One of the aspects of Redeemer Fellowship's elder-candidacy process is that of informal continued education. Every elder has gone through a year long process of reading, writing, and shadowing. They are not just thrown into eldership but given the opportunity to grow, ask questions, and learn. I am thankful for the privilege of being mentored by them and to have them speak into my life.
Currently I am reading The Church by Edward P. Clowney. His work has helped many churches reaffirm and focus on a proper understanding of the doctrine of the church. He encourages churches to move away from marketing and growth strategies to regain the nature and mission of the church. The church, according to Clowney, is called to serve God in three ways: directly in worship; the saints in nurture; the world in witness.
Serve the World in Witness
At Redeemer, we call refer this as the environment of The Square. The Square is the environment where we seek to embody Christ’s words, “love your neighbor” while sharing the gospel whenever possible. Here we are sent out into the world to proclaim God’s glory by loving others, and invite people to come to know and worship the one God in spirit and truth. We call this environment “The Square” because it takes place in the public square. The Square leans more outward in that we are all directing our attention to our neighbor whom God loves dearly. Clowney focuses on one key question as regards to serving the world in witness. There are many posts out there on outreach, but Clowney boils it down to one point, solidarity.
One of the questions Clowney wrestles with is the nature of truth as exclussive. He writes:
Does mission seek to propagate the gospel or to reconcile religious fatihs in mutual appreciation, so that the only heresy is the claim to exclusive truth? How the mission of the church is to approach non-Chrisitians has always been of concern; the issue now is whether they should be approached at all.
Years ago I spent some time in Uganda, Africa serving a church that ministered to students of the largest University for East Africa. I lived across the street from the Bahai Temple for Africa. It was on a beautiful hilltop overlooking Kampala. I would often go to read, reflect, and pray. I got to know the groundskeeper and was invited inside for a quick tour. The temple had many doors, and once inside, you could look back and see over each door was a symbol for a major world religion. He went on to try and convince me of my pride in believing that only Jesus saves, that God has given knowledge of himself to all religions and each point to him in some sort of way, even if they do not realize it. Our culture, as Clowney recognizes, refuses to believe that any one religion (or religion in general) has any claim of truth. We are called to recognize our solidarity in our humanity, as such, how dare any of us (ie. Christians) claim that salvation is only found in Jesus.
Believe me, I am not for oldschool, hardcore, relationless evanglism where we shove tracts, the Roman Road, or the Four Spiritual Laws down peoples throat. But I know that at times I have pulled back when given opportunities because I do not want to be seen as "closeminded" or "fundamental." Clowney points out that we do have a solidarity as humanity, a solidarity that points to our need of a Savior:
The 'new perspectives' in mission urge us to find a solidarity with all humanity, and indeed with all creation. Biblical theology has long taught the lesson of solidarity. We are all God's creatures, but our solidarity is solidarity in sin.
It is because of this solidarity that we reach out to those around us. Knowing the love that our Father has for the world, we present the good news of the Gospel, that God loves us and sent his Son to reconcile us back to himself.