I love when caricatures get blown out of the water. I love when negative caricatures I’ve believed get disproven (I’d rather admit that I’ve misjudged someone than discover that my harsh judgments were actually accurate). I especially love when the objects of my unfair caricatures actually teach me so much that I’m just plain befuddled and embarrassed over their brilliance and, in contrast, my own ignorance. This kind of shame, when deserved, brings a guilty pleasure. When faced and confessed, it makes me a better servant of my Savior.
Through the past two decades I have seen my negative caricatures of “L-word” (liberal) Christians get blown up time and again. This past month’s 15th National Multicultural Church Conference (NMCC) in Fort Worth provided yet another occasion for yet another bomb to go off in the house of my prejudices.
First, I should state that my caricatures were formed in the 1970s and 80s not out of malice but out of an earnest love of Jesus. I read in publications like Reader’s Digest and conservative Christian magazines that “L-word” groups like councils of churches and mainline denominations had traded the gospel of grace for the good works of social causes — and had been infiltrated by pro-communist sympathizers. Who was I to doubt Reader’s Digest? Who was I to doubt my gospel-preaching pastors? Who was I to question the mentors of my young adult faith who were teaching me how to discern between those spiritual goats and us true sheep of our Shepherd’s flock?
Well, fast-forward through 30 years of ordained service in the diverse Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and find me at the NMCC listening to Jooseop Keum, and the caricature again gets blown out of the water. As a representative of the World Council of Churches (WCC), he’s not one to be trusted. And, he’s speaking at a conference that’s all about one world uniting across national and ethnic boundaries — a favorite pastime of L-word folks. Can’t be trustworthy.
So what does he talk about in his address? Not humanism masquerading in godly platitudes. Not an all-roads-lead-to-the-same-place, dogma-free-zone, easy religiosity that minimizes religions’ differences. He talked about evangelism. He talked about making the case for the gospel of Jesus Christ. He talked about the need for the gospel to be embraced, believed and lived by the 67 percent of the world that continues to be resistant to the Christian message (the same percentage as in 1910).
And he spoke on the subject by summarizing the position paper prepared and adopted by the CWME/WCC in 2012 which was showcased at the 2013 WCC convention titled, “Together toward Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes.” It’s a book about evangelism. Yup, evangelism.
In his presentation at the MCC Conference, Keum outlined 10 principles essential to world evangelization:
- It’s about the triune God.
- It is God’s mission, God’s love overflowing that empowers our mission.
- It is the Holy Spirit, alive in us, that is the dynamic of re-creation in God’s grace.
- God sent the Son to redeem not just my soul, but every aspect of every life.
- The mission is complicated by the modern expansion of migration.
- God’s mission moves not from privilege to poverty, but from the margins to the center (think Jerusalem-to-Rome in the Book of Acts).
- Jesus saves. Unbridled financial markets don’t.
- The church must leave its “gated community” to become vital messengers of Jesus’ gospel.
- Christians must come down from our mountaintops to do interfaith dialogue, introducing the concept of salvation with those religious groups that lack a concept of salvation.
- The church must become an inclusive community, bringing reconciliation, not division.
Throughout, Keum kept stressing the person and power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this mission of world evangelization. I was befuddled and embarrassed and thankful to have my caricatures come tumbling down.