Evangelicals and charismatics understand very well the individual dimension of the gospel, i.e. the personal and private need of the cross. We are sinners in need of salvation. We are lost and need to be found. We need to discover who we are and why we are here. The cross is God’s answer to our greatest longings. The church has long understood and preached this aspect of the gospel.
Thankfully, an understanding of the public implications the gospel is emerging. After all, Jesus’ Great Commission directs his followers to make disciples of all nations not merely all individuals.
Mind you, the church has long practiced this public application of the gospel. The early church cared for widows and orphans, started hospices for the dying and hospitals for the care of the sick. The Reformation in Europe brought whole nations out of poverty, eliminated the sacred-secular divide that had created a two-tiered society, and established that concept of universal education which has become the world’s standard. More recently in England, Charles Wesley preached Christ crucified for our salvation and for the transformation of society.
Dr. Ralph Winter, missionary, missiologist and founder of William Carey International University, wrote an article that examined this issue of the personal-versus-public manifestation of the gospel. Winter pointed to the distinction between,
… First-Inheritance Evangelicalism and Second-Inheritance Evangelicalism (my terms). For this article we can define … the First as that which was characterized by a broad dual social/personal spectrum of concern ranging from foreign missions to changing the legal structure of society and even war. The Second Inheritance focused mainly on the personal.
For more from this excellent piece go here.
Winter died in 2009. A contemporary was British theologian, fellow missiologist, and missionary to the Indian sub-continent, Lesslie Newbigin. Like Winter, Newbigin understood that the gospel had a public dimension. He develops this theme in his book, Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth (1991). In it, Newbigin writes of the imperative of the gospel to impact the public square.
A serious commitment to evangelism, to the telling of the story which the Church is sent to tell, means a radical questioning of the reigning assumptions about public life. It is to affirm the gospel not only as an invitation to a private and personal decision but as public truth which ought to be acknowledged as true for the whole of the life of society.
The cross of Christ is not just a religious statement. The cross of Christ is at the heart of life, the heart of human history; it is framed and understood by “reality.” Newbigin writes:
The incarnate Word is Lord of all, not just of the Church. There are not two worlds, one sacred and the other secular. There are differing ways of understanding the one world and a choice has to be made about which is the right way, the way that corresponds to reality, to the reality beyond all the show which the ruler of this world can put on.
As we have written in the book LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day, the gospel has an implication for every area of life and every vocation. Referring once again to Newbigin,
We have to proclaim [the gospel] not merely to individuals in their personal and domestic lives. We do certainly have to do that. But we have to proclaim it as part of the continuing conversation that shapes public doctrine. It must be heard in the conversation of economists, psychiatrists, educators, scientists and politicians. We have to proclaim it … as the truth.
The Disciple Nations Alliance was founded to reaffirm the importance of the cross being applied in both the personal and public arenas. Our historic focus has been on the implications of the gospel for the church among the poor. Our global leadership has also had an emphasis on the health of nations; we want to see our nations flourish.
This is why many of our recent blog posts have dealt with the loss of a moral bearing in the US and Europe, and the related death of Western nations as we have known them.
Come join the movement of the First Great Awakening Evangelicals. Relish the implication of the cross and the blood of Christ shed both for personal salvation and for the transformation of communities and nations.
- Darrow Miller