Today is Saturday, and all of us identified with Jesus Christ are anticipating corporate worship tomorrow. Corporate worship is an old-fashioned way of talking about “going to church on Sunday with other believers.” Corporate worship exhibits a fortifying bond, a palpable unity, a unique collaboration.
But do these blessed realities exist only in church? Only on Sunday? Only during worship?
In his blog posted today, Dr. Michael Horton recommends the “faithful presence” (James Hunter) in the world, in society, and in the public square, of Christians-as-individuals. We simply must be deeply encouraged by his pastoral impulse to warn preachers not to burden God’s people with calls to radical, heroic, world-changing Christianity. Rather, says Dr. Horton, those sitting before us preachers tomorrow should be encouraged “to live out their identity in Christ where they are in all sorts of ordinary ways that sometimes turn out to present extraordinary opportunities for extraordinary service.”
Amen! Times seven.
But there’s more to be said.
Dr. Horton closes by asking us preachers, we who are entrusted with the very Word of God: What will you say?
Given the proper Scripture text . . . as part of a distinctively Christian response to the gospel of grace . . . here’s what I’d say.
To the nurse who dragged herself out of bed to attend church after having worked a fifteen-hour shift, I would encourage her to ally herself with co-believers in her profession so together they might lift a united Christian witness that (1) opposes the contemporary secularizing and amoralizing of the healthcare industry, and (2) advocates the Christian view of human beings as divine image-bearers as essential to the practice of healthcare.
To the banker who extended a low-interest loan to that young family for their first home, I would encourage him to join with co-believing bankers to establish together a Christian foundation that, as part of its united Christian witness, (1) assists low-income, responsible, first-time home buyers in under-resourced neighborhoods, and (2) cultivates healthy nuclear families as the God-ordained foundation of a well-ordered society.
To the Sunday school teacher, the high schooler, the struggling artist, the pro-bono lawyer—I would encourage all of them to find, or to create, associations and relationships in which they could live out, concretely demonstrate, and publicly articulate, beyond the church and between Sundays, together, corporately, their shared Christian faith-commitment in their vocational fields.
Let us not be misled: today’s generation of churchgoers is no more tired, no more struggling, no more bedraggled and frazzled, than the generations of our faithful parents and grandparents. Who responded to faithful gospel preaching by together building Christian schools, together establishing Christian hospitals, together forming Christian labor associations and benevolence societies. As part of their corporate public Christian identity that fortified faith, demonstrated unity, and exemplified collaboration. Theirs was a communio sanctorum extra ecclesiam (exercising the communion of the saints beyond the church).
It may be true that nowadays we need not recommend as heroes for our boys and girls William Wilberforce or Rosa Parks. Not only are such “transformationalists” (Dr. Horton’s word) rare, but theirs might not be the calling given to most of us ordinary believers.
But if it’s heroes we’re looking for, we could do far worse than to encourage our children to follow, in their generation, the corporate and collaborative Christian heroism of their own parents and grandparents.