Loving the World to Life – How Genesis 1 shapes the mission of the local church (2/2).

Loving the World to Life

The world matters to God

The mission of the local church must be shaped by a deep appreciation of the value of this world. When the world is not valued mission is skewed. I recall listening to a man being interviewed at a large Christian men’s convention. The man shared how he struggled to feel purpose and significance in his work (the man was a carpenter). He shared with the audience how he finally found direction and purpose by becoming a bible study leader at his church. Now, in leading bible study groups, he is living faithfully, the man said.

While we certainly affirm the value of leading bible studies, it seems that at the root of this man’s discontent was not wrong activity, but wrong understanding. He (and the conference organisers) had undersold the value of the world. They failed to realise that this man’s primary witness to the world is given as a carpenter. As this man works skilfully with wood, making joints and splitting the pencil line with a saw cut, he calls attention to Christ’s powerful and creative reign. He advertises Christ’s Lordship as he relates to other tradesman in a way that challenges idols of selfishness, sensuality and individualism. And as he works, the words of his mouth and the shape of his life witness to the cross and resurrection.

What he expressed at the conference represents a retreat from the world that ignores biblical teaching on creation. Ultimately such an approach renders the church’s witness irrelevant. It consigns faith to a ‘spiritual’ realm that has little to do with realities of life.

A local congregation that undergirds its mission with a robust theology of creation realises that it is from Monday to Saturday that it displays to the world most fully the gracious Lordship of Christ—as the ‘congregation scattered’. Monday to Friday, in offices, mothers’ groups, cafes, trucks, hospitals and advocacy groups the church bears witness to the restorative reign of Christ, loving what Christ loves and challenging what Christ challenges. Lesslie Newbigin writes, ‘The exercise of [the church’s] priesthood is not within the walls of the Church but in the daily business of the world. It is only in this way that the public life of the world, its accepted habits and assumptions, can be challenged by the gospel and brought under the searching light of the truth as it has been revealed in Jesus.’

How may this kind of mission be embarked upon? This kind of mission has affection for the world as its impulse. Here is a fierce loyalty to what has been made, to the stuff of this world. We are loyal to the world because it has been made with care and delight. And there remains much to love, even in the most fallen of creatures, for as Hopkins wrote, ‘There lives the dearest freshness deep down things’.

Such loyalty to creation reflects the loyalty of Christ. For this world has been created with care and redeemed at a cost! In the death and resurrection of Christ, God has declared His affection and loyalty for the world, securing its future. God’s own mission compels his followers to be immersed in the life of the world, calling attention, through life, word and deed, to his restorative reign.

Click here to read part #1 of this article.

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About Mark Glanville

Mark Glanville is a pastor-scholar who ministers in a missional urban community, Grandview Church, Vancouver. Mark is Professor of Old Testament and congregational studies at the Missional Training Center, Phoenix (missionaltraining.org), and he teaches at Regent College, Vancouver. Mark's research focusses upon the Pentateuch, biblical ethics, and mission. Mark has authored "Adopting the Stranger as Kindred" (SBL, 2018), "Reading Exodus: Society Reshaped by Kinship" (Lexham, forthcoming), numerous refereed articles (including in the Journal of Biblical Literature (2018), Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (2019), and Refuge Journal (2013)) and chapters on the Pentateuch, mission, and refugee related issues, as well as numerous popular articles. Mark is presently co-authoring a book, "Providing Refuge: A Missional and Political Theology." Mark is called upon to speak on in Canada, the U.S., and Australia. His previous career was as a jazz pianist in Sydney, Australia (Chick Corea and Wynton Kelly are his musical heroes).
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3 Responses to Loving the World to Life – How Genesis 1 shapes the mission of the local church (2/2).

  1. Pingback: Loving the World to Life – How Genesis 1 shapes the mission of the local church 1/2 | …for he has made you beautiful

  2. T Boots says:

    Explain to me Gods mission, cuz I always thought that it was to redeem a bride for his Son, not the world/earth (that’s how I am understanding your use of the word “world”) for His Son, unless I am missing something…?

  3. Hi T Boots. Thanks for your comment. My article is arguing that God’s interest in the world extends beyond humanity to the whole world. I took time in the article to show that Genesis Chapter 1 displays God’s delight in the world – what he has made is truly ‘good’. Similarly God’s redemptive interest extends beyond humanity to the whole world. The whole world is corrupted by sin’s curse. (You remember that Romans Ch 8 says that ‘all creation groans’.) Even as the whole world is caught up in sin’s curse, the whole world is caught up in Christ’s redemption. You remember that Matt Ch 5 says ‘They will inherit the earth’. Jesus is speaking of the future he has secured for God’s people – our future is in this world, renewed! Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of new creation, and in his resurrection he is the firstfruits of ‘those who have fallen asleep’. Blessings!

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