Friday 8 July 2011

Matt Chandler, Michael Horton, and Tim Keller on the Church in Culture

For those who are following, or even vaguely aware of, the ongoing debates about the role of the church in culture – especially the lines being drawn in the sand between so-called ‘Two Kingdoms’ advocates on one side and so-called ‘Cultural Transformationists’ on the other side – this is a really useful 10-minute trialogue between Matt Chandler, Michael Horton, and Tim Keller.

Keller begins by asking: ‘What’s the church’s role in culture?’

To make it more granular, he asks: ‘What is the church’s job in equipping its members to carry out their callings in the world?’

In line with his recent published work on the gospel and the great commission, Horton speaks about culture (in this context) being about the ‘myriad callings’ we have as husbands, fathers, plumbers, teachers, etc., rooted in creation. But, he says, we have another calling in the great commission. Here, he deploys a distinction influenced by Kuyper between the church as an ‘organisation’ and the church as an ‘organism’. As an organisation or an institution, the church (for Horton) doesn’t have any calling to transform culture; but in terms of being an organism, the church as a people is scattered into the world to pursue their callings.

Chandler speaks about the mission of the church being ‘to proclaim the good news and make disciples’. But part of that process, he says, is training and releasing Christians to be faithful in their domains of society, to empower them to see themselves in their neighbourhood, hobby, workplace, etc. – the ‘units they do life in’ – as being a faithful presence and witness in those areas. Disciplemaking needs to go beyond emparting knowledge.

Keller judges that there is probably not much difference between the practice of Horton and Chandler. He says he hears them saying the same thing but not wanting to say it the same way. It’s not the church’s role, as the church, to change the social structures, but to equip the people to make a difference. Keller muses that it’s not the job of the pastor to lead a church to change a culture but to create a culture-changing people.

10 minutes well spent.

No comments: