Saturday, January 30, 2010

Global Christian First

I am a global Christian first and a PCA minister second.

By this I mean that I am…

1. Excited by the worldwide spread of the gospel historically. I love studying history because I love studying the spread of the gospel from the time of Jesus to the present day. This includes the spread of the gospel through missionaries, monks, and theologians; through those we might label “Roman Catholic” or “Eastern Orthodox” or (more recently) “Pentecostal”; through reformers and revivalists; from high church to horseback.

2. Excited by the worldwide spread of the gospel presently. I love hearing about the underground church in China, Brazilian churches in New Jersey, Korean missionaries going into Muslim countries, and the Africans welcoming the Americans.

3. Humble concerning my own tradition, respectful of other Christian traditions. What I've written above could not be possible unless this were also true. I wouldn’t be “Reformed” or “Protestant” or “Presbyterian” if I didn’t believe those labels pointed toward biblical faithfulness. I think Reformed theology best summarizes the biblical teaching concerning God’s salvation in Jesus Christ, and I believe that being “protestant” means returning the church to its biblical foundations. Yet I respect the histories and the strengths of other traditions. My Christology owes a great debt to those we now label “Eastern Orthodox” and “Roman Catholic.” And I owe a huge personal debt to Pentecostals who prayed for my salvation and charismatic evangelicals who led me to Jesus.

4. Ever called to guard the trust. Let me add an important note, which is that my joy concerning the global spread of the gospel is tempered by concern for that which is spiritually dangerous or unhealthy. We pastors are called to be defenders of God’s truth, and in particular the biblical gospel, and the more this gets distorted the less we rejoice and the more we warn. The gospel can get distorted by extrabiblical tradition, extrabiblical “revelation,” legalism, greed, perversion, or cold intellectualism within the church. So when I speak about the joy of seeing God work in all different geographical and theological corners of the globe, I’m referring to his work in magnifying Himself through the salvation and Lordship of Jesus Christ. You can't be a global Christian without believing the Christian means something precious!

Some applications.

1. I think a person misses out on great deal of joy if they do not recognize the blessing of Jesus Christ among believers who think, act, or worship differently. And this happens to all of us, to some degree, whether we are Reformed, charismatic, Pentecostal, Anglican, Orthodox, or Catholic.

2. I like to read widely. I will tend to read plenty of books (and blogs) by Reformed and/or evangelical people like myself, because this is my world. But I do not shun books or commentaries that come from a different angle and, in fact, welcome them to the degree that they help me see something in Scripture that I would otherwise fail to notice.

3. More important: I like to pray widely. I like to know what’s going on in other denominations, or other parts of the world, so that my heart can better resemble Jesus’s heart for His people. It's not always easy or natural, but I like to cultivate this habit.

4. Perhaps more important still: I like to befriend widely. I want friendships with believers of all sorts, for the purpose of prayer, mutual encouragement, and standing together for the gospel. Again, not always easy or natural, but important.

I suppose this all goes back to the earliest post I wrote for Moose: The Lord Thinks We’re Crazy!

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