10 September 2007

Speaking Ethically No. 11

By Rod Benson

May 2007

As missiologist Brian Stanley observes, “the Church must stand for something in the world, or it will be swept aside as meaningless.” The church of Jesus Christ is far from meaningless in real terms. But its necessary spiritual emphasis and legitimate otherworldly agenda make it an easy target for those who would see it swept aside.

A church that does not reflect God’s heart for unredeemed social systems and structures, as well as God’s heart for unreconciled persons, is a church that God may well sweep aside as meaningless to his purposes.

The great danger for so-called Left- and Right-motivated movements for Christian social justice is that they will perpetuate the adversarial rhetoric and destructive divisions of the past (both political and religious) rather than embrace a truly wholistic vision and strategy for justice and peace in our world.

Where are Baptists positioned with respect to these threats and opportunities? Should our understanding of mission self-consciously embrace a moral or social dimension? Do we stand for something in the world?

Indeed we do. Many Australian Baptists would agree with the principle that “the soul of reform was the reform of the soul.” Yet on the whole, we have clearly accepted that our Christian responsibility does not end at the regeneration of individuals but extends to the reformation of society.

A small example of this occurred last month on the NSW-Victorian border where the recently planted Echuca-Moama Baptist Church sponsored an event to raise funds for the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal. The 1,000-strong crowd was entertained by musicians from local churches, Bendigo and Melbourne, puppet plays, Easter egg giveaways, Easter quizzes, egg and spoon races, face painting, basketball hoops, a footy handball target, and a jumping castle.

There was also opportunity for people to be impacted by the Gospel with a strong Christian emphasis through the puppet plays and songs, a Bible reading and free Christian literature.

Was it worth it? Was it mission? Did it bless others? Yes.

Rev Rod Benson is Director of the Centre for Christian Ethics at Morling College, Sydney.

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