A nice church filled with nice people doing nice things will make no impact in the intensity of our times. Every hybrid form of “Christianity” deserves to die, and it will die, because it simply is not of God. But here is a pathway back into the prophetic power of apostolic Christianity.
In 1974 I heard Francis Schaeffer preach at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. His sermon was unforgettable. Schaeffer asked the question, What is the Christian’s task in the world today? That is a clearly focusing question. And his answer was not evangelism. Evangelism can seem canned and mechanical, he said, like a sales pitch. But when evangelism is pursued as part of a larger whole, as a part of something beautiful, it will be convincing, even captivating. What then is that larger whole, embodied in a beautiful church? Two contents and two realities, Schaeffer proposed.
1. Sound doctrine
“The first content is clear doctrinal content concerning the central elements of Christianity.” This strong biblical message stands in contrast to the content-weak philosophical and pragmatic rolls-of-the-dice people are settling for all around us.
2. Honest answers to honest questions
“The second content is honest answers to honest questions. Christianity demands that we have enough compassion to learn the questions of our generation.” We must listen respectfully to all around us and try to satisfy their questions by reasoning thoughtfully from the wisdom of the biblical gospel.
1. True spirituality
“There must be something real of the work of Christ, something real in Christ’s bearing his fruit through me through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing more ugly in all the world, nothing which more turns people aside, than a dead orthodoxy.” Moment-by-moment reality with the living Christ—apart from him, we can do nothing.
2. The beauty of human relationships
“True Christianity produces beauty as well as truth. If we do not show beauty in the way we treat each other, then in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of our own children, we are destroying the truth we proclaim.” This is a common blind spot among Bible-believing people. An orthodox doctrinal statement on paper might make us proud, but it alone will not make us convincing. Gospel doctrine must create gospel culture. Without the human beauty that Jesus died to create in us, we only show that we are trifling with his truth even as we think we are upholding his truth.
“When there are the two contents and the two realities, we will begin to see something profound happen in our generation.”
Francis A. Schaeffer, 2 Contents, 2 Realities (Downers Grove, 1975), pages 1-32.
These four categories offer a hopeful agenda for any church today that, for Jesus’s sake, longs to speak with prophetic power.