A Question for the Church Living in America

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?

4 responses to “A Question for the Church Living in America

  1. I have a slightly different take, even as I am very concerned that I be ‘missional’ as a Believer. I believe ‘being’ trumps ‘doing’. We must first of all Be Eucharistic and Doxalogical Creatures, which is the fruit of union with the life-giving Trinity. The fruit of that is a ‘missional’ presence in the world. In fact, being the doxological and eucharistic people of God is the ground of all the rest of our doing in this world.
    Eucharist is both realization and manifestation of the Kingdom to Come in this present world and it is the midst of Eucharist, of breaking of Bread, as it were, that Jesus reveals Himself as resurrected Lord, giver of Life. Eucharist is not a mere mental ‘remembrance’ but an anamnesis- a bringing forth in the the present the Eternal content of salvation history. The Church then, which is His Body, is an anamnestic Presence in the world, bringing the saving content of His Incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension into the world- the breaking in of the New Order in upon the Old, the proclamation of the triumph of lover over death, the world, and hell.

    • Ben,

      I think your distinction between “doing” and “being” is spot on. And I fear taht for many professing Christians in America (as well as some other nations), being Church is not who they are but something that they “do” at times in life…which is the problem.

      Thanks for your comment.

      -Rex

  2. I’m not high on national zeal if by that we mean “Jesus=America;” though I do appreciate the land we live in for various reasons. However, there are pros and cons to a country such as ours. Pro: Freedom to worship Con: This freedom has brought apathy to American Christianity in unprecedented levels. Pro: How many people and dollars we have been able to send to spread the Gospel Con: The big lie called the American dream; which promises comfort and ease. Very antithetical to the calling we have.

    Having said that; and to answer your last question “How will we keep the gospel going forth?”:

    1) Actually preach the Word. Pulpits are filled these days with absolute garbage. Preachers need to stop being so darn lazy and get their nose in the Book; and elderships/congregations need to allow their preachers to be preachers (not bulletin writers and youth-group calendar organizers and whatever else I’ve seen on those insane want ads). And for God’s sake stay out of secular political issues.

    Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ!

    2) The Church needs to be the Church for those inside the Church first. How many millions of dollars do we ship off to unbelievers while the believing single girl next to me with 3 kids can’t pay her doctor bills? This is an abomination. When we don’t treat those in need inside the church the way we are instructed (give them a glass of water, clothe them, feed them, etc) where on earth do we get off trying to do it for the world? Jesus said take care of my disciples and Paul always stressed the care-taking of believers as a priority. I can’t tell you how much this burns me up.

    Grace to you –
    Jr

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