A couple of weeks ago I was wrote, “When we speak of incarnational ministry we talk about following the example of Jesus as he came in flesh to a particular culture and time. In that context he gave us the essentials for living out the Gospel in every culture.” Some readers asked me to write about what these essential or irreducible elements might be. The following is my attempt to describe these.
I believe there are 4 essential and irreducible elements which ought to be present in every church no matter its cultural setting.
- “Jesus is Lord”
In Deuteronomy 6 we read “The Lord our God is one . Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength.” This is calling marks Israel as distinct from all other nations. They are to have one God who is Lord over every aspect of life. In the New Testament this concept is explicated in the simple phrase. “Jesus is Lord” For the Church Jesus is Lord over every aspect and His Lordship is to be the consuming passion of all we do and are.
- Respect for scriptures
I do not intend to hold biblical inerrancy as the standard, though I personally have a very high view of scripture, but differences in this ought to be permissible if we can recognize that it is through Scripture that we encounter the truth about God. The Bible then becomes an authority on the life and practise of the church as it seeks to incarnate the Gospel in a particular setting. At the same time we ought to recognize that we worship the Trinity revealed in Scripture and do not make the scriptures themselves co-equal with the God Head. We avoid bibliolatry.
A respectful reading of scripture illustrates that the gathering around the table to remember the saving activity of God in Christ is expected of the Church. I would suggest that how and how often might be questions of context rather than of division.
Like communion baptism seems to be commanded and therefore ought to be practised by an obedient church in a way that is appropriate for that community.
Now I am sure that readers will have suggestions of other elements I have not mentioned. I have thought of hundreds myself but I think that most of them can be reduced (remember ‘irreducible’ was the goal) to an element named above.
I hope that we can get a conversation going around this. I know that some ‘emerging’ churches would not fit with my, dare I say orthodox, views. We cannot attempt to be culturally relevant at the expense of a faithful witness or we fail to be the Church.
Let the conversation begin