How can the church be a positive presence in the culture? How did it lose its place? How can it come again to be a place where its influence can be positively felt? That is the goal of Greg Forster’s new book, Joy for the World.
Forster is Program Director at the Kern Family Foundation and a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation for Educational choice. He is a political scientist with a degree from Yale University and is one of those thoughtful believers wrestling with how the church should function in a diverse culture.
His book begins examining how America was an experiment with one of its greatest innovations being religious freedom, the absence of a state religion. This meant America was created for ambiguity. The freedom does not enforce religion, but requires it for a society to function well. So the question becomes how to be a presence in public morality without functioning as an institution given state authority to take us there? It requires an organic Christianity, that lives a holistic Christian life that is “the joy of God.” By living a life that reflects human flourishing, the church witnesses to her God and to life. The challenge is to live like the exiles we are, citizens of heaven who contribute to the good of the society in which we live. So we are to incarnate the presence of God within or society and help to build a city in how we engage and serve those around us through our job and our involvement with our neighbors. This assumes an approach that does not withdraw from society but engages in it. We affirm that God work in and through the world he has created and draw on the Spirit to contribute what we can to that society. In the midst of our doctrine and devotion, there is a stewardship before God we carry out for others in our world. Forster takes a closer look at three spheres of life: sex and the family, work and the economy, and citizenship and community. He challenges us to think of our life and worship as extending outside the walls of our church attendance on Sunday. We are to show the gospel and share the gospel, one is done implicitly, while the other is explicit. Where word and deed about God’s care for others is a match, there is more credibility to what we share. Such care is not a toleration that merely goes with the cultural flow. It often does and can challenge by showing a different way to live and think about life’s choices.
This is a book well worth the time and reflection. It is about 24/7 discipleship in the public square. Read it and engage.