Domains (Vocations) as Witness

I wrote recently about the church as the new society as witness to the gospel of the kingdom.

Newbigin identifies multiple ways that the church bears witness to the gospel. Being a new society, transformed people together on mission. The Church: A New Order of Society You can read about that on this link.

Today, I’d like to just copy Goheen’s words as he unpacks Newbigin on “vocations of believers in culture”.

Bear with me please as I just let you read their own words:

“The business of the church in the biblical story is to beat witness to the comprehensive salvation that is coming at the end of cosmic history. The new life that is given to the church is as wide as human life: all of life is being restored – cultural, social, economic, political, academic, familial, and more. The church’s first witness is by way of new being – a renewal that covers all of life.

One of the areas of the church’s witness that is of primary importance to Newbigin and occupies a good deal of space is his concern to see believers live out this new being in the context of their particular vocations. It is in the various callings of each member that ‘the primary witness to the sovereignty of Christ must be given’, because the ‘enormous preponderance of the church’s witness is the witness of the thousands of its members who work in field, home, office, mill, or law court.

He is not referring to the obligation to evangelize one’s own coworkers or even to manifest the gospel in microethical categories within one’s vocational setting, although these are not excluded (he will get to those later in the book). It is much deeper than that: it is the obedience in their vocations that is faithful to God’s creational intent. Christ is Lord by virtue of being Creator and Redeemer. The believer who lives under Christ’s lordship in the various spheres of public life witnesses ‘to the true purpose for which God created those structures.’ When Christians believe that their work from Monday to Friday is not the ‘Lord’s work’ and thus leave those areas to the powers of cultural idolatry without challenge, they ‘deny Christ’s cosmic lordship.’ Thus, ‘the entire membership of the church in their secular occupations are called to be signs of his lordship in ever area of life.’ For example, Newbigin writes, ‘A farmer who farms his land well but neglects to say his prayers will certainly be condemned by Christians as failing in his duty. But a farmer who says his prayers, and allows weeds, bad drainage, or soil erosion to spoil his land is failing in his primary duty as a churchman. His primary ministry in the total life of the Body of Christ is to care rightly for the land entrusted to him. If he fails there, he fails in his primary Christian task.”

Whoah! We teach TRC this, but we use our Glocal Net language of “domains” to define the structures of society God has created and by which we have a vehicle to disciple the nations. But, just think on what Goheen observes from Newbigin’s missionary work and observations. The implications are off the charts. We simply can’t deal with all of them. My hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit would work out this paradigm shift in your own soul as you study the bible and try to obey.

Here are a few implications just off the top of my noggin:

  1. Vocations are holier than we can imagine. We should be careful in jettisoning our vocations for “ministry”.
  2. We can sell out our ability to redeem all of created order by substituting “spiritual” versions of the real thing. Maybe a better way of saying this is we can created sub-cultures that keep entire institutions from the redemptive agents of God’s kingdom…people. When the kingdom of God broke fully into human history, ushering in the end of days and setting in motion the final push to the nations in Acts 2, the church began to encounter sub-culture challenges. For example: did a Gentile have to come into the kingdom of Jesus through Judaism or could they skip circumcision all together? How did Gentiles get into the kingdom? Repentance and faith and that is it.  Maybe we have over spiritualized domains and created “Christian” versions and effectively cut off our influence from the whole. What if God’s dream is all of creation not just a sub-culture? What if it was not “Christianizing” it, but making it excellent and productive and available for all so they could taste and see the Lord is good?
  3. Maybe we should work harder at teaching future generations about all vocations of created order (domains), and prepare them to enter the global work force as excellent employers, employees, etc. that are also ambassadors of Jesus through excellence, hard work, and redeeming the whole of their industry. Make no mistake, “personal evangelization” is in this mix, but the “cosmic” scope should likely prepare the way for the evangelism.

Ok, that is enough. My brain is hurting. I hope this makes yours hurt too…in a good way. Think in this. Perhaps the Lord will give us some understanding as we continue to pursue discipling all nations for God’s glory.


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