I was asked the question: ‘What are the major challenges, and/or ministry opportunities, facing Australian churches in 2018?”
It is far above my station to be able to speak for just the church in which I serve let alone all Australian churches! And so with that caveat, I humbly offered this opinion in answer to that question:
Christians face the continued challenge to be in the world but not of it.
We want to love this world, because our God does – John 3:16 etc. But when we love the world, our love is based on God’s truth, as revealed in the Scriptures and centred in the scriptural Christ. And for us, one aspect of love is obedience to God’s will, again as revealed in the Scriptures and enacted by Christ.
The challenge for today is to proclaim this Christ to a world where love, truth, and obedience are all self-centred and fluid. Often, the world interprets our love as oppressive hate.
Christians are therefore caught in a dilemma. We don’t want to retreat into our nice safe Christian comfort zones and just shrug our shoulders while non-believers hurtle headlong towards eternal destruction. But when we engage with the world, we’re constantly pressured, in various ways and to varying degrees, to do so in ways that compromise core Christian convictions. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation – we either:
- Stay silent, and feel guilty because we know we should speak up – the gospel, by its outward-oriented, redemptive nature, demands to be “preached”, “proclaimed”;
- Speak the truth, get slammed for being a bigot, and feel guilty for giving Christianity a bad name;
- Tell people what they want to hear, and feel guilty for letting Jesus down and confirming people in their rebellion against God.
Thankfully, we have the one who is divine truth and love incarnate, who perfectly obeyed the Father and established his will on earth. Even if we don’t have the answers, we know he does, and our opportunity (and commission) is to continue to trust and follow him into the world.
An earlier version of this post was first published on the ‘Thinking of God’ website in an article titled ‘Interesting Times – Challenges & Opportunities for Australian Churches in 2018’