I am reading through President Obama’s commencement speech delivered to the 2010 University of Michigan Graduating Class (you can read his entire speech here). To his credit, the President calls for return of civility in public discourse that seems to be a lost art in the culture of the day.
The President also raised a question to the graduates that makes me want to raise a different question to the church. President Obama mentioned how for more than two-hundred years Americans have kept the democracy going. He then asked “And so now, class of 2010, the question for your generation is this: How will you keep our democracy going?”
Well, I don’t know the answer to that question and the deeper and deeper I am dawn into the gospel of Jesus Christ, the less and less I am concerned about the answer to that question.
It does prompt me to ask another question to the church living in America: For two-thousand years now the gospel has been carried forth, now the question for us is this: How will we keep the gospel going forth?
Please don’t misunderstand me and think that I believe the mission of God hinges upon us, because I don’t. Yet I do believe that we, the church, are called to be faithful witnesses of the gospel, proclaiming it in word and deed and I do believe this missional task we have been called to can only be accomplished when we make it our primary, if not singular, business. But how many Christians have instead made preserving democracy the primary objective? How many Christians have made personal financial security their primary objective? Careers? Hobbies? Family? Pleasure? None of these pursuits are inherently evil yet when they are placed ahead of the gospel, it is the gospel that fails…and we wonder how and why the American culture is becoming a post-Christian culture, even at times hostile to Christianity.
When we read about missional church movements within Christian history, what we find is a group of Christians whose passion was the gospel. They lived it, breathed it, believed it and at times did so even at the greatest cost to them… As the picture above shows, they bore witness (martyrdom) to the gospel with their very own blood. That is so different from approaching the gospel in a way that reduces it to a private practice within a church building, that emasculates it from having anything to do with the public life at large and yet when Christians allow the preservation of the secular…politics, careers, hobbies, etc…to be placed above the pursuit of the gospel then it is the gospel that is reduced and emasculated to a mere religion among religions, a mere option that demands not a response, a mere barking dog that can be let outside and told to shut up.
So my question for the church living in America is this: How will we keep the gospel going forth?