Monday, April 01, 2024

On ministry in an anti-Christian place

While reflecting on ministry, I recalled a piece I had read some time back. Titled "Arise Jonah, Go to California that Wretched State and Preach Jesus!," the blog article by Pastor Christopher Gordon sets forth reasons for Christians continuing to be in California and specifically for preaching Christ in California. Now if this article is arguing for Gospel ministry to be done in the most godless of places, certainly that would be correct. But what should ministry in an anti-Christian setting look like?

There has been discussions over ideas of a "positive," "neutral" and "negative worlds" as it pertains to ministry. While the labels might be helpful, the Scriptures are clear about how Christians are to behave and ministers have to minister on objective issues of morality. Biblical morality is "inflexible," inasmuch as it does not care what the cultures thinks but proclaims God's standard for all time, always. In other words, it does not matter whether the culture celebrates, tolerates or detests Christian morals; the pastor has to be prepared to preach the truths of Scripture regardless.

In a hostile, anti-Christian setting, the pastor has the uneviable job of being en emissary from a hated land of a hated King. It does not matter whether that place is California, or the many places around the world where Christians are persecuted. The pastor has to proclaim the whole counsel of God. Knowing the message is detested, he would know Christians would be persecuted for holding to biblical truths. The role of the pastor is to preach and prepare his people for persecution. In other words, unlike a "typical Western church," the pastor is not looking for businesss as usual. He should not expect the church to be well-liked, to be well settled in a commmunity, and for the secular rulers to be godly. Besides proclaiming the Gospel, part of catechesis is to teach the congregants the wickedness of the culture, and to not partake of its wickedness. The pastors while proclaiming the Gospel to wicked and dying men is to be a witness of something different, a "counter-culture" if you will, and be unflinching against the tide of wickedness of that culture.

What that means is that ministry in Babylon is decidedly counter-cultural, but not as a withdrawal from culture, rather a condemnation of the wicked culture. In other words, a Gospel minsitry that does not condemn wickedness in culture is merely creating a small protected "space" for Christians to retreat to in their churchly culture. While Christians do need oases to refresh themselves, the church should not be about creating protected spaces but about reaching the world. This is a hard calling but those who are called to such must do so, and not "agree to disagree" on whether sin is indeed, sin. Or worse of all, hide behind a mutilated version of "2 Kingdoms" theory, as if the Reformers did not condemn the wicked rulers of their times!