Book Review: Save Them From Secularism

Recently, I just finished reading a very helpful and inciteful book on parenting entitled, Save Them From Secularism: Pre-Evangelism for your Children by David de Bruyn. This is perhaps the best book on parenting I have read. It is not necessarily a methodology for parenting. It is a philosophical treatment of parenting.41rKmF72OWL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

De Bruyn seeks to target how a parent can prepare his/her child for the gospel. “It’s a book about shaping their attitude towards the gospel” (p5). The secularism that is so prevalent in today’s culture must be recognized and addressed by Christian parents today. We cannot mindlessly and blindly imbibe what the ungodly world around us is putting forth. There must be serious discernment on the part of the parent with regards to what is allowed into the home and what philosophy he/she follows in parenting.

“The first and greatest commandment is followed by a commandment to teach children to do the same (Deut 6:4-9). Our goal as Christian parents should be nothing less than to help shape our children so that they will, by grace, become ardent lovers of God” (p15). So begins the second chapter entitled “Parental Piety” in which the author challenges parents to live out the truths of the gospel and this first commandment, as it will teach their young children what love is, who God is, and what the gospel is. This helps shape our children’s imaginations about spiritual things, even before they will understand the facts of the gospel. The third chapter, “Family Roles” continues that line of thinking as well.

In family life, there is the seemingly never-ending cycle of life, full of routine and the “mundane” aspects of daily living. Yet even our routines help to shape the minds and hearts of our young children, and can prepare the soil of their hearts to receive the truth of the gospel. These routines and rituals are all shaping influences. These, coupled with other things like teaching our children manners trains them to think outside of themselves, and respect other people, while living with a sense of decorum and self-control in the sight of God. Those are the subjects of chapters 4-6.

Other shaping influences should be considered in the home as well. The author deals with things such as “Art” (chapter 7), “The Christian Tradition” (chapter 8), and “Language, Thinking and Christian Education” (chapter 9) before drawing some final conclusions (chapter 10). While nothing is discussed to the lengths they could be, every subject is broached in such a manner as to raise the issues in the reader’s minds. Parents must not blindly accept the secular mindset of our culture, but must purposefully live a distinct Christian life. This is not mere externalism, but allowing the gospel itself to shape everything in our home, from our affections to our activities.

Of particular interest to me is his treatment of our view of the Lord’s Day.

In small and great ways, Sunday worship is shaping the religious imaginations of our children. What we do before and after corporate worship, how we worship, how we approach it, how we sit, how we sing, how we talk in the car on the way there and on the way home – all of this tells a child how we should imagine God (p37).

He addresses our preparation for worship, our dress in worship, our activity in worship, and our response to worship. How a Christian parent deals with each of these things will help or hinder a child’s view of God and ultimately their view of the gospel, and can be a contributing factor to whether or not that child will leave the church or continue in its teaching when he/she grows up.

While more could be said, I commend this book to any parent. However, for those parents of young children, I highly commend this book. If you have older children, the book is still helpful and can help you rethink issues of life and to adjust your thinking to perhaps lead your family in a better way than has been done in the past. No parent is guaranteed godly children who love God supremely. However, all Christian parents are responsible to strive to lead their children into the proper view of the gospel. The child must still submit to and obey the gospel himself, but the parents must be faithful in their responsibility to do what they can to save their child from swallowing the secular mindset. May God give us grace to re-evaluate our thinking and our actions in these regards, for the glory of God.

Four Things My Children Need from Me, Their Father

Fatherhood scares me to death. God has entrusted to my earthly care two gifts, to souls, to shepherd for His glory. It scares me because I know how much I struggle with the sinfulness and selfishness in my own heart, and yet I am seeking to lead my children away from those same struggles in their own hearts. I am the father of twins who just finished their sixth grade year of elementary school. The more they grow, the more I am realizing what they need, and how faulty I am at giving it to them. This reminds me of my need for my heavenly Father’s care, and also my need to point my 10957411_1060641807283179_1009340658848711355_ochildren to Him as well. As I think about what my children really need, more toys, activities, etc. do not fall on that list. They need things of much greater spiritual value. Here are a few of my thoughts in this regard.

