The Community of the King, by Howard A. SnyderThe
of the
Howard A. Snyder
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Taken from "The Community of the King" by Howard A. Snyder. Copyright (c) 1977 InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA.
Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515.

Chapter 6

The very existence of the Christian community is a sign of the Kingdom of God. But, as we have seen, the Church also is responsible to walk in those good works which God prepared before hand. It must continue in the world the works of Jesus Christ.

The role of the Church is both evangelistic and prophetic, without being exclusively one or the other. Authentic evangelization is itself prophetic, and a truly prophetic voice is evangelistic. The Church is called to be prophetically evangelistic and evangelistically prophetic.

In one sense evangelism is good news and prophecy is bad news. Evangelism and prophecy make up the positive and negative charges of the Church's spiritual power. Evangelism proclaims the offer of forgiveness, new life in Christ and new lifestyle in Christian community. Prophecy proclaims that even if this offer is rejected, God is still sovereign and will finally establish his Kingdom in righteousness and in judgment. Evangelism is the offer of present salvation; prophecy is the assurance of final judgment.

There are many ways the Church's kingdom tasks may be viewed. One might simply list the kinds of things the Church should be doing. Or the Church's responsibilities in relation to the individual, the family, the State, the environment and
the world might each be considered. In this chapter, however, I have chosen simply to outline the Church's evangelistic and prophetic roles while emphasizing that this implies no dichotomy between the two.

The Evangelistic Mandate just as most biblical images for the Church imply life, so do they suggest growth or reproduction. It is of the nature of the Church to grow and multiply itself, just as God's plan has always involved the charge, "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). To this life principle is added the urgency of the Great Commission, the words of the risen Christ.

The mandate for proclamation and witness is central in God's cosmic plan, for this plan centers in what God is doing for people (the redemption that brings eternal salvation and builds the Church). And it should be equally clear that the evangelistic task is not - merely the task of individual believers but is a function of the Church as the community of God's people.

Two of the most characteristic words in Acts are marturein, "to bear witness" (from which comes the English word martyr) and euaggelizesthai, "to proclaim the gospel" (from which comes the English word evangelize). Both these words occur in one form or another over twenty times in Acts. The great concern and dynamic of the early church was to tell the good news about Jesus and the resurrection; to bear witness to what had been seen, heard and experienced.'

Some writers on the Church have emphasized the word kerygma, referring to the preaching of the early church. It is clear from the New Testament documents, however, that the essential message of the first Christians was more than a fixed kerygmatic formula, and it was more than formal preaching. Most certainly it was more than the disciples' proclamation of a subjective, existential interpretation of the "resurrection event." Rather the kerygma or preaching was grounded in the telling of the good news about the resurrection of Christ which the first Christians had witnessed. Both the clear meaning of the book of Acts and a more technical word study reveal the priority of witness and gospel proclamation in the early church .2

Michael Green suggests in Evangelism in the Early Church that marturia rather than kerygma (witness rather than preaching) should probably be considered the characteristic word of New Testament evangelism .3 When the first Christians proclaimed the good news they were witnesses, and when they died as martyrs (martures) they were witnesses. The evangelistic task involved-and involves today-witness both by word and by life. The early Christians had seen and experienced (I Jn. 1:1-3) the good news; their eyewitness formed the basis for preaching.

The evangelistic task of the Church is to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ throughout the world, making disciples and building the Church. It is to fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15 and Acts 1:8. Although the role of the Church in God's plan does not end with the evangelistic task, it begins here; the realization of God's purpose depends on this task being carried out.

I would quickly make three points here. First, evangelism is the first priority of the Church's ministry in the world. This is true for several reasons: the clear biblical mandate for evangelism; the centrality and necessity of personal conversion in God's plan; the reality of judgment; the fact that changed persons are necessary to change society; the fact that the Christian community exists and expands only as evangelism is carried out. The Church that fails to evangelize is both biblically unfaithful and strategically shortsighted.

Some object to what they call the "prioritization of evangelism" as betraying the wholeness of the gospel. Should evangelism really be put first? The basic priority of the Church is to glorify God. That takes precedence even over evangelism, although evangelism may be a way of glorifying God. But evangelism can be either authentic or a betrayal of the gospel depending on how it is carried out. An evangelism which focuses exclusively on souls or on an otherworldly transaction which makes no real difference here and now is unfaithful to the gospel. An evangelism of cheap grace which does not call for true, present allegiance to Jesus as Lord is not true evangelism.

