We are puzzled as we observe the world stumble. In a short few months we’ve witnessed a global pandemic, major economic difficulties, political wars, murder of George Flyod and the riots that follow, violence, racism and the list could go on. These crisis revealed the underlying, fundamental erosion of values and trust that holds societies together. It also revealed and accelerated the sobering reality of a shrinking, less and less impactful, often irrelevant and inwardly focused church whose narrative and focus is mixed and confusing.
The Church owes the world.
Paul writes in Romans 1:14-16 “I am under obligation (in debt) both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel… I am not ashamed of the gospel.”
Paul is under obligation – meaning in the original language: he is in debt. He owes the world with something that was given to him from God to pass on: the gospel. Paul is under legal demand to pass on something that is not his to keep. The gospel is not ours to keep. This obligation made Paul eager and not ashamed.
The Church is also under legal obligation, under a forceful demand from God. We have something that was not given to us to keep, but to pass on. We possess something that is not ours. God intended to give the gospel to the world. This obligation should make us eager and not ashamed to proclaim the simple message of eternal hope and eternal justice through Christ.
‘Paying our debt to the world’, meaning eagerly and without shame proclaiming the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:15-16) in a gracious, clear, wise (Col 4:5-6) and bold (Eph 6:19) way is not the central focus and message of the Church anymore. The Church is occupied with and focusing on so many other things. Evangelism is hardly mentioned these days. There are major mission conferences, initiatives and strategies without mentioning of or equipping for gospel-proclamation. No wonder the Church is confused, shrinking, irrelevant, scattered and many of her members are not envisioned nor equipped for sharing the gospel.
The Church is not obligated to solve all the problems of the world. Jesus, the Apostles, Paul and the early church did not solve most of the political, social and economical problems of their age. Of course, we need to heal and help as representatives of Christ as much as we possible. But the Church’s core obligation, the reason we are left on this earth, the one thing we won’t be able to do in Heaven: is to proclaim the message of eternal hope and justice – the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps, if we, as the Church, would focus on envisioning and equipping believers on our core obligation to pass on the gospel to those God intended to give it, we would be less confused, less disturbed, less disoriented and more fruitful, satisfied, effective and joyful.