My children need me to be humble.

One thing youth ministry and parenting have taught me is that children can see through pride and hypocrisy as easily as they can see through glass. Humility is the queen of Christian virtues, which must be continually cultivated in my own heart and life as I humble myself before my God and King. Humility before God always yields God’s gracious help, but pride solicits the opposition of God. This humility simply reflects the humility of my Savior, who humbled himself to the point of a cross-death for our sins. If my children are going to be humble people, they need to see in me true humility before God.

My children need me to be holy.

Moral holiness and purity are essential to any life, but particularly in my own life as a father, I must continually put to death the evil desires of my flesh and actively yield myself to the Spirit of God. Holiness is a non-negotiable for the Christian. Holiness must be held throughout the normal routine of daily life, in what I say, what I do, where I go, what I delight in, what I prioritize, and in every other aspect of living. Nothing is outside of the boundary of holiness. My culture as a Christian must be distinctly Christian – holy, as God is holy; pure as Christ is pure. Holiness must characterize my children, too. However, if they do not see me striving for holiness, they will see no need for it in their own lives.

My children need me to be loving.

Scripturally speaking, this includes two notions. First, my children need to see that I love God wholeheartedly. My commitment to God must be obvious to them. One prime example of this regards the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is honored because of its importance and significance in the Christian faith, not just because I happen to be the pastor. The day and its corresponding times of corporate worship are not mere mindless, empty rituals, but ways of cultivating and shaping my love for God on a regular basis. I love my God, His Word, His people, and our times of corporate worship. Therefore, nothing but God’s providence hinders my commitment to the Lord’s Day along with its corresponding times of corporate worship. Also included in my love for God is my personal worship of God. This is part of my daily routine in order to provide manna for my daily sustenance, and cultivate a deeper love for God’s character and ways. Second, my children need to see that I love others selflessly. Perhaps there is no greater opportunity for this than with my love for my wife. My children will view God’s love for them through the grid of my demonstrations of love for my wife. Therefore, I must cultivate and demonstrate a deeper and more selfless love for her every day. My children will also see my love for them and, based on that, build a theology of God’s love for them. Therefore my love for my children must be selfless as well. I must communicate to them that they are not my slaves, or nuisances, or “oopses” or inconveniences. They are blessings from God, and must be treated as such. Love does not preclude discipline, for whom God loves He disciplines. However, discipline is always couched in love, and never to be done in anger.

My children need me to be spiritual.

Perhaps this is a summary of the first three points, but it is worth addressing separately. There is a difference between a carnal Christian and a spiritual Christian. The former is governed by his fleshly passions, while the latter is governed by the indwelling Holy Spirit through the Word of God. As a Christian, I must constantly and actively choose to walk in the Spirit every day. I must listen to His nudgings, yield to His Word, and generally do those things that are in keeping with His character. I desire my children to be spiritual people, but this does not mean that they will merely adopt certain standards. Their spirituality must be based on the Holy Spirit’s control over every aspect of their lives, from how they interact with people and respond to life’s difficulties, to how they make decisions on a regular basis, to their words, their entertainment choices, their vocations, their desires and pursuits, and so much more. Yet if my children do not see me and hear me live my life in this way, why should they?

Let me say it again, fatherhood scares me to death. My children will, most likely, be out of the house and on their own in a fewer number of years than they have been living at home. In their remaining years (and beyond) they need me to be humble, holy, loving, and spiritual. Of course, this does not happen by my own will. I desperately need God’s grace in this, as do my children. These are all characteristics of Christ, and I want my children to love Christ, embrace Him themselves, and live, by His grace, for His glory. As they grow in humility, holiness, love, and spirituality, I pray this will happen, and perpetuate a Christianity which glorifies God.

