Through history there have been three main approaches.
Assimilation - where the minority loses its distinctiveness and becomes absorbed into the collective culture, perhaps contributing something of value in the process.
Isolation - where the minority withdraws and attempts to isolate and inoculate itself from the majority.
Colonisation - where the minority changes the culture so that it becomes like them taking on their values and characteristics.
A key problem of the church through history and of the church in our culture is that we have conceived of our role in society through one of these approaches. Assimilation is the mistake of the liberal giving the unbeliever less and less to disbelieve. Isolation is the error of the pietistic abrogating responsibility for wider society while constructing an irrelevant haven. Colonisation is the fallacy of Christendom seeking to influence positively but unable to untangle the eternal from the temporal. Exile is a powerful paradigm representing an alternative to living as a minority. I believe the rediscovery of this radical Fourth approach is vital for the people of God today.
The Exile was extremely significant in the history of the people of Israel. All the things that had been seen as key to their identity, security and prosperity were lost. Yet in Exile a new paradigm of being the people of God emerges. Their identity is rooted primarily in their relationship with God and in a future hope connected to his promises. They are to love and serve the Lord, they are to make an impact where they are but they are to live with the hope of a future return. They are to seek the welfare of the city, build houses, plant crops and have children. But they are to get involved in Babylon remembering that they are not Babylonians and that in 70 years time God will rescue them and take them back to where they belong. Exile is a powerful paradigm for the church in the world today. We are called to live as a faith community in enemy territory with one eye on the future. As believers we live as aliens and strangers in the world, fully engaged but waiting for Christ’s return.
Churches must become more intentional in equipping members for work. It is both a means of honouring God and of involvement at the heart of society. Proper engagement with the marketplace is absolutely vital if we are to be salt and light in the world. The workplace is the vital arena for most Christians to connect with culture, share faith, build relationships and manifest the essential difference that Christ makes through word and action.
We want to inspire and equip young people to live undivided lives. Lives of integrity and wholeness, centred on God and committed to others. We seek to equip students and graduates to engage with culture.
Most of the evangelistic resources which are having an impact aaround the Western World are much better at engaging with people with some Christian background. This is not insignificant as there are a large number of previously churched and ‘prodigals’ in many ‘western’ countries but it is a diminishing mission field. The growing opportunity is with those who have no background. We are not successfully connecting with this constituency anywhere in numbers. We need to get beyond programmes to thinking missiologically.
The problem with programmes is that they connect best with people who are willing to enter into our world. The big need is to help Christians engage with big ideas in society, live and speak the gospel effectively in daily life and find ways of reaching out together in the work place and community.
We need to be engaging with the media, public policy, academic and popular ideas with an apologetic which works for this society in this generation. There is a huge opportunity here.
We need to listen and seek to understand the language, culture, customs, ideas, expectations and norms of the people around us. This involves conversation, critical interaction with media and creative production of our own media.
To grow a new generation of people of influence in the professions, in public life and the media in New Zealand and around the Pacific Rim.
To equip this generation to be fully engaged as salt and light, living faith at work and relating faith to culture.
To network influencers, to encourage their engagement and amplify their voice; such that the reality and relevance of the gospel would impact their companies, communities and countries.
We have learned that networks need network builders to become established and thrive best with network hubs.
- Collect and disseminate resources relating faith to academic disciplines, to the professions of medicine, law, teaching, nursing, business, public life and the media.
- Build on existing relationships around the Pacific, particularly initially in Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia.
- Develop a national Christians at Work resource for New Zealand.
- Helping TSCF trial a mentoring programme for graduates.
- Work with students to lay the foundations of a biblical world view of life and work.
We must be God’s people and bring colour to the washed out landscapes of communities living away from Him. As we sing the Lords Song in a strange land may our music lead many lost people home.