This church-focused, theologically informed new vision I am calling for today will not eagerly embrace “top down” political strategies as effective methods for cultural transformation. This new vision sees the local church, not the para-church, as the central locus of evangelism and discipleship. This new vision eschews niche-marketing strategies for drawing unbelievers to church. It will abandon simplistic formulas and presentations of the Gospel opting instead for invitations to living communities of men and women who have been transformed by the Gospel.
We have much work to do, and likely this kind of church which I am envisioning will not come about without prayer and fasting. But, we at Asbury Theological Seminary are poised to face these challenges and to produce a new generation of pastors, teachers, evangelists and church planters who are theologically educated. Don’t be discouraged by the enormity of this task. Instead, rise to the challenge. I am optimistic because I believe in the men and women of this faculty and staff who are called to educate and invest themselves in your formation. I am optimistic because Jesus Christ is the Risen Lord. I am optimistic because as the hymn declares,
“though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.”
I am optimistic because Yahweh “has sworn and will not change his mind!” I am optimistic because I recall the dying words of John Wesley when he said, “The best of all is, God is with us.” I am optimistic because the church of Jesus Christ will weather every storm from Gnosticism, to Arianism, to Constantinianism, to Protestant liberalism, to Evangelical reductionism, to the new atheism. Through it all, Christ renews his church, calls forth better readers of the Scriptures, and makes good on his sacred promise, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Amen.
(Part 6 of 6 from Dr. Timothy C. Tennent’s Convocation address at Asbury Theological Seminary on September 6, 2011)
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