“I have come to feel that the primary reality of which we have to take account in seeking for a Christian impact on public life is the Christian congregation. How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross?
I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it. I am, of course, not denying the importance of the many activities by which we seek to challenge public life with the gospel– evangelistic campaigns, distribution of Bibles and Christian literature, conferences, and even books such as this one.
But I am saying that these are all secondary, and that they have power to accomplish their purpose only as they are rooted in and lead back to a believing community.”
–Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 227.
“Jesus is a figure of intense interest and even admiration for millions. His stories and sayings still inhabit our minds two thousand years after he taught on the other side of the globe. He published no books, founded no dynasty, led no army, and governed no nation, but his images and stories and teachings and followers have girdled the globe, presenting a message of a Savior who sacrifices himself out of love.
And to most, this is compellingly beautiful. Then there is the church. If you have grown up in a church, you have reasons to be disillusioned. The church seems like a boring topic for most and a duty reluctantly fulfilled for many. In stark contrast with many of the unforgettable sayings of Christ, we can’t remember what we heard in most sermons ten minutes after we get home.
People around the world aren’t interested in our church; for that matter, people just around the corner aren’t either! Churches have published books and fielded armies and ruled kings and even so, if you introduce the topic of the church, you’ll often find it met with responses ranging from a mild disinterest to a real dislike. We can understand why.
Churches say they have the best and most important news in the world—they have the answer to our problems, they are God’s embassies on earth—yet churches are made up of people like you and me, people who are grumpy, irritable, unfaithful, and selfish. We become too possessive of small things and too casual about great ones. We become too defensive for ourselves and ignore God. We talk of love, but we too often give ourselves over to hate—even in church.”
–Mark Dever, Twelve Challenges Churches Face (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 11-12.