Darryl Guder says that we fulfil the mission of Christ in life word and deed. When I read and understood this, everything changed in my ministry.
The church exists as a contrast community, that rejects the idols of our culture and is enlivened by the values of the Kingdom of God. This may mean for example, rejecting idols of consumerism and nationalistic exclusion, and embracing gratitude and generosity.
We proclaim Christ. And as the apostle says in 1 Peter, our words are often spoken in response to questions prompted by our life and our deeds. Proclamation is critical for, as Leslie Newbigin comments, ‘No amount of service can substitute for explicit testimony to Christ and ‘no human deed can of itself take the place of the one deed by which the world is redeemed an to which we must direct men’s eyes.’
Newbigin reflects, ‘words presuppose that something has happened that calls for an explanation.’ And deeds flow from a robust theology of creation: the conviction that God has created a good world and that, in Christ, God is recovering his purposes for his good creation. Therefore we attend to every aspect of God’s world where sin’s corruption is felt – ‘far as the curse is found.’ This will often mean attending to the needs of vulnerable people, and advocating in light of unjust structures (as it does in Scripture—see my personal blog for more on this).
When I began to grasp the significance of the comprehensive claims of Christ on the life and mission of the church, along these lines, everything changed in my ministry. I found that acts of justice led to conversions and baptisms – more than ever before! And conversely, a conversation about Jesus could lead to people who were hungry being fed!
The primary mission of the church in the world is to be the new creation. – David Bosch
Pastor, Willoughby Christian Reformed Church, Canada
PhD Candidate, Trinity College, Bristol