Esteeming God’s Ways

There is a difference between those things that are right and those things that are false. As believers, we must think B145183-147039iblically, and critically in order to discern the difference.

But that knowledge is not enough. Psalm 119:128 tells us that there needs to be certain responses that we must have regarding those things.

The first response is one of esteem. We must consider all of God’s precepts to be right.

There is a consideration, an estimation, a value placed here on something to be right, or pleasing (as it is translated elsewhere). Beyond just evaluating life to figure what is in keeping with God’s Word, there must be a further estimation or value put on those things that are in keeping with God’s Word. This speaks to our affections. We must value what God values; love what God loves, and esteem what God views as worthy of esteem. It is not enough just to recognize and affirm God’s truth. We must highly value God’s truth.

And as we do this, something else will naturally flow from that.

The second response is one of hatred. We will hate every false way.

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says about this word that it “expresses an emotional attitude toward persons and things which are opposed, detested, despised and with which one wishes to have no contact or relationship. It is therefore the opposite of love. Whereas love draws and unites, hate separates and keeps distant. The hated and hating persons are considered foes or enemies and are considered odious, utterly unappealing.” – II:880

Our unreserved love of God’s truth will lead to an unhindered hatred of falsehood. That which is opposed to God and His Word cannot have our love, but in fact must have our hatred. Other texts in the Old Testament echo this idea.

Psalm 97:10, “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.”

Psalm 119:113, “I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love.”

Amos 5:5, “hate the evil, and love the good.”

Hebrews 1:9 speaking of Christ, “thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity” quoting from Psalm 45:6-7

Conclusions:

As Christians, we must learn to think in ways that honor God. We must think Biblically and critically in order to be discerning.

As Christians, we must learn to value what God values. We must choose to esteem highly what God esteems and love what God loves.

As Christians, we must therefore hate what God hates. We must choose to refuse to love that which is not in agreement with God and His Word.

May we commit ourselves to consider everything God says explicitly and by principle to be right; and may we therefore hate everything that opposes God’s character and God’s Word.

Evaluating God’s Ways

There are certain texts of the Scripture that just stand out as being pivotal verses and crucial to the Christian faith. Perhaps verses like Psalm 23:1, John 3:16, John 14:6, or Romans 5:8 come to your mind as verses like this. Those verses are able to stand out in virtual isolation and communicate great truth on their own.

Another such verse is Psalm 119:128, “Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I haevaluationte every false way.”

This verse holds some incredible truth for every believer to ponder, no matter the age or gender.

God’s Ways and False Ways

Psalm 119 is all about God’s Word. Nearly every verse speaks about it in some way. The word “precepts” is a synonym for God’s Word. It means specifically God’s mandates.This is put into contrast with every false way. False ways are those which are untrue, deceptive, or a sham. We are confronted, then, with a contrast between God’s mandates and false ways.

We are left to draw some basic conclusions about this contrast. False ways are those that are not in keeping with God’s precepts. In other words, there are things in life that we face all the time. We hear things; we think things; we view things; we experience things; we learn things. There must be some kind of evaluation made by us as to whether those things are in keeping with God’s precepts, or not.

This contrast should be intentionally considered. The reason for this is, at the very least, because we live in a world where the lines between right and wrong are trying to be blurred, or erased altogether. Issues of morality are becoming fewer and fewer; while “tolerance” and “acceptance” are being trumpeted more and more. Even within Christianity, many immoral practices are being excused and shoved under the umbrella of God’s grace. Yet those practices are against God’s Word. They are not in conformity to God’s ways.

Just because something is not explicitly stated in the Scriptures as evil, immoral, or sinful does not mean that God does not have an opinion on them. There is an expectation that we will be able to discern God’s mind on those issues, based not on an explicit command or prohibition, but based on the general character of God our Father. This evaluation process is important in our Spiritual growth. God does not desire us to simply rest on the explicit commands or prohibitions, but to think critically and biblically through all of life’s issues, based on the truths and principles of God’s Word.

