Our Engagement With The World: Is It Necessary?

I have been thinking recently about the way in which Christians are to be salt and light in the world. Some would argue that our only task is to proclaim the gospel to people, telling them of the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ. All other concerns are, at the very least, a distant second (if they are considered legitimate at all). Those other concerns all relate to our wider engagement with the world, and may include such things as ministry to the poor, political lobbying, taking part in public discourse at whatever level, apologetics, and so forth. Christians who adopt a narrow view of how the church should expend its spiritual and physical energy suggest that all is needed is evangelism. The other forms of engagement I have just listed can only become a pernicious distraction.

There is, however, another school of thought, which argues that a broader approach is required. Without diminishing the importance or centrality of evangelism, such Christians also believe that wider engagement with the world is both needed and theologically justified. I side with this stream, which I will endeavour to explain. I think there is good reason, both biblical and theological, to think that God calls us to more than just the explicit proclamation of the gospel. Now, I don’t want people to get me wrong; I think that evangelism is a vital, essential – and altogether neglected – part of the church’s mandate and spiritual responsibility. The good news is our raison d’être, the message that has saved us, and has provided others with the opportunity to escape condemnation and alienation from God and enjoy his redemptive grace. However, to suggest this is all we ought to do as Christians would be a gross limitation of our responsibility. Hopefully, as I elucidate my reasons, they will provide some clarity of thought for those who are still wrestling with the exact nature and extent of Christian witness. My exploration of this particular topic will cover several areas, including the need for cultural engagement and challenge, the legitimacy of Christian political and social action, and the role of apologetics in preparing the ground for evangelistic proclamation. As this is such an expansive issue, I will serialize this post so as not to overwhelm (or bore!) you all. So stay tuned.

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