What is needed is the kind of radical evangelism which calls people to Jesus Christ and his body and to identification with the people Jesus showed concern for. Men and women need to have their sins forgiven; they need to be born again through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. But they must know that this regeneration means loyalty to Jesus as Lord as well as Savior. Evangelism must involve, says Gilbert James, "a reuniting of the personal and social aspects of Christian experience that emphasizes total obedience to Christ as Lord in every category of life."4

Second, evangelism is essentially witness. That is, the various elements that make up evangelism spring from experiencing what God has done in Christ and in the Church. Evangelism is bearing witness, in various ways and through various means, to what God has done.

To say evangelism is essentially witness is not to play down or deny the verbal proclamation of a specific message with specific content. Rather, it is to emphasize that evangelism is both the preaching of the good news and the demonstration of the good news.

This witness is giving testimony to what God has done in history, supremely in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the proclamation and demonstration of the liberation Jesus brings. This liberation is first of all spiritual and moral: man is liberated from the power of sin and brought into fellowship with God and with fellow believers. It is also social and political, though not in the sense that it requires or justifies a particular political program. Because the Church is a collective, social reality, it is (when faithful to the gospel) both a political fact and a political challenge.'

Third, witness is a function of the Church-as-community. If the New Testament shows us the Peters and Pauls going abroad preaching the gospel, it also presents us with the reality of the Christian community which served both as the enabler and the verification of gospel proclamation. The New Testament evangelists were faithful verbal witnesses largely because the Christian community was a faithful witness through its common life and its action in the world. Witness and community go together. A concept of evangelism which sees isolated individuals independently scattering the Word throughout the world, without regard for the life and witness of the Christian community, is truncated and self-defeating. Evangelism takes place through the life of the witnessing community (Jn. 13:35).

Church-Based Evangelism If the vision of the Church presented throughout this book is valid, then biblical evangelism must be church-based evangelism. That is, evangelism should spark church growth, and the life and witness of the Church should produce evangelism. In this sense the Church is both the agent and the goal of evangelism.

Church-centered evangelism is evangelism which builds the Church. It springs from the life and witness of the Christian community and results in the growth and reproduction of the community in an ongoing process.

Missiologist C. Peter Wagner and others have rightly criticized views of evangelism which do not go far enough in the direction of church growth. Speaking of "presence evangelism" and "proclamation evangelism," Wagner insists that neither is adequate, for evangelism must include persuasion. Christian presence must be the basis for Christian proclamation, and these together persuade people to come to Christ:

Presence --> Proclamation --> Persuasion

Biblical evangelism is concerned with results; it is concerned to reap, not just to sow. In this view, the ultimate aim of evangelism is to make disciples .6

But is it enough even to say the ultimate goal of evangelism is to make disciples? While making disciples certainly implies the formation and edification of the Christian community, this is only implicit, not explicit. To do justice to the biblical understanding of the Church we must go one step further and say that the goal of evangelism is the formation of the Christian community.' It is making disciples and, further, forming these disciples into living cells of the body of Christ, new expressions of the community of God's people. Church-based evangelism is concerned, then, with propagation (in the fundamental sense of reproduction or multiplication by generation) as well as with persuasion. Thus church-based evangelism can be more fully illustrated by this diagram:

Presence ----> Proclamation ----> Persuasion --> Propagation

In this process, propagation or reproduction feeds into a continuous cycle which, empowered by the Holy Spirit, makes the Church a dynamic, living organism. The goal of evangelism therefore is the formation of the Christian community, the koinonia of the Holy Spirit. This is not a total definition of evangelism, because it does not include the many possible motives and means involved. There may be various legitimate motives for evangelism. Still, the goal must always be the formation of the biblical Church. This is necessary in order to reach the really ultimate goal of evangelism: the glorification of God.

If new Christian congregations are being formed, then all other legitimate aims of evangelism are also being reached: Christians are present; they are proclaiming; conversions are taking place; disciples are being made. But if any of these preliminary steps is taken as the primary aim, the biblical growth cycle may be incomplete. Men and women may be genuinely converted and even taught to be disciples, but if they are not formed into the community of God's people, God's plan for the Church as agent of evangelism remains unfulfilled.

