jesus.jpgOn April 18 David Roach, writing for The Southern Baptist Theology Center posted a talk  here that Dan Kimball gave at a student ministry conference at Willow Creek Church in IL. Being one who cares deeply about Jesus and the responsibility we have to live out his gospel along with the mandate to “act justly” this talk spoke to me on a deep level. I feel that it is our call to act justly in a world filled with so much injustice, but I see how we can do it just because it is needed and not because it is a mandate from Jesus on how we should live. If I ever “Do Justice” but forget about Jesus then I have missed it completely. Then I am just another person who is doing good, but living for themselves. I have attached the post below. It is a bit long, but very worth it.

SOUTH BARRINGTON, Ill. (BP)–Though it is right for the church to fight for social justice, Christians must never focus on conditions in this world so much that they fail to tell people about the eternal life available through Christ, Dan Kimball said April 11 during the Shift student ministry conference at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill.

Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, Calif., and a leading voice in the emerging church movement, was among several speakers advocating more traditional views at a conference that often focused on social justice and adapting Christianity to confront the 21st century.

The conference also featured Brian McLaren, another leading emerging church voice and author of the 2007 book “Everything Must Change,” which encourages Christians to stop focusing on eternity and think of God’s kingdom as something they can bring about fully in this world.

Shane Claiborne, author of “Irresistible Revolution,” was a main session speaker, while optional activities included viewing a film featuring Rob Bell, founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., and attending a discussion group called “Emerging Church, Questionable Theology, Social Vision.”

“This is what I’m just concerned about a little bit with some of the things that are going on today,” Kimball said. “The church is waking up to the fact that we have to be involved in global social justice issues. And that is fantastic. We should be repenting (and saying), ‘I can’t believe we did not think of this. This is the command of Jesus and what we should be about.’ And we need to be so involved in all of this because the kingdom is about life on this planet here and not just about when we die.

“But my subtle fear is that we don’t then swing the pendulum so much that we forget that there is life after we die and that we do have to still remember that there is an eternity with God and an eternity apart from God.”

Kara Powell, executive director of the Center for Youth and Family Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., also called for more Gospel proclamation, saying the Gospel of grace will inspire teens to persist in their Christian faith after high school.

“My best guess is probably about 50 percent of the students who are decently involved in your youth ministry through 12th grade … won’t be serving the Lord 18 months after graduation,” Powell said, adding, “Somehow the Jesus that fed them, that met their needs in high school — somehow isn’t doing it 18 months later.”

Darren Whitehead, pastor of Next Gen Ministries at Willow Creek, told youth ministers they must exegete both the culture and the Scripture in order to reach students effectively. Greg Hawkins, Willow Creek’s executive pastor, presented research suggesting that Bible reading and study are the most important factors in a person’s spiritual growth.

Kimball, in the conference’s closing session, said most Americans have a favorable impression of Jesus but do not see Christians in a favorable light.

“When we did kind of an informal sort of survey,” he said, “what we hear about us as Christians (is): we’re judgmental, negative, we’re homophobic, we mesh rightwing politics with our religion, we arrogantly think that we are right and everybody else is wrong with other religious faiths — and that’s arrogantly — we oppress women in the church and it’s male dominated and we’re fundamentalists that take the whole Bible literally.”

Though not all of these characterizations are accurate, people hold such opinions of Christians because we often remove ourselves from culture and build evangelical sub-cultures, rather than remaining in but not of the world, as Jesus prayed, Kimball said.

A key to successfully reaching non-believers with the Gospel is creating an atmosphere in the church that promotes evangelism, he said. An inviting atmosphere doesn’t have to be on the cutting edge of culture but simply must make all people feel welcomed and loved, according to Kimball.

He noted that his own conversion to faith in Christ occurred because loving senior adults in a London church reached out to him while he was playing in a punk band. The church members were completely unlike him but communicated that they cared for him and welcomed his questions about the Bible, Kimball said.

“You have a 23-year-old guy that is a total punk music guy,” he said of himself. “You’d think, ‘We need a hip, other kind of musician guy to be a witness.’ No. God said, ‘I’m going to use an 83-year-old man and a bunch of elderly people who are about as uncool as you could possibly get, don’t know anything about music or culture, but they have Jesus in them.”

Dealing with cultural shift is ultimately not complicated, Kimball said. Believers can affect the culture if they will simply “be in the world” and simultaneously be committed to Christ and His church, he said.

David Roach is a writer for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Baptist Press correspondent.

Copyright (c) 2008 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press 901 Commerce Street
Nashville, TN 37203
Tel: 615.244.2355
Fax: 615.782.8736
email: bpress@sbc.net

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One comment so far on “Don’t forget eternity

  1. Trevor says:

    Thanks for this…I really like what you and Dan are saying. I think we need to be really aware of social and justice issues, because of Jesus, because of his love for people and the role he asks us to play in that. I am excited, because I just got Dan Kimball’s book (they like Jesus but not the church) from Amazon yesterday, and I am excited to read it now.

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