As we continue this discussion of Jesus’ Incarnation and cultural engagement we observe that Jesus had a God-Centered, Gospel mission. His goal was to bring redemption to sinners and to glorify God by making worshipers of God. There are those who have captured the first principle but seem to have missed the second. There are those whose idea of ministry has been shaped, not by the Word and the Incarnation totally, but by the Incarnation in part and the world in part. Some men are advocating a ministry to sinners, or “Postmoderns” (whatever that term means anymore), that drops words like “sin,” and concepts like “the exclusivity of Christ.” Some advocate a syncretistic approach to Christian missions, that suggests we incorporate paganism, tolerance, and postmodern philosophy. Their particular view is not that we must “convey the unchanging message to a changing world,” but rather we must “change the message to reach the changing world.” This is not the ministry model I advocate, nor is it one in line with the doctrine of the Incarnation and the teaching of Scripture itself. In our efforts to contextualize ministry we must not lose the message. We must, like Jesus, keep the mission of God, the redemption of sinners, ever before us.
The social gospel, which seeks only to reform society, the prosperity gospel, which seeks only to encourage positive views of self (albeit based on false interpretations of Scripture), and the emergent gospel, which largely seeks to promote Jesus’ ethics without his theology (though thankfully this is not the case in all streams of the movement), fall short of the Incarnation Principle: to enter culture to bring redemption through Christ’s Cross.
We note that in all his efforts to reach the culture Jesus does not bend to their desires. He confronts the errors of the Pharisees with strong words. He rebukes the disciples for their selfish and foolish attitudes. He embraces a humble origin, a despicable death, and a victory that, for many, seems more like an oxymoron than an actual overcoming. Jesus came into culture with a mission that could not be altered! Our task, then, is to take that same mission with the same message of salvation from God’s just judgment through Christ’s death on the cross to the world. We work in and through the culture, but only in so far as it does not alter the message of the gospel. Jesus is our model here.