Immaturity requires an explicit command or prohibition; maturity takes truths, principles, historical examples, and the general character of God and makes critical and biblical applications to all of life’s issues. Failure to think critically and biblically leads to simply thinking emotionally. When our emotions are allowed to rule our decisions, we are on a track that leads to disaster. When we allow God’s Word (both explicit commands/prohibitions, as well as general truth/principles) to rule our hearts, there is safety.

There is a difference between God’s ways and false ways. We as God’s people must be able to discern and evaluate the differences, both in the clear areas, as well as in the “not so clear.” No area of life is outside of the control, governance, and care of God. This evaluation, though, necessitates a response, which is what we will consider in the next post.

Four Lessons from Daniel’s Parents

While still a few years away, I realize that I am fast approaching the time in life when I will be a parent of teenagers. My realization that my children are in a different point of life than they were five years ago is growing. My role as a parent is also transitioning. I am becoming more acutely aware of my failures as a parent and my desperate need for God’s help in imparting His wisdom from His Word to them as best as I can, and pray that God continues His work of drawing them ever closer to Himself through His Word and His Spirit that is in them.parenting-class

One thing that has struck me in this regard recently is thinking of Daniel and his three young friends who were taken into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar, as told to us in Daniel 1. These four young men were able to stand firmly for God in the face of great danger and difficulty. Babylon would not afford them the same pleasures and privileges of Judah. How would they survive? How would they handle living in a place that did not worship Yahweh?

As I considered the qualities that Nebuchadnezzar was looking for in young people to train, I thought to myself that those qualities were taught, at least in part, by the parents of those four young men. What did their parents teach them? And how does that apply to my parenting?

1. I need to teach my children how to take care of themselves physically. These were youths “without blemish, of good appearance” (v4). Their parents were diligent in taking care of these children while they were young, and then teaching them to take care of their own bodies. Their appearance was such that was noteworthy. I need to teach my children to take care of themselves physically. Physical health is important in the work of the ministry as it provides stamina and energy to stand up for God.

2. I need to teach my children to take care of themselves mentally. These were youths who were “skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, [and] understanding learning” (v4). Part of loving God means to do so with all of our minds. These young men knew how to think and reason well, and had a level of discernment to evaluate things mentally. I need to teach my children not only what to think about, but also how to think. Thinking Biblically about all of life is crucial to the spiritual success of any Christian’s life. To claim Christianity without cultivating a Christian mind is detrimental to the Christian life.

3. I need to teach my children to develop good social skills. These four friends were said to be “competent to stand in the king’s palace” (v4). There was a certain maturity and decorum taught to these young men by their parents. They could present themselves well in different and difficult situations. These young men were able to stand even amongst the king’s court. I need to teach my children how to carry themselves in a humble, but secure way with people. I need to teach them decorum, how to converse with people in a mature fashion, and how to interact socially in a proper way.

4. I need to teach my children to be spiritually strong. These four young men were taken out of their home environment and placed in a foreign country. Their lives demonstrated that they were already spiritually strong. Trials do not build character; they reveal character that is already there. These young men were spiritually strong prior to entering Babylon, and from the beginning of their captivity they evidenced a deep-seated allegiance and affection for Yahweh. Their parents were no doubt instrumental in that. This is the biggest challenge and task for parents. While the other three areas are important, the spiritual lives of our children are of greater importance. I must do what I can to bring up my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, praying for God’s Word to penetrate and saturate their hearts and lives, and work its way out into their daily living. As a parent, I must do what God wants me to do in training my children up in spirituality. While I cannot make them spiritual, I must be faithful to impart to them spiritual truth and help them reason through life using the grid of the Scripture to guide them. I must teach them that they do not sit on the throne of the universe, but God does.

