The pastor outlines the common religions and practices around the time of the early church and asserts that the early Christians claim that Jesus had risen from the dead was not something all that unique from pagan religions and emperor worship. The church made an impact on people’s lives by doing good works and then inviting others into their community. Anyone could be part of this community; even the most broken people could be brought in and loved. They wanted people to see the hope that was within them and the life that was possible through Jesus Christ.
In this presentation, the main issue of man is said to be his own soul. This world is broken and fallen apart. People sin and are prideful, cynical, and indifferent to the suffering of others. The good news though is news that “at some point in the future, God [is] going to put it all back together again.” It is all about the restoration of this world. The main thing that Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection is the power to make this world a better place. And so, following the example of the King, Christians are to do what they can to make this world a better place by bringing the kingdom of heaven down here on earth in its fullness.
This presentation can is much like the activist counterfeit in that it attempts to unify the church by good works and not by the amazing gospel. It is tricky because it has many praiseworthy points but many of the issues in it result from unclear and undefined terms. My question relates to the compatibility of the solution. If the main problem is the fallen nature of man and of the whole world then how does making the world a better place solve the problem? How is the sinful nature fixed? All that is stated is that God will put everything back together again, but even that statement is unclear. Is the pastor saying that sinfulness equates to a state of being in pieces? Is God putting back together something that is still tainted? Does the resurrection of Jesus Christ mainly give us power “to make a new and better world”? The pastor
asserts that the early church did many good deeds, shared their possessions and were an inviting group of people, and that “they lived this way because they had this profoundly mystical understanding of what they were doing with their lives.” It seems to me that this presentation is simply offering people something to do with their lives. We need some mysterious realization of an ideal that can manifest if we live a certain way. At the end of the story the pastor states that, “You are the good news. You are the gospel.” If the good news is people, then Christ’s work here on earth was just a way to get us to realize that we can do it. If there is not payment for sins, no repentance and belief in Jesus, and no dying to sin and being raised to righteousness, then of course we can be the gospel! The activism is seen in the sense of wonder that the pastor
elevates. The church is to invite others in so that people can see how wonderful this life could be, how ubiquitous and universal their good influence could be, and how beautiful it is to serve others and not to rule them by brute strength. The goal of the church’s efforts is to instill wonder in people at world the church is creating; this fascination is what motivates people to join them.
To counter this counterfeit we must first realize that Christians are to take a stand on social issues, feed the poor, reach to the lowest persons in society, and seek after the kingdom of God. However, as Wax makes clear, there is a difference between the gospel and the effects of the gospel (181). Keeping the gospel message based on Christ and what he did for us will guard us from an activist gospel. Another key point that Wax puts forward is that Christians should seek to relieve human suffering in this life as well as the next life (183). What a tragedy it would be if we pour ourselves out for broken people so that their pain here on earth is reduced and yet fail to share the truth, without which they will be thrust into eternal agony. Not that salvation is dependent solely on us, the saving is God’s work, but God certainly has called the church to be good stewards of his glorious gospel. The pastor in this presentation solely addresses life on this earth, but fails to mention the eternal aspects of the gospel. The truth is that the gospel has implications for now and for eternity and instead of seeking after human ideals that we accomplish, we ought to set our eyes on Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 KJV).