I believe four factors vital to a community’s following Jesus Christ in the world today are inadequately or misleading recognized. They are:
Reality is not the oft-repeated charge that the church is out of touch with the world around it (however true that may be). No, the reality of first importance for the church is that of the God’s new creation inaugurated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The church lives out of this new reality or it lives out of the old fallen creation’s values, valuations, and visions of life and its possibilities. Reality is in the first case about Identity! Who are we? Whose are we? What are we to be about in the world? Lack of clarity on this point chokes off a church’s vitality at its source!
Integrity flows out of identity, thus, the second matter not sufficiently realized or adequately parsed in the church is potency. If we are “in Christ” (Paul’s favorite phrase for Christians), if we belong to the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and if we live and serve in the world in the power of the Spirit, then the authority of him to whom “all authority in heaven and on earth” was given (Matt. 20:18) is ours as well. In that authority we find the resources to live as Jesus’ lived in compassion and suffering servanthood. Potency is the fruit of the church living out of and participating in the life of the triune God.
Urgency and necessity follow out of reality and potency. What we can do as the church, we must do. And what we must do is what Jesus tells us to do. No more discounting the direction of Jesus because of putative “realities” that stand in our way, or inner resistance because of the FUD factor (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), or because the powers of (d)evil seems to reign triumphant.
The real test of the church’s “relevance” (that sainted word), I submit, is whether its
come out of living in new creation of the risen Christ, energized by life within the triune God, the courage to act as we have been instructed, and the conviction that what we have been asked to do, we can, in fact, do.