While nothing is really known about the parents of these four young men, their training of these youths was successful as all four stood firm for the cause of Yahweh in the face of trial, physical danger, and even death. Who knows what will happen to my children in the coming years. Yet one thing seems to be certain. They are going to have to stand strong for God in a country that is growing more Babylonian in its worldview, its culture, and its worship every day. This will not be easy for them, as it probably wasn’t for Daniel and his friends. It is vital that I as a parent be faithful to shepherd their hearts towards God and pray for God to continue to grow them into the young man and woman He desires them to be. O how I, and they, need God’s grace to glorify Him as we should.

Evaluating Incarnational Ministry, Conclusion

In the past few posts, I have sought to lay out a sketch of what incarnational ministry is and have given some amount of critical evaluation to it. Incarnationalism has a misunderstanding of its key Scriptural texts, often reading into the text, or emphasizing things in the text, without a clear understanding of what the text actually teaches. Incarnationalism also overemphasizes the humanity of Jesus. The deity and humanity of Jesus cannot be pitted against eIncarnational_2ach other. Incarnationalism also de-prioritizes gospel proclamation. In its attempt to adjust to and adopt the prevailing culture of the day, and give undue weight to social concerns, it seeks to blend in without giving proper priority to the distinct nature of gospel proclamation. This brings me to the final two critiques, and then a conclusion about incarnational ministry.

Incarnational Ministry Has a Skewed View of Culture

The notion of culture is a vast subject to cover and worthy of much more ink than what is allowed here. Others have dedicated much time and effort to discuss this important topic. For many Christians, our (American) culture is viewed with a reserved cynicism. However, what is evident within the incarnationalist mindset is that there is very little if anything that is of great concern with regards to culture in today’s world.

Culture can be defined essentially as a way of life. Scripturally, perhaps the closest Greek term to the concept of our notion of culture is anastrophe,[1] along with its cognates.[2] A culture of a people involves their way of life. That way of life is based largely upon their religious viewpoint, be it atheistic, Christian, or other. The belief of a people group determines the behavior of a people group. Therefore, culture is not amoral, but has intrinsic meaning and significance.

The culture of any people group, therefore, must not be embraced uncritically, but rather analyzed carefully and Biblically. For the incarnational/missional/holistic minister, however, culture is not necessarily to be criticized, but accepted. Aniol writes, “Like transformationalists, missional authors recognize antithesis between the church and its surrounding culture, but also like transformationalists, their initial posture is one of acceptance, and even when certain aspects of culture are contrary to Scripture, their method is to adopt the form and renegotiate its meaning.”[3] He continues, “They see cultural forms in and of themselves as neutral – even good; it is only particular uses of those forms that distort them….”[4]

The problem here is that the incarnationalist mindset views culture as being neutral, when it is nothing of the sort. When Jesus ate with Pharisees and forgave prostitutes, He was not embracing their culture. When He entered into Jewish humanity, He did not embrace the culture of anti-Romanism; rather, He sought to transform people’s hearts with the truth of God, even in the midst of an oppressive government. Because culture is not neutral, a missionary cannot blindly embrace every aspect of the culture of a particular mission field, nor can a pastor on U.S. soil blindly embrace every aspect of culture in his community. Culture must be viewed critically.

Incarnational Ministry is Just Another Trend

Trends within Christianity come and go. I find it interesting that some of the great missionaries of the past such as the apostle Paul, Hudson Taylor or Jim Elliot did not speak of such things as incarnational ministry. They sought to utterly glorify God by living distinctly Christian lives and by proclaiming the gospel message to those who would hear it. While they did not shy away from serving the needs of people, their primary responsibility and focus was not on service, but on gospel proclamation.

The trendiness of incarnationalism will dissipate over time. While it is helpful to evaluate our philosophy and practice, we must not believe that “new” always equals “better.” This is not to say that something new is necessarily bad; it is to say that something new is not always for the good. Christianity is currently in a state of trendiness on many fronts, including the mission of the church. Being “incarnational” is just as trendy today as being “purpose-driven” or “seeker-sensitive” was in years gone by. Christianity has never been trendy, and therefore Christianity must be leery of various trends that seek to dominate Christianity.

