Whenever I have an opportunity to talk about the Bible for the first time with a group of students, I often start with a too-easily overlooked question: When Jesus “finished” his incarnational task—his birth, life, death, and resurrection—and was preparing to ascend, why didn’t he take his followers with him? Why the delay? In many respects, his work on earth was done, and the distinction between the defeat of sin and its destruction did not need to be drawn. Why did he not take his followers with him and usher in eternity? The answer to this question is obvious, but is also essential to understanding our own purpose and calling. Jesus himself answers this question in the parable of the wedding banquet—more people need to be invited to the party! This is the “task” of the church: to be the hands, feet, and voice of Christ, extending Christ’s message and invitation to those who have not yet truly “heard.” Their response to Christ’s message has eternal consequences. And we know that God does not want any of his children in hell . . .
In unChristian (Baker Books, 2007), David Kinnaman and his co-author, Gabe Lyons, issue a clarion call for the Western church. If we are here to be the body of Christ and to share Christ’s message and invitation with those who don’t yet know him, we do not appear to be working all that successfully. Building on research from the Barna Group (www.barna.org), unChristian seeks to “hold up a mirror” to the North American church, allowing it to see itself through the eyes of the surrounding culture. The results are not pretty. According to the research, “anti-homosexual” (hating not only the sin, but also the sinner), “hypocritical,” “judgmental,” and “sheltered” are among the most prevalent descriptors of contemporary Christians, particularly in the eyes of young people and young adults, including those within the church. While the authors themselves conveyed a hopeful tone, the book’s message for those able to hear it was frightening, although perhaps not all that surprising.