Obeying our Lord in his commissioning of us to make disciples of all nations means we must faithfully contextualise the gospel as we proclaim it (Part 1 of this series); and at the same time, ensure that the way we teach those who are baptised to obey all that Jesus has commanded has embedded in it a grace dynamic that melts the heart, rather than simply appeals to the will, or the mind, or the emotions (Part 2 of this series).
But, what has Jesus commanded us? What does obedience to him consist of?
This leads to the third distinctive of faithful gospel ministry in a post-Christian context.
It starts with a key conviction - that the gospel changes everything.
In particular, that means that the gospel changes our private and personal lives, so that embedded into our daily routines need to be the spiritual diet of prayer and meditation on the Word of God, both individually and in our families; and it will change the way we cultivate the character of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit. Personal practices and godliness are certainly part of what Jesus has commanded us.
But at the same time, our public lives are also addressed by the gospel. How we do our work, and what work we do; how we interact with the broader society, contributing to local associations, clubs, sporting teams, schools and groups; and especially how we use the resources of time, ability and wealth that God has given us to care for the poor.
Now, teaching people how to obey Jesus in both public life and private life has always been essential to faithful gospel ministry. But it is even more so when the culture itself is hostile, if not toxic, to the gospel, as we have in our post-Christian context.
And the reason is this; if we confine our teaching to the private and personal life, then at best we will train people to be dualists. They will have split lives, Christian at home and church, but essentially secular in their work and the world. And that’s the best case scenario! For many, it will be much worse. The public spheres of work and world are so powerful in the narratives they tell and the values they embody that their ‘discipling’ will overpower ours, and people will drift away.
An integrative ministry, therefore - one which teaches and enacts what it is to obey Jesus in the public realms of work and society - will be an essential part of faithful gospel ministry.
P.S. City to City’s Australian Centre for Faith and Work seeks to make a contribution to equipping church leaders - ministers and lay leaders - in part of this, and its upcoming conference Renewing my Workplace conference, looks to be terrific. See here for the details.