Concluding Thoughts

In these posts, I have sought to describe and critique the incarnational model of ministry. Its trendiness leads to an understanding that in a future time, another subject will sweep through Christianity and become the latest rage. However, it is important to seek to understand it better in order to evaluate it from a Biblical and theological perspective. Incarnationalism does not stand up to solid theology (orthodoxy), nor does it lend itself to good Christian practice (orthopraxy). While I am thankful any time the gospel is preached by an incarnational minister, I do not believe that this philosophy of ministry holds up to the overall teaching of Scripture.

An article was written by two missionaries to Africa.[5] Joel James is the pastor of Grace Fellowship in Pretoria, South Africa. Brian Biedebach is the pastor of International Fellowship Bible Church in Lilongwe, Malawi. These two men write about what they believe are the ramifications of essentially an incarnational approach to ministry on the continent of Africa. They have been missionaries for twenty years and offer some interesting insights. They write,

Evangelical missions in Africa is changing. Or more accurately, it has changed. In the past, the bulk of the theologically conservative missionaries in Africa came to do church planting and leadership training. No longer. Today many of the new missionaries being sent are focused on social relief, with the church tacked on as a theological addendum. By all appearances there has been a mega-shift in evangelical missions away from church planting and leadership training toward social justice or social action.[6]

That statement brings to the forefront this shift that has and continues to take place within Christian missions and ministry in general. This shift is not good. They conclude their article by giving eight specific critiques of this kind of incarnational approach to missions.[7] Of particular interest, though, are their concluding thoughts. They write,

Secondarily, preachers who are committed to proclamation-focused missions need to speak out, offering the church something better than they’re getting from the social justice bloggers and the popular missional authors. It won’t be easy. Who wants to be (unfairly) branded as being against orphans or clean water? We don’t. But the price of silence is high: the church is poised to lose a generation of missionaries to secondary work such as building schools and digging wells. And if history has anything to say about the matter, we might lose the gospel too.[8]

What these men articulate is a real life case of what happens over time with this kind of faulty philosophical approach to Christian ministry. It clarifies for us that incarnationalism cannot hold its ground from a theological or Biblical perspective. Christ’s call for all Christians is to “go…and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). May we hold true to His call upon our lives as His disciples.

[1] The KJV translates this word as “conversation” while the ESV translates it mostly as “conduct.” The word means a way of life, or manner of living.

[2] Scott Aniol has written extensively regarding this subject in his doctoral dissertation entitled, The Mission of Worship: A Critique of and Response to the Philosophy of Culture, Contextualization, and Worship of the North American Missional Church Movement. In this dissertation, chapter 4 discusses “The Missional Philosophy of Culture and Contextualization” and traces the history of the word “culture” as well as its various uses today. Then in chapter 5, “Toward a New Testament Philosophy of Culture and Contextualization” he evaluates New Testament words closely linked to culture, concluding the anastrophe is what communicates the modern idea of culture most accurately.

[3] Scott Aniol, “The Mission of Worship: A Critique of and Response to the Philosophy of Culture, Contextualization, and Worship of the North American Missional Church Movement” (PhD dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2013), 116.

[4] Aniol, 117.

[5] Joel James and Brian Biedebach, “Regaining our Focus: A Response to the Social Action Trend in Evangelical Missions” in Master’s Seminary Journal, Volume 25, Number 1 (Spring 2014), 29-50.

[6] James and Biedebach, 29

[7] Ibid, 37-47. They list them as follows, 1) A Redefinition of the Gospel, 2) An Overly Realized Eschatology, 3) A Preference for Indirect Gospel Ministry over Direct Gospel Ministry, 4) The New Pragmatism, 5) Adopting the Agendas of Political Correctness, 6) Defective Hermeneutics, 7) A Misunderstanding of Jesus’ (sic) Ministry and Miracles, and 8) A Willful Blindness to How the Early Church Fulfilled Jesus’ (sic) Commission(s).

