Provocative tranquility--that is the term that Russell Moore used to describe the church's witness in a crisis filled world. Moore was recently named the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. A complete interview can be found here. At the close of this interview Moore says this about the church's disposition toward the culture:
A gloomy “slouching toward Gomorrah” view of culture leads, I think, to meanness. If we think we are on the losing end of the arc of history, we slide into outrage. If we see ourselves, though, as part of a kingdom that is triumphant in Christ, we ought to display a kind of provocative tranquility. We see those who disagree with us not as threatening to us or to our gospel, but those who, like all of us were, are held captive to an accusing power. We speak with convictional kindness because we love our neighbors, and because we are confident in our gospel. If the gates of hell won’t prevail against Jesus’ onward march, then why are we terrified by Hollywood or Capitol Hill?
These words are a great reminder for us one Sunday after Easter. The King who was raised is still raised, and is advancing his reign. His kingdom is dynamic in its expression, which is most evident in the church but also evident anywhere where Christians are making a difference in the name of Christ. When we have become too comfortable in this world it is very unsettling to us when things around us appear to be shifting rapidly. Everyone needs and anchor, and if culture is our anchor then we run adrift when it shifts. But if Christ is our anchor than we remain focused on him. We draw on his power--power from above--to do his will here below. We are so heavenly minded that we are of heavenly use.
To live in provocative tranquility means that we are neither anxious about the future nor indulgent in the present. We live as pilgrims who, because our destination is secure, both sacrifice to reach that destination and never despair when it seems to be far off in the distance. As a body at EP, this means that we never sit back with a complacent or indulgent spirit when it comes to our own church. The question for us is never, "Is the current trajectory of the church enough to keep going?" The question is always what do we need to do to be faithful to Christ as His church to advance his kingdom.
Elders, deacons, staff and myself are constantly engaged in this question of faithfulness. Currently the deacons are working on whether our church is sending the "right message" when people meet us for the first time, or even consider attending us. People of all backgrounds are loved and welcomed at EP. The goal is to make sure that the projection of the church fits the reality within the church. Needed updates will soon be underway for the Fellowship Hall. Updates to the Narthex are currently under consideration.
Our diaconate is also developing a proposal for how to administer funds gifted by Lillian Watkins for the education of young people, including future full ministry workers. What a blessing from God--He has given us means not only to reach youth for Christ, but to see them through the sending stage to serve Christ.
Given the provisions that we have been given to equip youth, I have asked our youth and mission's committees to think how we can maximize our church's impact on young people in our area. We need to take a long term view in this regard. Increasing our partnership with local ministries like Young Life (whom we already support) is one tangible step to take. Developing more creative ways of integrating youth into the lives of adult members is another. Building more continuity between our current outreach efforts and the ministries of the church is yet another area to consider.
Regardless of where God leads our church in terms of particulars, let us model provocative tranquility in our worship and our work, with our family and our friends. For we know that "in the Lord our labor is not in vain" (1 Cor 15:58).