Before going into more detail concerning church growth, let us look at the prophetic role of the Church.
This and more sermons on the Gift of Prophecy

Salt, Light and Sheep among Wolves In his life and teachings, Christ showed concretely the values of the Kingdom of God. The Sermon on the Mount tells us what the Kingdom of God is like, the kinds of values and relationships that mark it.

The practical effect and importance of Christ's kingdom teachings have too often been kept in quarantine by two errors. One of these says Christ's words are exclusively for the definitively-established Kingdom and therefore have no application to the contemporary Church in history except as they show what the Kingdom will be (or should have been) like. This kind of dispensationalism must be rejected as unbiblical. It has the same effect as cutting such passages right out of the Bible and rests on a highly selective interpretation. It is the very teachings that strike us as impractical or impossible to apply to which the Church should pay close attention!

The other error says the Sermon on the Mount deals with personal ethics but not with social ethics; therefore the Church must look elsewhere (either to other scriptures or to "the scientific analysis of the class struggle" or to some other teacher) for guidance on social and political questions. This view rests on a false premise and a false dichotomy. The Sermon on the Mount, like Jesus' teachings in general, is highly social if it is anything. There is no dichotomy in Jesus between the individual and the social dimensions. The Christian community is a social fact, and in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus outlines the qualities cherished by that community. "The personhood which he proclaims as a healing, forgiving call to all is integrated into the social novelty of the healing community."8

So Jesus shows what the reign of God is like, and the Church's mission is to incarnate and demonstrate the values he taught. The Church is to be a sign of the Kingdom in the world.

Jacques Ellul defines the Christian's function in the world in terms of three figures used by Christ: the salt of the earth, the light of the world and sheep among wolves.9 Each of these figures suggests a specific function of the Church.

Salt suggests the Church's role of preservation. As salt the Church is a sign of the covenant between God and his people (Lev. 2:13). The Church, in covenant relationship with God, leavens society and its structures, preserving them from death and braking the world's mad drive toward self-destruction. It is Christ who moment by moment sustains the fallen creation (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:17), and at its own level the Church shares in this sustaining work.

As light the Church is a means of revelation to men. The Church has no revelation in itself, of course; but it is "a community under the Word." Not only does it live in fidelity to the Word; its function is also to bring the light of the Word to bear on the world and show the true nature of the world's problems. It can do this only because it has first received and obeyed God's Word. Here the Christian's role goes beyond preservation: "He reveals to the world the truth about its condition, and witnesses to the salvation of which it is an instrument."10

Finally, the Church lives as sheep among wolves. This suggests the demonstration in the flesh of the reality of the Kingdom. Christ is the Lamb of God, and his little flock, the Church, enters the Kingdom by the same door Jesus had to pass through. Jesus' sacrifice was once and final, but "the life laid down" is the permanent ethical principle for the Church. The only true Christian ethics is crucifixion ethics. Ellul explains:

In the world everyone wants to be a "wolf, " and no one is called to play
the part of a "sheep." Yet the world cannot live without this living
witness of sacrifice. That is why it is essential that Christians should
be very careful not to be "wolves" in the spiritual sense-that is, people
who try to dominate others. Christians must accept the domination of
other people, and offer the daily sacrifice of their lives, which is united
with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. l 1

The Prophetic Role These comments suggest the basic character of the Church's prophetic role. More specifically, I would outline the following four ways in which the Church fulfills its prophetic function.

1. The Church is prophetic when it creates and sustains a reconciled and reconciling community of believers (2 Cor. 5:16-21; Col. 1:21-23; Phil. 2:1-11; Eph. 2:1-22). When this happens, evangelism takes on prophetic dimensions. Reconciliation with God must be demonstrated by genuine reconciliation within the Christian community and by a continuing ministry of reconciliation in the world.

This means that in each local Christian assembly reconciliation must be more than a theory and more than an invisible spiritual transaction. Reconciliation must be real and visible. Racial and economic exploitation and all forms of elitism (including that of a professionalized clergy) must be challenged biblically. Unholy divisions in the body of Christ must be seen as sin and worldliness (1 Cor. 3:3-4). Likewise the local church must work to bring full reconciliation between marriage partners, parents and children, and employer and employee when alienation and discord in these relationships are discovered within the Church (Eph. 5:1-6:9).