[8] Ibid, 49-50

Evaluating Incarnational Ministry part 3

To continue the discussion from the previous two posts, incarnational ministry brings with it some concerns. One of those concerns is a misunderstanding of key biblical texts. In this post, I offer two more critiques.

Incarnational Ministry Overemphasizes the Humanity of JesusIncarnational_2

In reading the various literature regarding this topic, the emphasis on Jesus’s humanity and human serving comes to the forefront. In their book, ReJesus: A WILD Messiah for a Missional Church, Frost and Hirsch argue for a return to a proper Christology. In this discussion, they state, “When Jesus is just true light of true light, and not flesh and blood, we are only ever called to adore him, not follow him.”[1] Here they overemphasize the humanity of Jesus while downplaying His deity. Jesus is both God and man; fully God and fully man. One aspect cannot be neglected, nor can one be elevated above another. He is the perfect God-Man.

In focusing on Christ’s humanity, this gives the incarnationalist a platform upon which to build his house of social work. The incarnationalists also purport that in His humanity Christ shunned personal goods and wealth, rebelled against ungodly authority, and was constantly getting on the nerves of those in power.[2] I would argue, however, that in seeking to emphasize the humanity of Jesus, even to the brink of sinful tendencies, the incarnationalists in essence de-emphasize the deity of Jesus, and are in danger of theological heresy.

Incarnational Ministry De-Prioritizes Gospel Proclamation

Incarnational ministry is akin to a holistic approach to ministry and being “missional.” Those aspects focus not so much on gospel proclamation, but rather social involvement in various ways in one’s community. While no one within the incarnational movement rejects or ignores the gospel, the proclamation of the gospel is almost viewed as secondary, while service and community involvement are viewed as primary. Frost and Hirsch argue that Jesus spent about thirty years in relative anonymity among the people, doing what normal people do, without any kind of outward proclamation of who He was. However, we have one instance recorded when Jesus was twelve years old, where He told His parents that He must be about His Father’s business (Luke 2:49). There was an obvious recognition of His true identity, not just as a man, but as the God-Man. He knew that He must be active doing His Father’s business, even at age twelve. While the gospel writers were not moved by the Holy Spirit to record much of anything from those first thirty years, we cannot conclude that Jesus was functioning as somewhat of a monk in seclusion. He was busy in the Father’s work.

Getting back to the point, incarnationalists de-prioritize gospel proclamation in favor of more social activity within the community. However, that carries with it great dangers. One author writes, “History teaches us that those who embrace a social agenda eventually find themselves with a social agenda only and no gospel.”[3] The incarnationalists believe that a life of service better aligns oneself with the mission of Jesus, rather than simply the proclamation of the gospel. However, as DeYoung and Gilbert state, “The mission of Jesus is not service broadly conceived, but the proclamation of the gospel through teaching, the corroboration of the gospel through signs and wonders, and the accomplishment of the gospel in death and resurrection.”[4] James and Biedebach concur when they write of the recent missionary activity in Africa, “…numerically speaking, social action efforts are outstripping gospel proclamation efforts, and compounding the problem is the fact that social relief missions do not seem to easily lend themselves to fulfilling Christ’s commission to make disciples.”[5]

Social concerns and service are not to be completely wiped out of the mind and life of the believer, but they are not the focal point of the mission of the believer. We are called upon as Christians to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Acts of service and social activity may play a role in that mission, but service and social activity, in and of themselves, do not fulfill our mission as believers. It is the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ that must remain in the higher position of priority.

[1] Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, ReJesus: A WILD Messiah for a Missional Church. (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2009), 19.

[2] Frost and Hirsch, 20.

[3] “A Movement Torn Apart” in For the Sake of His Name: Challenging a New Generation for World Missions. (Allen Park: Student Global Impact, 2002), 44.

[4] Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 57.

[5] Joel James and Brian Biedebach, “Regaining our Focus: A Response to the Social Action Trend in Evangelical Missions” in Master’s Seminary Journal, Volume 25, Number 1 (Spring 2014), 31.