Glen Kehrein charges: “Rarely, however, does the church of Jesus Christ work as a healing agent for social strife. Rather, it appears to be a non-player or worse.”[1]

We have two options. We can change nothing, telling ourselves that we are called only to be faithful, not necessarily successful, in terms of new converts and members – but we know, deep inside, that would be a fatal error. Alternatively, we can pretend that we are fulfilling our obligation to the Great Commission by keeping the doors open for sinners to find their way to our altars and be saved, and that is the best we can do – but that too would be self-deception.

Religious activity is not enough. We are not called to a mission doomed to fail. Christ expected us to succeed. We will only fail if we allow the preservation and perpetuation of our present methods, our current competitive model, to be functionally more important than the mandate of Christ itself. That is a form of idolatry. Our obedience to Christ must be paramount. Neither the mandate nor the missional goal can be altered. So, if our current methods are not resulting in the completion of the mission, we must change our methods.

Most of us associate Luther with the Reformation, and the recovery of faith as the sole basis of salvation. Of course, we also make the connection between Luther’s “justification through faith” (Romans 4:3) and Paul’s, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Hab. 2:4). The late Ralph Winter observed, that the real genius of Luther went far beyond that. Luther, he said, freed the Church from its linguistic entrapment to Latin and its non-indigenous cultural bondage. Luther introduced common language and songs into worship and made possible an indigenous German Church. In the same way, Winter would say, Paul’s great contribution was to free the faith from Jewish enculturation, and to contextualize the gospel in the Gentile world. Luther also established training institutions aimed at recovering the missional component of the Church that too had been lost.[2]

In order to reach the people of our time, we too must speak the language of the culture. Yet, to transform the same people, we must also speak the language of Christ and the Holy Spirit – and do so without shame. We have to break free of the cultural entrapment to which we are blind. We must again become missional. We have to ‘move into the neighborhood.’

The process begins with prayer. Prayer first changes us. It deepens the love relationship we have with God, and it makes us more loving to our neighbor. That love, coupled with the power of prayer, opens doors for the gospel of Christ to be shared, not as a mere concept, but as a life-force itself.

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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.

[1]       Washinton, Raleigh and Glen Kehrein, Breaking Down Walls: A Model of Reconciliation in an Age of Racial Strife (Moody Publishers, 1993).

[2]       Ralph Winter, The Bible, Reformation and Modern Missions What Did You Learn In Sunday School? (Mission Frontier Magazine: September-October 1996).