.9; I Peter 2.17; Romans 12.10)

5.  Share GodŐs mandate to exploit no one (widows, orphans, poor, old) (James; Deut 12.2; Acts 6; Gal 5.13; Hebrews 6.10)

6.  Share GodŐs concern by serving every person (Matt 20.28; 8.15; Lk 12.37; 8.3; Jn 12.2; Acts 6; Gal 5.13; Heb 6. 10)

7.  Share in GodŐs holiness by denouncing evil and injustice (Isa 1; 58; Jer 7; 26; 34; Amos 4; Matt 3; 21.13; 23)

8.  Seek to exhibit the righteousness of the kingdom of Christ (II Cor 5.15; Romans 6.4; Titus 2.14)

 

Conclusion:  In the Post Modern world of the 21st Century, ŇThere is considerable cause that always, perhaps mainly, the truth of Christianity is measured by its ethics.  Therefore, a sound ethic, so far as it does not remain only theory, belongs to the necessary equipment of the Church of its evangelism and mission is to succeed.Ó  (A. Schlatter, Die Christlich Ethik, 2nd edition (Stuttgart: Calwer Verlage, 1929), p. 44; see also R. Lovelace, The Dynamics of Spiritual Life (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1979)

Dr. James Strauss, Lincoln Christian Seminary, Lincoln, IL