Note: This article describes one of the four ON short talks on theology and economics designed to be used as class assignments.
“Christ and culture!” Sometimes it seems like those three words could start an argument in an empty room. But there is actually a deep consensus in the church about many of the things that need to be done – cultivating joy, peace and justice in our local communities – and the urgency of these needs is increasing. Will the church remain paralyzed by a false sense that everything is disputed and uncertain, ensuring that these opportunities remain a low priority for our pastoral leaders? Or will the church find a moment of clarity and coherence, putting our salt-and-light calling at the heart of the local church?
If the church is to succeed in showing Christ to our communities and seeking the welfare of the city, our theological schools must take part. Pastoral formation must give community engagement the priority it deserves. Deep wisdom about ecclesiology and missiology in our knowledge tradition provide the framework we need for coherence and urgency.
In this rich and vivid talk, Charlie Self of Assemblies of God Theological Seminary describes how “faithful churches create flourishing communities.” He draws together a wealth of theological touchpoints, bringing examples that range from Dallas and Oregon all the way to Sri Lanka and Cambodia. He points the way to how pastors can equip people to carry out God’s mission in the world without compromising the God-given integrity and faithfulness of the church.
Drawing on Romans 14:17, Self organizes this mission under three headings:
- Joy: Having the intimate presence of God in Christ leads us out to perform our daily callings in our communities with hope and purpose.
- Peace: Having peace with God in Christ leads us out to be agents of harmony and reconciliation in our communities.
- Justice: Having the righteousness of God in Christ leads us out to bear witness to justice in our communities.
In closing, he reminds us that when Dallas Willard addressed the Oikonomia Network shortly before going to be with the Lord in 2013, he said that he longed for the day when the local pastor was again regarded as a moral and intellectual leader in the community, and was a discipler of cultural leaders. Theological education that prioritizes joy, peace and justice at the heart of the pastoral calling is the best path back to that reality.
Below is a brief outline of the talk, with a few sample excerpts. We hope you will find this a useful tool to help your students grasp these critical ecclesiological, missiological and ethical insights:
Life in Deep Ellum
SAMPLE: In the middle of this community is a rather squat building with a colorful sign, called Life in Deep Ellum. Rachel and Joel Triska lead this expression of kingdom vitality. They’re incubating businesses, hosting non-profits, opening space for the community. They run an art gallery and a successful coffee shop, where they encourage people to “share what stirs you.” And oh, by the way, on Sunday they have church there….They are most concerned, as we all are, that personal salvation in Jesus Christ remain open to all, and the great commission be in view. The mission statement of this community is, “developing God’s community while serving ours.” There is joy, there is peace, and there is justice because Joel and Rachel believe that faithful churches create flourishing communities.
The Mechanic as Minister
SAMPLE: Joy begins with God’s delight in his creation, and God’s delight in the people that he’s made. He does have some interesting kids, doesn’t he?…This joy begins with our personal salvation. It creates a new fellowship as God’s people come together, worship together, share spiritual gifts. This joy overflows to Monday morning work that has meaning. This joy overflows as people wake up with purpose and a sense of calling.
Healing in Cambodia and Baltimore
SAMPLE: We have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. His marvelous grace allows us to enjoy a position of security….Christ Jesus on the cross created peace, bringing Jew and gentile, rich and poor together. That peace comes to us personally again. It comes to us in creating a new community. But that same peace also commissions us as peacemakers. Jesus said we are blessed when we are peacemakers….It requires humility and courage for the people of God, who used to hold people at a distance, to now embrace them as friends.
A Tale of Two Troublesome Salesmen
SAMPLE: This justice is rooted in the righteousness of God that comes to us through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We discover in the scripture that we are right with God through the merits of Christ, and we remain right with God only by his grace….This righteousness, this justice creates that new community as Jew and gentile, rich and poor all are lifted by the grace of God. This justice also issues in practical advocacy for people in our neighborhoods.
Faithful Churches Create Flourishing Communities
SAMPLE: The late Dallas Willard said – just a few weeks before he went to be with our Lord – that he longed for the day when pastors were again the moral and intellectual leaders of their community. I might add to that, help to create cultural leadership as well. You see, faithful churches create flourishing communities as they bring the joy of the gospel and meaningful work, as they bring peace among the cultures, and as they bring the justice first found in the cross of Jesus Christ to bear in every economic, social, and cultural situation.