A Word To Gospel-Loving Christians
Dear fellow believers in the Lord Jesus,
Are you committed to the authority of Scripture and the sufficiency of the Gospel? Do you believe that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone? Do you believe that churches should faithfully teach and preach the Word and instruct each other to live for the glory of God? Do you believe that Christians should be on guard against false teaching and uphold sound doctrine? If you answered “yes” to all of those questions then this letter is for you.
By God’s amazing grace, I too would answer “yes” to the above questions, and I’d even be inclined to add a hearty “amen!” Therefore, I am truly thankful for what I perceive as an increased zeal for doctrinal precision and clear Gospel proclamation among a growing number of Christians today. However, I think that many of us, myself included, are prone to falling into some unhelpful tendencies that in the long run, may actually cause more harm than good to the Bride of Christ and to the advance of the Gospel. That should be ample motivation to finish reading this letter. Amen?
First, let me give a summary of our tendency and then I’ll give a real-life example. Here’s the exhortation, we need to be much more careful about speaking out against leaders, ideas or movements within the church that we perceive as possible threats to our biblical convictions. There is certainly a proper time and manner to warn about false teachers and false teaching within the church, but we need to be extremely sure that what we are speaking out against truly fits into those categories before we open our mouths (or pound on our keyboards). To not exercise this caution puts us at risk of falling into a number of sins, (1) of slander against fellow members of the Body of Christ, (2) of dishonesty, when we misrepresent facts based on poor or misleading research, (3) of causing unnecessary division in the family of God, and (4) of maligning the Church’s testimony in the world.
Here’s a specific example:
Death by association and the word missional
Take the word “missional” for example. It would seem to some believers that anyone who embraces this term must be guilty of watering down the Scriptures, replacing preaching with social justice, and on their way to becoming a theological liberal who knows more about pop culture than biblical doctrine. Sadly, I have even heard well-known leaders scoffing at the term and further encouraging this sentiment. While it is true that missional terminology has been used by the emergent church and other progressives, originally “missional” was simply a word used by some missiologists and Christian leaders who wanted to help the church rediscover their calling as a missionary people whether at home or abroad. That original meaning has continued to the present and is used by many gospel-loving Christians today. When we, in our local church, use this term we seek to convey the idea that we have been called to live as witnesses of the Lord Jesus in everyday life, and that we should think about our homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces as mission fields just as much as somewhere overseas. We also want the whole of our life to be lived under the Lordship of Christ, and to seek the Spirit's guidance for how we might need to give up certain activities or comforts in order to be more effective in connecting with lost people around us. Here’s one definition of missional living: “In Christianity, missional living is the adoption of the posture, thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with the gospel message.” Of course, someone could water down or compromise truth in an attempt to be “missional” but sinful compromise is not the inevitable result of missional living. In fact, refusal to live missionally (as we’ve defined it) would itself be a sinful compromise. Being committed to truth and living on mission are not at odds with each other. I have rubbed shoulders with many brothers over the years who serve in local churches that would most likely be referred to as part of the “missional movement” and they are some of the most gracious, gospel-loving, and Christ-honoring people I know. They are passionate, as we are, about equipping believers to be missionaries locally, while sending and supporting others among the nations.
May the God of peace help us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (see Matthew 10:16).
Your brother in Christ,
P.S. This letter is not a reaction to anyone's criticism of us. Just felt compelled to write it today.
Nathan Cedarland is a servant-leader of Kaleo Grays Harbor, a church plant in Aberdeen, WA. He is passionate about God, his family (his wife Julissa and their five kids), his church family, equipping the Spanish-speaking church throughout the Americas, and film-making.