Cape Town Commitment Part 2 Section 1 [A] Units 1-7 Practice in Our Pluralized, Globalized World in the Context of Truth

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Part II of the Commitment deals with practice and issues tied to actually doing the work of mission. The first section of part 2 is long, but that is because it treats the world we live in, a world of pluralism that is globally connected.

It is this context that the commitment stresses the presence of truth in the gospel with Jesus Christ being the center of that presentation of truth. Living and proclaiming the truth stand side by side in the accomplishment of mission.

The statement makes a clear point of the challenge of relativism and rejects it in terms of Christian claims supporting the work of apologetics in presenting the faith.

The statement also challenges the idea of a sacred-secular divide when it comes to the work place. The challenge here is to help believers see that to treat their jobs as non-sacred locales is to undercut the task of mission. Thus, ministry in the context of work needs more attention from the church and its teaching.

The importance of media and the arts as cultural expressions with a significant presence in our world is also treated. There is an exhortation to make more effective use of both the media and the arts, in one to engage with what is being said in our world in the other to be creative about how to portray the story of the faith.

The role of technology and science, both in terms of biology and in terms of digital technology, is noted next. Again there is exhortation for engagement and training in such areas, doing the hard thinking that such engagement requires.

In terms of business, government and the university, involvement in public service and training to engage in academics in a university context is urged. Also noted in the avoidance of corruption that comes with governmental power. The importance of the university in forming thinking is part of the reason the university cannot be neglected.

Here is Part 2, Section A, units 1-7:

PART II

For the world we serve: The Cape Town Call to Action

Introduction

Our covenant with God binds love and obedience together. God rejoices to see our ‘work produced by faith’ and our ‘labour prompted by love’,[56]for ‘we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’[57]

As members of the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ, we have sought to listen to the voice of God through the Holy Spirit. We have listened to his voice coming to us from his written Word in the exposition of Ephesians, and through the voices of his people around the world. Our six major Congress themes provide a framework to discern the challenges facing the worldwide Church of Christ, and our priorities for the future. We do not imply that these commitments are the only ones the Church should consider, or that priorities everywhere are the same.

IIA. Bearing witness to the truth of Christ in a pluralistic, globalized world

1. Truth and the person of Christ

Jesus Christ is the truth of the universe. Because Jesus is truth, truth in Christ is (i) personal as well as propositional; (ii) universal as well as contextual; (iii) ultimate as well as present.

A)    As disciples of Christ we are called to be people of truth.

  • We must live the truth. To live the truth is to be the face of Jesus, through whom the glory of the gospel is revealed to blinded minds. People will see truth in the faces of those who live their lives for Jesus, in faithfulness and love.
  • We must proclaim the truth. Spoken proclamation of the truth of the gospel remains paramount in our mission. This cannot be separated from living out the truth. Works and words must go together.

B)    We urge church leaders, pastors and evangelists to preach and teach the fullness of the biblical gospel as Paul did, in all its cosmic scope and truth. We must present the gospel not merely as offering individual salvation, or a better solution to needs than other gods can provide, but as God’s plan for the whole universe in Christ. People sometimes come to Christ to meet a personal need, but they stay with Christ when they find him to be the truth.

2. Truth and the challenge of pluralism

Cultural and religious plurality is a fact and Christians in Asia, for example, have lived with it for centuries. Different religions each affirm that theirs is the way of truth. Most will seek to respect competing truth claims of other faiths and live alongside them. However postmodern, relativist pluralism is different. Its ideology allows for no absolute or universal truth. While tolerating truth claims, it views them as no more than cultural constructs. (This position is logically self-destroying for it affirms as a single absolute truth that there is no single absolute truth.) Such pluralism asserts ‘tolerance’ as an ultimate value, but it can take oppressive forms in countries where secularism or aggressive atheism govern the public arena.

A)    We long to see greater commitment to the hard work of robust apologetics. This must be at two levels.

  • We need to identify, equip and pray for those who can engage at the highest intellectual and public level in arguing for and defending biblical truth in the public arena.
  • We urge Church leaders and pastors to equip all believers with the courage and the tools to relate the truth with prophetic relevance to everyday public conversation, and so to engage every aspect of the culture we live in.

 

3. Truth and the workplace

The Bible shows us God’s truth about human work as part of God’s good purpose in creation. The Bible brings the whole of our working lives within the sphere of ministry, as we serve God in different callings. By contrast, the falsehood of a ‘sacred-secular divide’ has permeated the Church’s thinking and action. This divide tells us that religious activity belongs to God, whereas other activity does not. Most Christians spend most of their time in work which they may think has little spiritual value (so-called secular work). But God is Lord of all of life. ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,’[58]said Paul, to slaves in the pagan workplace.

In spite of the enormous evangelistic and transformational opportunity of the workplace, where adult Christians have most relationships with non-Christians, few churches have the vision to equip their people to seize this. We have failed to regard work in itself as biblically and intrinsically significant, as we have failed to bring the whole of life under the Lordship of Christ.

A)    We name this secular-sacred divide as a major obstacle to the mobilization of all God’s people in the mission of God, and we call upon Christians worldwide to reject its unbiblical assumptions and resist its damaging effects. We challenge the tendency to see ministry and mission (local and cross-cultural) as being mainly the work of church-paid ministers and missionaries, who are a tiny percentage of the whole body of Christ.