Such a community of reconciliation can exist in the world only in active tension with surrounding culture. The differences and distance between the Christian community and the larger human community will vary from one time and place to another, depending on the extent to which culture is godless and under Satan's dominion. As society becomes more godless, the Church must increasingly both see itself and actually structure itself as a self-conscious counterculture. This is necessary for its own faithfulness to the gospel and for any truly prophetic role in the world. In much of the world the Church is moving into an era when it must increasingly take on the marks of a counterculture.

2. The Church is prophetic when it recognizes and identifies the true enemy (Mt. 10:28; Lk. 12:4-5; Eph. 6:12; Rom. 8:38-39; 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 12:9; 20:2, 14). Satan's trick is to point to false enemies and pose false alternatives. Man in his sin clouded blindness eagerly follows, for he is only too ready to believe that the real villain is someone else (not himself) and the real power is some impersonal force or historical process (fate, destiny, progress, technology, dialectic-or even "the will of God" in an impersonal, abstract sense). Adam and Eve's reaction in the Garden after their Fall illustrates this moral buck-passing.

Man's true enemy is Satan and the "principalities and powers" under his control (Eph. 6:12 RSV). Therefore true liberation always means first of all breaking the bondage of sin at the personal level through the power of Jesus Christ. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace" (Eph. 1:7). This means being "made alive" after having been "dead in . . . transgressions and sins" (Eph. 2:1). Salvation begins here; this is the one indispensable narrow gate which Satan wants to block, for it is here that man dies to himself, repudiates Satan and acknowledges God as sovereign and Jesus Christ as the only way to God and thus to God's Kingdom (Acts 4:12).

Satan would introduce a shortcut to the Kingdom that bypasses the cross and gets himself off the hook as the archenemy. He perpetually holds out before the Church the same temptation he suggested to Jesus: "All this I will give you . . . if you will bow down and worship me" (Mt. 4:9). Jesus' response is the permanent command for God's people: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only" (Mt. 4:10).

The temptation to accept substitute gods and counterfeit satans is always before the Church. At various periods in history the Church has been deceived into warring against false archenemies: Turks, Saracens, insubordination to the hierarchy, rebaptism, the Indians, the Jews, Negroes, whites, Nazism, communism, socialism, the bourgeoisie, capitalism, imperialism. In the name of opposition to these enemies Christians have been willing to put others to death; for when the Church accepts Satan's definition of the enemy, she also readily adopts Satan's tactics.

The Church must see clearly enough both to identify the true enemy and to discern how and where Satan is working today. 12 Satan does work through social structures, ideologies, movements and persons. But the Church must see the enemy behind the enemy in order to avoid false alternatives and a false definition of the problem. She must not reduce faith to ideology-even a religious ideology-and thereby compromise the very gospel itself.

False enemies call forth false solutions which usually are the reverse image of the supposed culprit. Thus the Church is tricked into fighting on the enemy's turf and with his weapons. Too often the Church has let the world define the nature of the battle.

Thus if the foe is seen as communism, Christians are tempted to commit themselves unreservedly to free enterprise. If the enemy is "dependent capitalism and neocolonialism," Christians get behind Marxist socialism. If the danger is a point of doctrine, Christians turn orthodoxy into a bludgeon; if it is a specific behavior, conformity becomes a straitjacket.

The Church must always accept the Bible's definition of man's problem and its identification of the enemy. The Bible is very clear that "the last enemy to be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:26). The identification of this enemy can be a test for the Church. All ideologies, institutions, men and movements are powerless in the face of death. The Church is on target only if its warfare and struggle lead to victory over death. "What sort of savior or god would he be who could not or would not save us from death, sin, and hell?" wrote Martin Luther. "What the true God promises and carries out must be something big."'3 If the Church sees clearly and acts faithfully, it will share Christ's victory over literal, physical death and will also win many kingdom victories along the way. But if it is tricked into fighting false enemies, it will lose its redemptive power and be impotent at the gates of death.

3. The Church is prophetic when it renounces the world's definition and practice of power (Mt. 20:20-28; 23:1-12; Mk. 9:35-37; Lk. 9:46-48; 22:24-27; Jn. 13:12-17; Phil. 2:1-11; 1 Cor. 1:1831). Jesus talked about power, but he insisted that his followers see and use power differently from the way the world does.

