As noted in our last discussion on the causes and issues surrounding the phenomenon of reformation, a biblical worldview held and practiced by a significant number of citizens and applied to society produces both spiritual renewal and social reformation. Thus, the way we stimulate social conversation and simultaneously share the gospel should be relevant to others personally and socially.
This takes both biblical knowledge and a confidence in our ability in the Holy Spirit to discern and «dance» with people effectively while having a general awareness of the truly prophetic social and current issues of society. That may sound like a tall order, indeed, but this should be our goal for ourselves as leaders and for as many people as possible whom we lead and influence. Equipping people in this way is at the heart of stirring up the ingredients of true reformation.
The apostle Paul gave us multiple examples of this in his Epistles and his actions (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). To be prophetically sensitive to the times in which we live is critically important so to align our words and deeds to those things most likely to represent God to the greatest number of people. Love requires this. Relevancy is love in action. Paul’s witness at Athens was a perfect example of these skills (Acts 17:19-32).
Therefore, the concerns of the church should theologically be sensitive to focus energetically on contemporary issues and their connections to Scripture and the core issues of salvation in the context of God’s Kingdom. Obviously, our equipping of the saints must take a more wholistic panorama of doctrinal issues required for spiritual maturity, but there must be a balance that promotes both personal maturity and cultural evangelism. In this sense, reformation is ignited by the church as it interprets contemporary reality and contextually connects it to truth in such a way that the culture itself both reacts to that truth and is shaped by it.
Eschatology, the Cross, and the Supernatural
I propose that the three most relevant theological issues required today to truly engage the culture and «midwife» the process of reformation are the above three spiritual realities. We must hone the skills of our people (equipping) in terms of their knowledge of eschatological issues, the miraculous injection into current history of the cross and resurrection, and God’s current ability to alter real challenges in response to mankind’s obedience.
For me, eschatology is far more about God’s interaction with His people in terms of their ability to apply their faith and spiritual growth, than a doctrine of «how this current world ends because Jesus comes back.» Eschatology is about the Kingdom of God and His people in history, today and tomorrow. I am very aware of the multiple issues surrounding the challenges of eschatology, but if and when the truly cosmic events begin to roll out in astounding order, dealing with them then will find eager respondents in multiple millions. Right now, people are far more interested in how can we live together in peace, prosperity, and justice than dealing with the Antichrist and debating biblical interpretations of what now seems to be a future drama worthy of a fantasy movie of alien invaders.
The bottom line, so to speak, is covered rather clearly by Jesus in Matthew 13. The major issues He handles with direct simplicity: Human drama is about two rival kingdoms—the kingdom of human reasoning and the Kingdom of God (see verses 24-30 and 36-43, The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares)—and their alternative ways of managing life and the role of man on the earth. Secondly, these rival kingdoms will each have a clear opportunity to manifest their effectiveness (come to «harvest»), and mankind will be free to evaluate their value and effectiveness in terms of where to align themselves. Thirdly, God’s Kingdom may grow more slowly, but it will manifest itself clearly as it leavens more and more people and social institutions to the point of a global mass movement (verses 47-50). This is not only all true, it is «fresh» thought to almost all people and full of both intrigue and choices.
This kind of focus on eschatology brings with it the hope for alternatives to our current dead ends created by the absurd left-right political game. Instead of doom and gloom, it turns us to the intrigue of questions like, «What is this Kingdom of God stuff and does it really deal with man’s life on earth in the here and now?» It does what Jesus delights in doing which is to pull eternal truth into the present moment of options (faith). Whatever awaits us in the final spectacular events surrounding Christ’s return will surely demand everyone’s attention. In any event, the growing presence of God’s Kingdom is designed to prepare people for the heavenly «fireworks.»
The Cross and the Resurrection:
The cross of Christ deals with the issues of justice, forgiveness, and a way of life designed to mature us. These topics are tailored for multiple entry ways to conversation both socially and in one-on-one encounters. We must all be skilled and ready to deploy them when moved by the Holy Spirit. As to the resurrection, the cosmic and personal realities which it carries are so profound that it needs to be a constant injection into our spiritual training because it elicits such major responses from those who hear when spoken in faith. The Apostle Paul knew this and leapt at every opportunity to use this reality when it presented itself (Acts 17:18; 23:6) among others.
The Realm of the Supernatural:
Lastly, let us briefly look at the realm of the supernatural. Obviously, the Kingdom of God as biblically presented by Jesus and the Scriptures demonstrates the realm of the supernatural as a natural part of our experience in the Kingdom. I am not saying everyone must move into this realm and I am aware that the Reformation of Luther and his fellow reformers were not known for this phenomenon. I am saying that those who move in this realm need to prepare for an even wider extension of this practice as reason continues to fail the culture and the dark side of the supernatural dimension culturally increases as it becomes more popularized.
An intellectual argument is no match for a supernatural experience, especially if happens with witnesses. As the people of God and citizens of the Kingdom, we should expect both God and rebellious angelic beings to manifest their powers more clearly as the process of the wheat and tares mature. Reformation this next time will be less intellectually focused and focused on two other things: 1) Effective public policy that reduces community polarization and cares for the less able as much as it cares for the rights of the ambitious and gifted, and 2) spirituality that is not religious but empowering. Obviously, more could be said about all these things.
As parents and leaders, these topics should be embedded in those we lead. I personally believe in using practiced training with our people to train them in the how-to of effective communication and reasoned evangelism. Tragically, we have masses of believers generally capable of discussing what’s in the scriptures but far, far too few practically trained to engage people in the gospel basics in diverse ways. Revival and reformation await us when we begin to do what virtually all worldly organizations do for their members: train them to recruit not just listen to the concepts and reasons to do it!
1. Reformation feeds on significant socially unresolved conflicts being intercepted by the Holy Spirit through people who see and communicate Kingdom answers in faith and simplicity. God’s people need to feed on those answers and how to effectively share them on a regular basis.
2. Most people today care more about resolving current problems than where they are going when they die. While tragic, this offers believers both targets—the biblical issues related to those problems and how those same answers relate to the eternal realm now open to them in Christ.
3. The gospel of the Kingdom, unlike talking about the church or other spiritual issues which society has built strong walls of prejudice against, gives us a clear pathway unobstructed by social prejudice or reactions against religiosity. All three of these truths point to eschatology, the cross and resurrection, and the supernatural realm attesting to both God’s existence and scriptural truths that trump current rationality with principle-based truth.
And that is…