B)    We encourage all believers to accept and affirm their own daily ministry and mission as being wherever God has called them to work. We challenge pastors and church leaders to support people in suchministry – in the community and in the workplace – ‘to equip the saints for works of service [ministry]’ - in every part of their lives.

C)    We need intensive efforts to train all God’s people in whole-life discipleship, which means to live, think, work, and speak from a biblical worldview and with missional effectiveness in every place or circumstance of daily life and work.

Christians in many skills, trades, businesses and professions, can often go to places where traditional church planters and evangelists may not. What these ‘tentmakers’ and business people do in the workplace must be valued as an aspect of the ministry of local churches.

D)    We urge church leaders to understand the strategic impact of ministry in the workplace and to mobilize, equip and send out their church members as missionaries into the workplace, both in their own local communities and in countries that are closed to traditional forms of gospel witness.

E)    We urge mission leaders to integrate ‘tentmakers’ fully into the global missional strategy.

4. Truth and the globalized media

We commit ourselves to a renewed critical and creative engagement with media and technology, as part of making the case for the truth of Christ in our media cultures. We must do so as God’s ambassadors of truth, grace, love, peace and justice.

We identify the following major needs:

A)    Media awareness: to help people develop a more critical awareness of the messages they receive, and of the worldview behind them. The media can be neutral, and sometimes gospel friendly. But they are also used for pornography, violence and greed. We encourage pastors and churches to face these issues openly and to provide teaching and guidance for believers in resisting such pressures and temptations.

B)    Media presence: to develop authentic and credible Christian role models and communicators for the general news media and the entertainment media, and to commend these careers as a worthy means of influence for Christ.

C)    Media ministries: to develop creative, combined and interactive use of ‘traditional’, ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, to communicate the gospel of Christ in the context of a holistic biblical worldview.

5. Truth and the arts in mission

We possess the gift of creativity because we bear the image of God. Art in its many forms is an integral part of what we do as humans and can reflect something of the beauty and truth of God. Artists at their best are truth-tellers and so the arts constitute one important way in which we can speak the truth of the gospel. Drama, dance, story, music and visual image can be expressions both of the reality of our brokenness, and of the hope that is centred in the gospel that all things will be made new.

In the world of mission, the arts are an untapped resource. We actively encourage greater Christian involvement in the arts.

A)    We long to see the Church in all cultures energetically engaging the arts as a context for mission by:

  • Bringing the arts back into the life of the faith community as a valid and valuable component of our call to discipleship;
  • Supporting those with artistic gifts, especially sisters and brothers in Christ, so that they may flourish in their work;
  • Letting the arts serve as an hospitable environment in which we can acknowledge and come to know the neighbour and the stranger;
  • Respecting cultural differences and celebrating indigenous artistic expression.

6. Truth and emerging technologies

This century is widely known as ‘the Bio-tech Century’, with advances in all the emerging technologies (bio, info/digital, nano, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics). This has deep implications for the Church and for mission, particularly in relation to the biblical truth of what it means to be human. We need to promote authentically Christian responses and practical action in the arena of public policies, to ensure that technology is used not to manipulate, distort and destroy, but to preserve and better fulfil our humanness, as those whom God has created in his own image. We call on:

A)    Local church leaders to (i) encourage, support and ask questions of church members who are professionally engaged in science, technology, healthcare and public policy, and (ii) to present to theologically thoughtful students the need for Christians to enter these arenas.

B)    Seminaries to engage with these fields in their curricula, so future Church leaders and theological educators develop an informed Christian critique of the new technologies.

C)    Theologians, and Christians in government, business, academia and technical fields, to form national or regional ‘think tanks’ or partnerships to engage with new technologies, and to speak into the shaping of public policy with a voice that is biblical and relevant.

D)    All local Christian communities to demonstrate respect for the unique dignity and sanctity of human life, by practical and holistic caring which integrates the physical, emotional, relational and spiritual aspects of our created humanity.

7. Truth and the public arenas

The interlocking arenas of Government, Business and Academia have a strong influence on the values of each nation and, in human terms, define the freedom of the Church.

A)    We encourage Christ-followers to be actively engaged in these spheres, both in public service or private enterprise, in order to shape societal values and influence public debate. We encourage support for Christ-centred schools and universities that are committed to academic excellence and biblical truth.

B)    Corruption is condemned in the Bible. It undermines economic development, distorts fair decision-making and destroys social cohesion. No nation is free of corruption. We invite Christians in the workplace, especially young entrepreneurs, to think creatively about how they can best stand against this scourge.

C)    We encourage young Christian academics to consider a long-term career in the secular university, to (i) teach and (ii) develop their discipline from a biblical worldview, thereby to influence their subject field. We dare not neglect the Academy.[59]

 

[56]1 Thessalonians 1:3

[57]Ephesians 2:10

[58]Colossians 3:23

[59]For ‘The university is a clear-cut fulcrum with which to move the world. The Church can render no greater service to itself and to the cause of the gospel than to try to recapture the universities for Christ. More potently than by any other means, change the university and you change the world.’ Charles Habib Malik, former president of the UN General Assembly, in his 1981 Pascal Lectures, A Christian Critique of the University.

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