The two passages in Matthew (20:20-28; 23:1-12) should be examined carefully. In Matthew 20:25-28, in response to James's and John's request for pre-eminent power in the coming kingdom and in answer to the other disciples' reaction to this request, Jesus said,

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Superficially it appears that the problem here is James's and John's desire for a position not legitimately theirs. But Jesus defines the situation more fundamentally: the world's concept of power must not operate within the Church. "Not so with you." Power in the Church is not a question of position or hierarchy or authority; it is a question of function and of service. The greatness of a Christian is not according to office, status, degrees or reputation, but according to how he or she functions as a servant.

In politics it is different. In politics "high officials exercise authority." But not in the Church. With one statement Jesus rejects the political model for the Church.

Similarly, in Matthew 23:1-12 Jesus rejects the religious hierarchical model. Religious leaders, like political leaders, exercise authority. But they do not practice what they preach. They are concerned about status, position and titles. But what does Jesus say about his own followers?

You are not to be called "Rabbi, "for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth `father, "for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called "teacher," for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. " (Mt. 23 :8-12)

Jesus shows here that the political mindset of Matthew 20: 25 had been assimilated by the established religious leaders. But he rejects it for the Church. Status and authority based on hierarchical position are totally foreign to the kind of community Jesus forms.

It could be argued, of course, that Jesus is merely exhorting to humility here, and not giving a fundamentally different basis of relationships from that of the world. But taken at face value, Jesus' statements in both these passages suggest something more fundamental: the servant or slave is the true model for ministry and relationships among Jesus' followers. And if these teachings were true for the Twelve, they are true for us. They express God's desire for the Christian community in the days between Christ's first and second comings.

What is it that Jesus is rejecting here, really? Is he not rejecting all power based on position and status rather than on Christian character and Christ likeness? This very idea is scandalous to the world for the world says power and position are synonymous and that the goal of power is to control. Jesus says the goal of the Christian is to serve others and glorify God, and the way to such service is through the cross. This is true power, however foolish it appears to the world.

The world is deluded. It believes that real power is a matter of politics. As Jacques Ellul reminds us, "There is a kind of cloud of confusion surrounding politics, a political obsession according to which nothing has significance or importance apart from political intervention and, when all is said and done, all issues are political. 1115 This supposed ultimate significance of politics is the "political illusion" to which the Church falls prey. "Therefore we reject all overestimation of political decisions, all idealizing of any political regime ...." 16 For politics is relative and by its very nature tends to pose relative questions in absolute terms.

The Church must reject making politics or the State ultimate and sacred. It must renounce political weapons in favor of the armor of God of Ephesians 6:10-20. This passage shows us both the weapons of the Church and, by contrast, those of the world. The stated weapons of the Church are truth, justice, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God and prayer. For each of these the world has its demonic distortion.

In place of truth the world brandishes propaganda. Propaganda is truth twisted for political ends. In secular warfare truth is not sacred but is merely a tool to be used. But in the Church it must not be so! There must be strict adherence to truth in every sense; there can be no compromising here, for God is the God of truth and Jesus Christ is the truth (Jn. 14:6).

In place of justice or righteousness the world substitutes violence and oppresion-and calls them justice. In human warfare righteousness is a victim in almost every sense. The Church must pursue justice defined in biblical terms and must steadfastly reject all violence, manipulation and injustice.

In place of the gospel of peace the world preaches the gospel of power. Liberation becomes a mere power struggle wherein political power is taken from the bad guys and given to the good guys. The weapon of the Church is to preach good news about the shalom Christ brings-peace with God, reconciliation among persons and harmony throughout God's creation. The Church renounces the gospel of power as both illusory and ultimately ineffective.

In place of faith the world creates ideology. Ideology is a false faith leading to total commitment to false gods (the Fuhrer, the State or the ideology itself). The world recognizes the value of faith; faith is functional. It is indispensable for warfare. And so faith becomes a technique, merely a means to an end, the tool of ideology. For the Church, "the shield of faith" means total commitment to and dependence on Jesus Christ (not on some "ism" or even "Christianity"). Personal relationship with the living, liberating Jesus is the best defense against ideology.

In place of salvation the world places a false, this-worldly utopia. The world secularizes Christian eschatology and then sacralizes the result. It defines a false Kingdom of God, shaped politically and economically, and then raises this goal to the level of absolute good. But the Church insists on the full biblical meaning of salvation.

