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Volume 15, Issue 1: Eschaton

Strategic Optimism, Pt. 1

Jack Van Deventer

Optimism presumes victory. The promise of Scripture is a God-ordained, comprehensive, global victory. As Christians we know that challenges exist and we learn to face them, but we do so knowing the outcome of the battle in advance: the gospel will prevail in history, the nations will be discipled, and every knee shall bow to worship Christ as Savior and Lord.

In this day and age it appears that increasing numbers of Christians across the nation are beginning to shake off the defeatist stupor that has shackled the Church for more than a century. The realization of gospel victory brings with it a desire to see the triumph grow throughout one's life, family, and community. If indeed we are seeing the beginnings of revival, I anticipate ten key areas where transformation will need to occur. Five areas dealing with church and community life are discussed in this article, five more dealing with family life will be discussed in the next issue.
1. Recovery of worship. First and foremost, churches need to repent of man-centered worship and all the trappings. They need to purge the "church growth" mentality and start addressing the problem of sin. They need to repent of rock bands, "worship teams," mindless mantra-like ditties, cheerleaders disguised as song leaders, and recognize that worship is not the same thing as generating emotional goose bumps. Rediscovering the richness and beauty of psalm singing is a big step toward reformation. We need men who preach the Scriptures without compromise, boldly proclaiming the truth of God. We must recognize that true worship, joyful and reverent worship, is pleasing to God. It is also a potent weapon, a cultural battering ram, against which the forces of evil in our communities have no defense.
2. Pastors as shepherds. Pastors are shepherds, not dictators or CEOs. When we imagine what the "ideal pastor" might look like, he should be like Jesus, not like General Patton. Being a good shepherd to the flock is more than just words from a pulpit on Sunday mornings. A pastor's life is a perpetual sermon. How he treats his wife and children, how he shows kindness and graciousness, and how he protects the flock are models that speak louder than words. A pastor whose life and teaching build covenant relationships among the flock is a treasure indeed.
3. Godly church leadership. The Bible says that elders who fail to rule their own households well, those with unbelieving children, have no business running a church. This is certainly the most neglected qualification with regard to church leadership. Some will try and skirt around this biblical mandate by saying the children merely need to be "faithful," as though token faithfulness toward one's earthly father is acceptable despite rebelliousness against the heavenly Father. Such churches are doomed to failure because disciples become like their teachers (Mt. 10:25). Godly elders nurture and build up the flock just as they have nurtured and built up their own families. They confront sin graciously without being heavy-handed or overly intrusive. They intercede in prayer for the families they seek to protect and edify. And above all, they show the congregation how to have fun, celebrate, love one another, and love God.
4. A theology of Christian living. The Christian life is one of culture building. Scriptural truth edifies, creates, and restores. It's vibrant, it flourishes, and it shines. Christians need to bask in this realization. They need to celebrate and live out the abundant life that God has bestowed on them. They should have parties, drink wine, love their wives, play with their children, dance, and sing. What a contrast to the dour, lifeless sorts who think the pinnacle of Christian experience is studying Greek lexicons and thousand-page systematic theologies printed in 8-point fonts. Why do they stop there? Often these people refuse to apply the Bible to life because they're trapped in a hopeless, pessimistic worldview. They think that life won't really begin until they die and go to heaven, so they just endure as if life were some sort of Protestant purgatory. No wonder these folks look like they've been sucking on lemons for the past twenty-five years.
5. A flourishing parish life. A vibrant theology of Christian living manifests itself in community. Neighborhood parishes are where day-to-day support among Christians takes place. Christ Church, for example, is subdivided into thirteen parishes named after Christian martyrs (Tyndale, Wycliffe, etc.) each of which is overseen by one or more elders. Christian neighbors look after one another, their kids play together, they help when someone is sick, they help with weddings and funerals, and they help with painting, moving, landscaping, or whatever, as time and expertise permits. They have Bible studies, picnics, and potlucks together. The parish system provides a means of covenantal bonding that seems to be missing from our fiercely independent and noncovenantal society. It's an opportunity to minister to our neighbors and make life-long friends.
The five areas above are areas of transformation needed in church and community life. In the next issue, we'll look at five additional areas of transformation with regard to family life: (6) fathers who lead, (7) children who love their parents, (8) Christian education, (9) economic dominion, and (10) a transformed culture.

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