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Posted by on Apr 17, 2015 | 0 comments

More than Just Evangelism? The Calling of Christians in the World

A review of the ReFrame course

Why did God put us on the earth? What is his purpose for art, science, law, finance, literature and education? What does he want Christians do in those areas?

reframe city postcard

For many Christians the answer to these questions is that we are there to “save others” i.e. to share the gospel with other people in those areas. But, as Loren Wilkinson asks in ReFrame, “if we’re here to save others, what are the ‘others’ here for?” To say that evangelism is the only purpose of Christians in the world is like saying that the only purpose of a business is to advertise its product. What is its product? What is the nature of Christian politics, engineering, and medicine, or does God not have anything to say about these things?

ReFrame explores these questions, with ten 40-minute videos going through the Biblical story, examining how it reimagines what it means to be a human being on the earth, from a Christian perspective. It offers continual comparisons between Biblical ways of thinking and the values of the surrounding secular culture which can so easily unconsciously persuade us of its point of view.

The great danger of the church today (says Paul Williams in the introduction) is to fall into one of two temptations:

  • We could assimilate into the world, taking on the values of secular culture in the way we live our lives and do our jobs.
  • We could withdraw from the world, hiding in our Christian sub-cultures and refusing to engage with the problems outside our church walls.

paul williamsIf we succumb to these temptations, we fail to have any impact on the surrounding culture. We either behave like it, or we are simply not in it. How do we equip ourselves to be both part of, and different from, the world? How do we remain both in the world and not of it?

ReFrame suggests part of the answer is: get to know the Biblical story really, really well, and learn to see the secular story through transformed, ‘reframed’ eyes and minds. A fish in water doesn’t know it’s wet. If we only know the story of secular culture, we will be blind to the parts of it that are unchristian and we will unconsciously believe things the world is telling us. We need to be deeply rooted in the alternative. ReFrame helps us to begin on this journey.

Positives

Many of us have been told that our job matters to God.reframe But we still easily find ourselves thinking that to be a missionary or pastor is a higher and holier calling than to be an accountant or a solicitor. We need more than to be told that Jesus impacts all of life: we need to be shown a few of the infinite number of ways how he makes a difference.

ReFrame goes beyond the ‘that’ and investigates the ‘how’, offering examples, stories and ideas that take us through the Biblical story in all its key stages, developing our understanding of how to think in a Christian way about all the different spheres of human life.

Negatives

This course is a distillation of part of the “Regent experience” – an attempt to simplify and summarise something Regent College is passionate about and teaches its students. It is very hard to take something deep & complex, and make it simple without sacrificing either its profundity or its accessibility. If the ReFrame course has a weakness, it may be that it leans too far on the side of simplicity at the cost of some of the substantive life-changing lessons one learns as a full-time Regent student. A couple of the episodes leave one wondering whether much was said that is not already evident to most evangelicals who attend church regularly. But if anyone taking the course feels this way, they can easily remedy the situation by attending Regent themselves, where they will find a more thirst-quenching torrent of powerful truths and insights.

Summary

N.T. Wright says that “it is not enough to say one’s prayers in private, maintain high personal morality and then go out and rebuild the tower of Babel.[1] Many Christians, despite being devout followers of Jesus, are complicit in the values and way of life offered by secularity without realising it. The evangelical church needs to be awakened to the needs of its culture that include, but go beyond, simply persuading more people to go to church. For many people, ReFrame may play its part in helping them find the Christian purpose and value of what they are passionate about.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this course in exchange for an honest review.


 

[1] N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was & Is (InterVarsity Press, 1999), x.

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Barney

Just your average grad student, trying to conquer the world through theological debate, like so many before me. I believe theology can be both profound & easy to understand, academically rigorous & accessible. I contribute to a less academic blog at Everyday Theology.