Close Your Church for Good. Chap 3, Part 5. How can the church spread the message of the Kingdom? The same way Jesus did.
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The church is commissioned to continue the Incarnation, the way of death, the way of humility, the way of self-sacrificing service. But it seems that, like Jonah fleeing to Tarshish, we have all too often gone in exactly the opposite direction. Rather than running headlong toward humility, suffering, self-sacrifice, service, and even death, we have raced toward power, prominence, self-gratification, and self-advancement. We have adopted the methods of imperial governments, military powers, and greedy corporations.
There are long explanations from history and psychology about why we have done this, but the real culprit is theological: we’re sinners with the best of intentions. We see the influence of imperial government, and we imagine all the good that could be done if such power could be harnessed for the church. We see the evils that military power can destroy (while ignoring all the evils it creates), and believe that similar tactics could be used to advance the cause of Christ. We watch the throngs flood through the doors of amusement parks and department stores and think that if we can get such crowds to buy our wares and attend our concerts, they might be unaware when we throw the Gospel into their cart as well, as if it were some blue-light special Christmas candy on December 26th.
The world notices these attempts to copy, and they are not impressed. They hear our message of incarnation, but our methods look more like a used-car salesman in “Car Nation.” Worldly methods do not help in spreading the Kingdom message. The two are incompatible. And the world sees right through it all. They hear a message of peace, love, and service, but see methods of greed, power, and glory. Understandably, they get confused. The methods and message don’t mix, and the world knows it!
The church needs to be incarnational in the same way that Jesus was. We need to represent God to the world, but in such a way that we are as close to human as possible without crossing into sin. This describes the incarnation of Jesus. He became so fully human that people had (and still have) trouble believing He was God. Similarly, the incarnational church must enter so fully into the world, and become so much like the world, that many may have trouble seeing how we are different.