“Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. . . . When the flame of worship burns with the heat of God’s true worth, the light of missions will shine to the darkest peoples on earth.”
– John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions
I have been arguing in previous posts that Christendom is dead. Fewer and fewer people in post-Christendom find Christianity conversant or relevant to them. That means more and more of our world today have less and less access and exposure to the Christian faith. Post-Christendom means emerging generations that are ironically, and essentially, pre-Christian.
Increasing secularization has a corresponding intensity and antipathy to all things Christian. In other words, while Christendom enjoyed a merger with culture, in post-Christendom, there is a polarity which culture. The dictionary defines polarity as “a state in which two ideas are completely opposite of each other; diametrical opposition.” We are seeing the manifestation of this polarity in nearly all facets of culture–from business to government, from education to ethics. This marginalization of Christianity is pushed by such polarizing and prevailing secularization.
What this means for Christianity is the world which we live does not care about us or what we believe. They are not impressed by the size of our church campuses, the kind of “worship experiences” we offer, or the consumeristic goods and services that once appealed to non-Christians in the Christendom era. The fruit of polarity is twofold: an increasing ambivalence among some and increasing hostility among others. On the other hand, there is decreasing access and opportunity for the world to be exposed to the Christian faith.
The question that needs to be answered, then is, “What kind of Christian will reach the world today?”
My answer to that question is this: we need polarity in Christianity to overcome polarity in the world. The days of nominalism has to end. We can no longer pretend that cultural Christianity that birthed moralistic therapeutic deism is going to change a person’s life much less change the world. We can no longer have lightweight motivation for counterfeit mission. We need clearly defined, passionately devoted, joyfully disciplined Christians who represent in bold colors the mission and message of apostolic Christianity.
How do we achieve polarity in Christianity?
First, we do not achieve polarity by making consumers in Christendom busy with Christian activity. We not achieve polarity with devotion to Christian subculture (concerts, music, books, conferences, etc.). We achieve polarity by being a people of one thing–the glory of God.
The only sufficient motivation for reaching a world with polarity filled with idolators is to have polarity in Christianity where worshippers of Jesus Christ are consumed with a white hot passion for His glory. No other motivation will sustain Christians in a world that will reject them, despise them, and hate them. What will take Christians deep into the heart of lostness in their city is being dominated by the brilliance of the glory of God seen in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).
As John Piper famously stated, worship is the fuel for mission. He explains,
“The deepest reason why our passion for God should fuel missions is that God’s passion for God fuels missions. Missions is the overflow of our delight in God because missions is the overflow of God’s delight in being God. And the deepest reason why worship is the goal in missions is that worship is God’s goal.”
Referring to worshippers, I am not referring to those who sing the loudest or care most about worship songs (although praising God is a significant part of that). I am referring to those who make much of God in all of life, where God is not an add-on or accessory to their lives, but Jesus is their life. Polarity in Christianity is produced when disciples are made, matured, mobilized, and multiplied. The fruit of polarity in Christianity is a kind of Christianity who passion for God and joy in God cannot be contained or kept to themselves. Like the hymn, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, they are discontent to have their lives bring only one voice before the throne of King Jesus. They live on mission because they are seeking a thousand tongues to sing with them of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
As Christians, we are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That’s worship. That’s declaring and demonstrating with our lives His infinite worth. We are also called to love our neighbors as ourselves. That’s mission. But what if our neighbors are nothing like us? Know nothing about Christianity? And unless you give them a reason why don’t care at all about becoming Christians? How will you love them? What will that kind of loving life look like?
Polarity in Christianity is not being antagonistic or merely confrontational or defensive. It does not take the posture of a fighter as much of a lover. We love those who have no lover for us. We pray for the souls and intercede for their salvation when they have no thought of their eternal state of condemnation before God. We are brokenhearted and weep for those whose hearts are too hard, minds are too darkened, and wills are too enslaved to turn from the worship of false images and things to turn to the true and living God. We prioritize the kingdom of God and conform our lifestyle to rhythms that demonstrate that commitment in ordinary, yet redemptive ways. We recognize that the smile of the Father (worship) keeps us on mission when our only prospect is 10,000 frowns. And we pursue them when they run from God for broken cisterns that cannot satisfy, because we know how the Father pursued us by His mercy and grace to bring prodigals home to His banqueting table.
My plea for churches and church leaders is this: breed polarity in your preaching and practice.
May this be the one thing that defines your ministry. We need worshippers equipped with a vision for the glory of God that unleashes them with holy fervor to the very gates of hell. We need lovers who love like the world has never known and live in such a way that demands an answer only the gospel of Jesus Christ can give. We cannot be satisfied with a substitute mission and succeed in things that don’t matter to God. If we stumble and fail in our mission, let us stumble and fail with the glory of God in our sights. We should far rather that happen than scandalously succeed with the fear of man in our hearts.
Can you imagine what one soul lit up with the glory of God would do in making much of God in a world that cares so little for Him? This is why theology matters. You cannot worship what you do not know. You cannot worship who you do not know. We experience God through His word and His gospel. The gospel is heaven’s gateway to gazing and being gripped by the glory of God. If we get over the gospel, we set aside the lens through which we see the magnitude of God in all of His manifold perfections.
It is not enough that we are a passionate people. We must be passionate about the right things. Polarity in Christianity is not being extreme or fanatical. It is being a fully-formed Christ-like disciple. May God give us the polarity we need to see our world full of idolatry and idolators come to love, treasure, and behold the all-surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord (Phil. 3:8).