Amid Increasing Political Polarity, the Church Must Remember to Lift High Evangelism

via wikimedia/National Archives at College Park/CC0

Next summer we will be hosting the Amplify North American Evangelism Conference from June 25-26 at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. Amplify has become the largest evangelism conference in North America and one that I am proud to host.

Next year’s theme will be “Preoccupied with Love” and will feature key leaders today such as CJ Rhodes, Alan Hirsch, Colin Smith, Trillia Newbell, Jenny Yang, James Choung, Sam Owusu, and more. Dominique Dubois Gilliard, Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for the Love Mercy Do Justice Initiative of the Evangelical Covenant Church, will be sharing at the conference about how all people are to be preoccupied with the love of Christ. I speak with him below.

Ed: It’s hard to deny that we are living in challenging times culturally. The church’s influence is fading, and we are struggling to find answers to some hard questions. What’s your take on the health of the church today, especially as it relates to our witness?

Dominique: Amid increasing political polarity, the church must be reminded that Christianity cannot fit neatly into partisan politics. Both the left and the right are inadequate. Neither party is God-ordained, and both have championed principles that are antithetical to the Kingdom. In this critical moment, we must remember that our hope is exclusively in Christ, and that our ethics, values, and virtues must be biblically rooted.

Moreover, the church is called to be a prophetic presence in the world, not merely an echo chamber that only resounds once there is no longer any social risk involved in speaking up.

However, far too often, fear prohibits us from faithfully responding to the needs around us. Fear domesticate our witness—be it the fear of being perceived as “too political” when we strive to embody passages like Proverbs 31: 8-9, Matthew 25, or 1 John 3:16-18, or political fear-mongering—which both parties deploy—that we succumb to, which leads us to “other” or dehumanize individuals made in the image of God.

In this watershed moment, we must remember the wise council of Dr. King, who said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.”

Dr. King also spoke about the urgent need for the church to recapture its prophetic zeal and remember its missional purpose. In his legendary “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” he wrote, “Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being ‘disturbers of the peace’ and ‘outside agitators.’ But they went on with the conviction that they were a ‘colony of heaven’ and had to obey God rather than man… They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.”

King continued, “Things are different now. The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.”

This bleak picture that King paints is the situation the church finds itself in today. And, because of this, as King predicted, many people believe that the church has “become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”

Ed: Evangelism has especially fallen on hard times. It seems that everything else—even good things like discipleship—has overwhelmed our passion for sharing the love of Jesus with others. What does evangelism look like today, and how can we begin to develop a passion for showing and sharing the love of Jesus on a daily basis?

Dominique: Today, effective evangelism is just as concerned with demonstration as it is proclamation. For far too long, evangelism—within many context—has been solely defined as oral articulation. The world is tired of hearing about God’s love and not seeing it demonstrated. People want to see a counter-cultural witness that is fashioned after the life, ministry, and teachings of Christ.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer