citizens or disciples?

The following is a post I wrote for The Greenhouse Effect, a church-planting blog run by Churches of Christ in NSW. It is pretty concise, but I hope you get something meaningful out of it.

The relationship between a local church and the community within which it is located is no simple matter.

There are, after all, two extremes to which a local church can potentially slide, as described in Graham & Lowe’s What Makes a Good City? The first is that the church can become so defined by engaging a pluralist culture that it becomes indistinguishable from that culture. Alternatively a church can become so exclusivist, desiring to protect its ‘distinctives,’ that it never meaningfully engages the culture of its community.

We could broadly call these approaches a concern for ‘citizenship’ and ‘discipleship.’

I am sure that most church planters want to find a balance within this tension. But this balance can be difficult to find, as evidenced by the many churches that have ended up being pulled towards one end of the spectrum.

What should be clear is that the church is called by God to be both good citizens and good disciples. We should no doubt hold fast to our distinctive way of life as instructed by Jesus in his call for people to be radically different to the dominant ways of culture (representing the reality of God’s kingdom on earth).

At the same time we should also be committed to seeing God’s kingdom manifested amongst this culture, which Jesus also modelled in his redemption of society through healings, forgiveness and standing against evil social structures.

Jesus was both prophet and servant. He was separate enough from his culture to be able to critique it and offer an imaginative alternative (proclaiming the kingdom), but was also engaged enough with the culture bring some level of redemption to it (manifesting the kingdom).

This is at the very least a call to something much larger than simply ‘building a church.’ God’s plans extend beyond the ambitions of church leaders, and the church is meant for more than growing its Sunday services. Jesus calls us into the divine task of redeeming our world and its systems through the alternative reality called the kingdom.

This means the church needs to be different from the culture around it. It also means the church must be actively engaged in this culture, and so every member of a church, no matter what their vocation, is modelling the kingdom and bringing redemption to the community wherever they are.

A local church must produce disciple-citizens. Is yours geared towards that task?



Posted on December 7, 2010, in Mission, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Well said Matt.
    I’m working on a article in that the early Church / Christians were known by the outsiders for their goodness. Acts.

    The question to ask is if we are known for our goodness?

  2. P.s…another comment as I forgot to click follow up comments

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