In the place of the Word of God the world fabricates its own human sources of revelation. Most often these are science, technology, philosophy or a false messiah (whether political or religious). The Church has no faith in scientific analysis or technological breakthroughs except as these can be shown to be in harmony with the incarnate Word and the written Word. The quickening, discerning Word of God must always be the Church's ultimate source of revelation.

In place of prayer the world substitutes effective action. To the world, prayer is a cop-out and an opiate to keep people from what is really important. But the Church renounces this false view and insists that, in the light of the Word of God, prayer is effective action.

The Church must be marked by total and exclusive reliance on the armor of God. To the world this will appear as weakness and folly. "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; and chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (1 Cor. 1:27). The gospel and the Church are weak precisely where the world looks for strength. This is the pattern left us by Jesus Christ. Such renunciation of power shows the mystery and the absurdity of the Kingdom of God, and is truly prophetic.

4. The Church is prophetic when it works for justice in society (Ps.82:1-4; Amos 5:21-24; Lk. 3:10-14; 4:18-21; Mt. 11:4-6; Eph. 5:11). Christians bear a particular responsibility to the poor and oppressed. God's people are called to defend the cause of the poor and needy within each nation and worldwide. l' The treatment of the poor, the needy and "those who have no social power"18 becomes a test of the justness of any society or political system. Therefore when the Church works in behalf of the poor it is meeting specific human need and it is making a politically significant contribution.

The Church works for the physical and social needs of people not as though this were the primary or exclusive task of the Church but as a testimony that redemption and holiness (which are truly spiritual and moral) include every area of life.

In the political sphere the Church is concerned less about equality than about liberty and the safeguarding of personal rights and dignities, especially those of the defenseless. The gospel is first of all a message of liberation, and then, derivatively, of equality. An insistence on liberty is necessary to guarantee that any achieved equality not degenerate into a lowest common-denominator equalism understood in merely quantitative or economic terms.

Whether and how Christians should participate in political processes is a many-sided question that depends upon a multitude of factors. Perhaps we can conceive of a continuum, at one end of which is counterculture and at the other, political and social participation. In some contexts the Church must exist almost exclusively as a counterculture; in other situations society may be so leavened by the gospel that active political and social participation is possible. Between these two poles lies a broad range of likely roles for the Church. In any specific context, as culture deteriorates morally and spiritually and comes increasingly under Satan's domination, the Church must move progressively from active involvement to the counterculture stance. Presumably movement in the other direction would be possible under opposite conditions. These issues and circumstances require great spiritual discernment.

The Church is prophetic when it is truly the messianic community which reveals the nature of the Kingdom and the mind and stature of Jesus Christ. As it carries on the works of Christ it fulfills its kingdom tasks.

But this will never be a neat, clear-cut, triumphant road for the Church to follow. Obedience to the gospel in a world where Satan is still active means living with tension. This is part of the meaning of the Incarnation. The Incarnation makes sense only through faith in God. If it is faithful, the Church's career will largely parallel that of Jesus Christ.

We, as Christians, can never be sure we have all the answers or see all things clearly or are really "making progress." We are therefore constantly forced back to total dependence on the incarnate Christ. We should be alarmed when we are at home in the world or have total "peace of mind." Christian life in a non-Christian world is tension, stress and at times even agony. A whole system of social techniques aims to adjust the individual to the world and eliminate tensions. But being a Jesus-follower means accepting the scandal of Jesus' statements that he came to bring not harmony but discord; not peace but a sword (Mt. 10:34-36). For only thus may true peace finally come.

In summary, the Church's kingdom tasks include the proclamation of the gospel in such a way that men and women respond in faith and obedience to Jesus and join in building the Christian community. This community is a new social reality which, through its likeness to Christ and its renunciation of the world's definitions and tactics, reveals the true nature of God's reign. "Our Lord called and continues to call out a new society of persons unconditionally committed to exchanging the values of the surrounding society for the standards of Jesus' kingdom."19 Only on this basis can the Church work with integrity for justice and peace in the world. Thus the prophetic and evangelistic dimensions of the gospel are totally interwoven in the life and witness of the community of the King.

It may be helpful to backtrack a bit and explore a question raised earlier: What is the relationship between church growth and the Kingdom of God?


















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