I want to wrap up this series by posing an important self-critical question:
Is all this talk about becoming churches of irresistible influence a recipe for the inevitable dulling of the church’s witness?
In other words, am I setting us on the road to Christendom? To trading our integrity for worldly influence and political power? And, what place (if any) have I allowed for the expectation of suffering and persecution … even martyrdom from the world that hated Jesus?
Of course, I’m convinced that the task empowering and harnessing the church’s significant human resources to do good — so that we are actually salt and light in our communities — does not conflict with the church’s witness. But why not?
Well, even though we must surely expect hostility, our witness is not a matter of standing apart from sinners and condemning them. Instead, it’s about meeting them with the love and grace of God, calling them to repent and believe.
As I’ve said before, we’re seeking to tread in the footsteps of Jesus here. And as His life was not at odds with — but rather fulfilled and crowned by — what He achieved in His death and resurrection, so our works of charity are not at odds with the task of announcing His atoning achievement. Christ-like works don’t compete with Christ-promoting words; they go hand-in-hand with them. How else can we adorn the gospel of God our Saviour?
Now I’m not up for romanticism. We’ve got to be realistic about this. If we do actually manage to become churches of irresistible influence, we will still (tragically) be the stench of death to some. As long as we haven’t smoothed over the offence of the cross…
But just like our Lord — and as Him witnesses — we’ll be impossible to ignore:
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matt 5.16).