The Christian worldview is rooted in the lordship of Christ. This article shows the implications of embracing such a worldview for the mission of the church to the world.

Source: Australian Presbyterian, 2010. 3 pages.

Every Square Inch Christ's Lordship answers the two great questions of ministry

Reframe for a moment the mission of your local church in this way: it is a community that displays in its life, words and deeds the restorative rule of Christ to its neighbourhood and places of work.

Imagine a community that rejects the idols of our time, living instead with generosity and joy. Imagine a commu­nity that is deeply involved in the lives of people in its neighbourhood. The Lordship of Christ mobilises the church to engage its community in all its full­ness: relationally, financially, spiritually, vocationally, etc.

A man in the church where I pastor has rearranged his own life to fit this model of mission. He has reduced his hours of paid work so that he has the time to serve the people around him: to befriend some Muslim men who live nearby, to do odd jobs for struggling neighbours, and to start an ESL class. In order to make this commitment, he and his family have taken a significant cut in income.

My friend is striving to live out of what Abraham Kuyper and James Orr first called a Christian worldview. He is convinced that Christ's Lordship has implications for every aspect of our lives, including the family budget and how he spends his time. Every aspect of culture and community comes under the Lordship of Christ: family life, work life, politics, media, education etc. Every office block and every classroom will one day come under His restorative rule. As Abraham Kuyper famously said, "There is not one square inch in all of creation over which Jesus does not declare 'mine.'"

Leslie Newbigin writes that some facts call "for a considerable, perhaps even radical, rearrangement of our men­tal furniture". "Jesus is Lord", Newbigin says, is that kind of fact.

Abraham Kuyper realised, when he embraced that fact, that he was not embracing a personal fact just for himself but a new view of and vision for the whole world. With the confession "Jesus is Lord" the Christian affirms that this world was wonderfully and purposefully created by Jesus Christ. Yet because of human sinfulness it now groans; it is mottled with both brokenness and beauty. God has called a community, the church, to steward His world that it might escape its present deep alienation, and turn towards its original meaning and its ultimate destination, which is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

For Kuyper, the Lordship of Christ is foundational for the mission of the church: Christians have the responsibil­ity as stewards in every sphere of God's world. This perspective mobilised him into public life in his country the Netherlands, particularly in the area of politics. Kuyper served as the editor of a leading Dutch newspaper and as Prime Minister of the Netherlands for four years. In both these capacities, he strove to bring the areas of society and politics back under the rule of Christ.

Often however our churches do not have this distinctive view of the world. Atheistic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote of the church: "They would have to sing better songs for me to learn to have faith in their Redeemer: and his disciples would have to look more redeemed!"

Nietzsche observed that significant aspects of the lives of God's people remain untouched, unredeemed, by Christ's Lordship — and this repelled him. Doubtless he was right.

The choices of my friend who has taken a cut in pay to engage in the lives of neighbours point us to what is arguably the first step in "looking redeemed", in embracing a Christian worldview: discerning the idols in our culture and redeeming those parts of our culture influenced by idolatry. Are not wealth and the "me" time nothing less than idols of our age? My friend has put aside both of these.

Canadian scholar Mike Goheen has provided a helpful summary of what a redeemed community can look like: a redeemed people will be a community of justice in a world of economic and ecological injustice; a community of generosity and simplicity (of "enough") in a consumer world; a community of selfless giving in a world of selfishness; a community of truth (humility and bold­ness) in a world of relativism; a community of hope in a world of disillusionment and consumer satiation; a commu­nity of joy in a world frantically pursuing pleasure; a community of thanksgiving in a world of entitlement; and a commu­nity who experiences God's presence in a secular world.

Let us note two further implications of a Christian worldview for the mission of the local church. A local church must realise that the mission of the church is to the whole person, and to the whole world. Mission conceived as exclusively verbal proclamation is an overly narrow expression of the gospel which leaves us open to the scepticism of Nietzsche. Mission must be defined Christologically. That is, the mission of the local church must be defined in terms of the mission of Christ Himself. Christ relates to His world as its Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer. It is not merely souls, but whole persons who will be restored, and this in a renewed earth that Christ will establish when He returns.

Therefore the local church engages with the people who share its streets and suburbs, not merely as souls to save but as whole people to love, care for and enjoy life with. As we do this, we attend to the spiritual, emotional, relational and physical needs of our friends and neighbours.

One area of need that we have found in our church's neighbourhood is indige­nous families who are struggling to pro­vide for their children. Our church preschool, under the direction of Jan Wright, has embarked on a ministry to these families. We bought a bus so we could pick these children up at their front door each morning, giving them breakfast if they haven't been fed, and incorporating indigenous stories, music, and art into the teaching program at the preschool. Research demonstrates that when a cycle of dysfunction is evident in any family, the most effective intervention is to introduce healthy experiences into the lives of the children when they are four to six years old. Children who graduate from this program are highly likely to enter mainstream schooling successfully.

It is critical for the impact of a local church that it embodies the comprehen­sive scope of God's restorative rule and that it thereby engages in justice (both for humankind and for the environ­ment), living as a sign to the restorative rule of Christ.

Finally, a local congregation that is L' shaped by a biblical worldview realises that it is from Monday to Saturday that it displays to the world most fully the gracious Lordship of Christ — as the "congregation scattered". It is precisely through a commu­nity that has been transformed by the gospel and then "called" into the office, work-site, play-groups etc that the Lordship of Christ is manifest to the world. Newbigin writes:

The exercise of (the church's) priesthood is not within the walls of the church but in the daily business of the world. It is only in this way that the public life of the world, its accepted habits and assumptions, can be challenged by the gospel and brought under the searching light of the truth as it has been revealed in Jesus.

The "church gathered" occurs every Sunday. The worship of the Christian community, in prayer and song, word and sacraments, nourishes the commu­nity of believers to live as signs to the Lordship of Christ in places and situations to which they are called Monday to Friday.

Yet Newbigin laments the "deep-seated and persistent failure of the churches to recognise that the primary witness to the sovereignty of Christ must be given, and can only be given, in the ordinary secular work of lay men and women in business, in politics, in pro­fessional work, as farmers, factory work­ers and so on".

It is evident that the task before church pastors is complex indeed. First, pastors must affirm that the primary ministry of the congregation does not take place within the church building, but in the world. Next, pastors must be sufficiently informed about the unique challenges facing members of their con­gregation in their various workplaces and sufficiently aware of cultural mores and idols, so as to helpfully prepare the congregation for their ministry as the "church scattered".

One positive step may be to interview members of the congregation during the church service about how they serve the Lord at work. Another could be to hold a commissioning service at the beginning of each year, where workers are commis­sioned by the congregation to be signs to the Lordship of Christ in their work place. I have not been a part of some­thing like this as yet — I would be interested to hear from anyone who has.

To conclude: Two great questions rightly lay claim to the passion and attention of pastors and local church leaders. All other goals and concerns may be judged by their proximity to these two questions. (And, importantly, any goal or concern that is not proximate to them is a distraction.) The first question is, how can a local church be mobilised for mission, into the lives of their friends and neighbours and into their places of work?

The second question is, what, accord­ing to scripture, ought to be the nature and shape of the mission of the local church? How ought a church minister to its local community in life, word and deed? What images and motifs does scripture provide to describe the mission of the local church? Both of these ques­tions will be addressed when a local church grasps the implications of the comprehensive Lordship of Christ for its life and mission.

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.