Is “waiting on the bus” a fair metaphor to describe Christians in America? Are things changing in your church?
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Thank you for your article. It was very insightful and very very “practical” teaching. I see what you were talking about all around me. Thank you for putting it into words and sharing it with the rest of us. I think besides just “getting off the bus” with our bodies and action, we need start training and helping people get their hearts and minds as well “off the bus”. Only then can we truly say that as Christian leaders and even as laypeople are we advancing God’s kingdom and life and power here on the earth to prepare for our King.
Once again, thanks.
I think it is a fair metaphor as of about 10 or 15 years ago. Is it still such? Maybe. I know, that’s a very non-committal answer, but I think the answer will change from congregation to congregation, no matter the denomination (or non-denominational affiliation). Some Mennonites are probably sitting on that bus, doing the Kingdom work but sitting silent waiting for everything to get “fixed” some day so that we can finally rest. But then there are those of us who read our history as Anabaptists and realize that we’ve become what we spoke against back then and we are starting to see a prophetic call in even Anabaptist organizations to start looking again at what we are supposed to be doing here.
But I think there is an increasing awareness that sitting idly by while the world keeps rolling on is no longer viable.
I do appreciate in your missive that there is a danger of over-compensating. I think some of the movement of the church to start aligning itself with secular political movements of all flavors (left or right, doesn’t matter) is part of that over-compensation. We shouldn’t sit quietly and let injustice happen around us through “official” channels, but neither should we to closely ally ourselves with an earthly political machine lest we lose the distinctiveness that sets us aside as belonging to that “here but not yet” Kingdom.
Esther: Thanks for the kind words!
Robert: I appreciate your thoughtful observations. Particularly I take note of the danger of too close alignment with the politics of the left OR the right.
I find myself increasingly desiring to read John Howard Yoder’s “The Politics of Jesus” and the other related publication on the Church and the State (the title eludes me). Yoder, IIRC from what others have told me, tries to strike a balance between the quietism that comes from, as you put it, “sitting on the bus” and the activist who is embedded deeply in worldly systems. I think it is that balance that we need, the pendulum swings from age to age, but ultimately some middle ground…or even some place completely OFF the pendulum…is where God is leading us.
As always, a thought-provoking article. I have read some of the literature that came out of the 1974 Lausanne Conference, but did not realize there was a website. Thanks for the link. With all the online documents from 1974, 1989, 2000, and Advance Papers for this year, I have lots of reading to do.
I just wish I could make it to Cape Town in October! Are you going?
Dear Dr. Dunbar,
If you had written that true Christians throughout the ages have attempted to affect society around them for the good, I would have heartily agreed.
But that is not what you said.
The following are a few points on which I disagree:
1.You seem to disparage the effect the Reformation had on society. In the Reformation God’s people found freedom to do God honoring good works because they realized they could be justified by faith, not by works. This is huge, and your missive seems to miss this point.
Universities, modern science, hospitals, the US Constitution all directly or indirectly can trace their origin to the fruit of the Reformation. In each case committed Christians were living out their faith to affect society in positive ways.
2.I do not feel comfortable with your bus illustration. It seems to raise a false dichotomy: Either one is helping others in this world, or one is solely focused on going to heaven.
Please consider the following quote by C.S. Lewis. I do believe Christians throughout the ages can attest to its truthfulness:
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” – C.S. Lewis
I hope these thoughts are helpful for future reflection – –
WOW, is what comes to my mind when I think about what can happen when missional living takes place in a grimy inner city ghetto. In growing up in the inner city and within dispensationalism, I see how it is a theology that has had detrimental effects on the poor urban context. Has the focus of rapture, fractured the gospel influence of the church in the community?
I believe that developing a reformed urban missional theology is the key in winning our cities for Jesus. I see a big problem in the church across denominations is it being inward and self focused. I question every time a church in a poor ghetto builds up a really nice building while all the housing around it is crumbling. I question when I see an abandon factory bought out by a church just for its own members who all commute and care nothing about the community. But this kind of inward self-centered thinking is so embedded in church culture that it is going to be a tough task in changing. Where do we start?Where do we begin?
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