Note: On the first Sunday of January, 2000, I presented to a combined adult Bible class a list of items that the church must thoughtfully address if we are to be a viable voice in the new millennium. I was asked to expand that Bible class presentation into a series of bulletin articles which were published in the church bulletin. They are reprinted here in the hope they will be helpful to even more people. These may be freely used as deemed appropriate.
| Introduction | The Bible & Truth-#1 | Bible Inspiration-#2 | Bible Interpretation-#3 | Nature of Church-#4 | Possibility of Unity-#5 | Worldliness-#6 | Christian Experience-#7 | Christian Missions-#8 | Christian Hope-#9 | Human Nature-#10 | Christian Living-#11 |
For those who may be reading this series of articles for the first time and by way of review, the previous six articles have asked about three major challenges facing the church in the new millennium in the area of Bible knowledge (the nature of the Bible and the nature of truth, inspiration, and interpretation) and have suggested three major concerns in our understanding of the church (the nature of the church, unity issues, and the relationship of the church to the world).
With this seventh article, we introduce three practical concerns the church must address in the new millennium. These are the Christian experience, the Christian mission, and the Christian hope. Under the aegis of understanding the Christian experience are many of the "issues" that trouble the church in the contemporary world. The nature of the Christian experience asks about worship, gender roles, and the value of human beings (which includes both a theoretical and practical understanding and practice in ethnic and racial issues ). Here we can only summarize the need to address these concerns and suggest some basic beginning points.
In the practice of the church, we must somehow determine ways in which we can worship together, support one another, encourage one another, and be the redemptive and redeemed body of believers that is described in the New Testament. This encompasses and means we must somehow address the nature of New Testament worship. For the moment casting aside the matter of the use or non-use of instrumental music (a relatively recent innovation on the church scene), we must ask about the use of dialogue, drama and other sensory presentations which appeal to the empirical senses, and visual representations (distinguishing idolatry and icons). Such are not easy issues and so much potential for differing viewpoints exists, that we must somehow ask how the genuine people of God might be expected to solve such issues. What do these things mean in our present culture in the matters of understanding gender and ethnic issues?
Beyond the concerns which arise in worship, one must ask more broadly how the New Testament message is to be understood in today's world with regard to slavery, ethnic issues, social justice and freedom, and social oppression. Is the biblical message so out of step with the world's view that the church must remain distinct and isolationist in such matters, or does the biblical message suggest principles that may be applied in our world to improve gender and ethnic relationships by demonstrating that the genuine answers to these concerns is in the message of the Messiah who came to declare liberty for all?
As in previous subjects, such are not easy topics, and answers will require our best thinking and reflection, coupled with a renewed commitment to knowing and understanding the message of Jesus Christ. I pray we will commit ourselves to the task.
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