Written by Dr. David Dunbar
Monday, 19 March 2012 00:00
These three nouns are used by Lesslie Newbigin to describe the church, particularly at the congregational level, in its relationship to its surrounding culture (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society [Eerdmans, 1989], p. 233). It is an inspiring and challenging vision.
Think of it! Local churches that so embody the grace of Jesus in word and deed that they are an effective sign-post pointing to the truth that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” Churches that are the instruments through which God answers our prayer for the kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven. And congregations where people actually get a taste of the new heavens and new earth.
Yes, it is exciting, uplifting, and hopeful! And then there is the reality. This was brought home to me Sunday after teaching an adult class at church where we talked about this beautiful vision. I could sense that many folks were stimulated by our discussion. This is something the hearts of many of us long for. But then one of my more thoughtful students said, “Dave, I love studying this stuff, but then I ask myself if I am ready to make the changes in my life that kind of church requires.”
Indeed! That is the question that all of us must face honestly. Business as usual will not lead to congregations that are the sign, instrument, and foretaste of the coming kingdom. Like my friend, I too find it easy to get excited about the idea of a vibrant church, but I am actually much less enthusiastic about how such a church would disturb my comfort zone.
Dave Dunbar is president of Biblical Seminary. He has been married to Sharon for 42 years. They have four grown children and six grand children.