The gospel cannot be separated from works of compassion and justice. And works of compassion and justice lack sustainability, local buy-in, and life when they are separated from the gospel. . . . [W]hen hearts are brought into contact with the living, exhilarating, life-giving, shame-erasing love of Christ, profound reform takes place within the lives of people and within the practices of their society.
The emerging church in the Global South. Its salient features are these:
- When Christian faith is introduced into a new culture, this happens in a specific economic, social, and political context. If this faith doesn’t make a practical difference for good in the daily life of people—in this case through irrigating crops—its relevance will be doubted.
- The gospel has a personal, transforming impact in the lives of those who decide to follow Jesus. People’s behaviors within their specific cultural context begin to change, also creating a dialogue between gospel and culture.
- The community—an indigenous congregation, prayer group, or action/reflection group—becomes an indispensable body that shapes and reinforces changed behavior. Belonging to a Christian community seems intrinsic, not optional, and such communities become the agents of wider cultural change.
A damaging divide
The mainline Protestant or “liberal” world stressed the biblical call to social justice as primary to its witness.
What we hear, increasingly, is the rejection of the impulse to conceive of Christian faith as a binary choice between personal conversion and social justice.
Signs of hope
By 2025, 40 percent of all Christians worldwide will be living out their faith in Africa.
Filling the theological ditch
Biblical scholarship, often led by more mainline as well as Catholic theologians, has uncovered deeper layers of the social, political, and economic contexts impacting the experience of the Hebrew people, the setting for Jesus’s ministry, and the rise of the early church. All this points toward the affirmation of both evangelism and social justice as parts of the gospel, rather than a binary choice between them.
- The author begins this chapter with an example of Christian mission in a culture that did not know of the gospel. What important conclusions came out of this example? The author lists “three salient features” that arise from the story. How do you summarize these features? Do these conclusions make sense to you? Why or why not?
- What “divide” in the Western church does the author describe? In what ways have you experienced this divide? How has this divide sometimes spilled over into the church in the Global South?
- Where does the author find hopeful signs that the divide can be overcome?
- The author identifies a key foundational theological question as “What does God love? And how?” How does the author answer these questions using scriptural examples and other sources?
- Where does the author see creative expressions of embodying God’s love in the global church?
- What is your response to the author’s statement that “congregations creating the future of faith will understand and demonstrate that the gospel isn’t real if it isn’t making a difference for good in the specific context where it is placed”?
- After reading this book what “marks” will or should define faith communities in the future? How will your faith community embody these marks?
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