The next generation church strategy: its biblical foundations
“The choice before us is between the formation of a new Christian culture and the acceptance of a pagan one.” T.S. Eliot (1939): The Idea of a Christian Society.
The following is the transcript for two You Tube videos on the biblical foundations for the NGC strategy. T.S. Eliot got it dead right. Unless the Church embraces the NGC, in the absence of anything better, the end result of current trends is the return of paganism.
James 1:22 – be doers and not just hearers of the word . Listening to and absorbing biblical instruction is empty of real meaning if God’s intent is not prosecuted. The NGC strategy draws on this and other principles to advance the kingdom of Gods with an outward orientated expression of our love for God by taking Christianity back into the public square..
It puts the doing into being Church at a level that goes well past much of what Churches call outreach today. If the Church has been guilty of anything since, the all-out assault on it began in the 1960s, it might be charged with an ill-defined understanding of God’s love. It has been reduced to the personalised act of contrition in the certain reciprocal expectation of God’s forgiveness for the truly born again believer. But that is just the start.
God tells us to love him is to obey his commands (1Jn 5:2), hate what he hates (Pr 8:13 when read with Ro 12:9 and 1Cor 13: 6 ) AND express our love for him in loving our neighbour (Mk 12:31). Embracing these scriptural realities takes us way beyond personal piety to effective outward action.
Proverbs 25:26 is particularly poignant. “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.” And Proverbs 29:2 says: “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” Both proverbs are uncompromising and both have been proved true in our times. Large sections of western societies now groan under wicked rule, but without a prophetic public square witness by the western Church against the things God hates, their angst is not addressed with God-centred answers. That then pollutes the well of the Church’s witness (Pr 25:26). It lacks the moral authority or spiritual power to enter the public square as a nation’s moral conscience to point the way to a better future and thus set a prophetic example that draws people to Christ. It has done much to help the poor, as it should, but in our times that counts for little evangelistically because governments are doing the same thing on a far greater scale. The NGC strategy sets the church apart counter-culturally and transformationally, reflecting the early Church which set itself apart by acting in profoundly counter-cultural ways – like refusing to bow the knee in reverence to Caesar, as people were required to do. (Alvin Schmidt in his 2004 book, How Christianity Changed the World
The NGC strategy has churches boldly align themselves with God by hating the things he hates. In Pr 6:16-19 and Is 59:7-8 and 14-16 you’ll find a variety of expressions to capture the central truth that God always hates the abrogation of his laws because they always lead to a world of hurt for large numbers of people. They rush into sin………XXXX Loving our neighbour is therefore about standing against the things done by those who hate God’s commands because we love God with all our hearts, mind and strength. That’s what the NGC strategy is all about. Everything comes down to the great command because Jesus says it does.
It’s relatively easy to identify references that support this sort of activism or ‘works’. Jude 3 tells us to defend the faith because it’s been entrusted to us. 1Pe:3:15 tells us to be ready with answers for what we believe (apologetics). 2 Cor 10:5 and Col 3:8 demands we thrust aside ideas and philosophies that are man-centered denials of biblical God-centered truth. But that is just the start. Let’s take it further:
In Is 58 God vehemently dismisses those who reduce faith to customary observances while there is little that really distinguishes them from the world around them. Special days, fasting and even prayer is useless under these in conditions. He says in v.6 that true fasting is to loose the chains of injustice, untie the chords of the yoke and set the oppressed free. That is exactly where the NGC’s 12 reform vehicle takes a church – right to the heart of God in a far more conscientious and comprehensive way than where the Church has been for too long now. The proverbs I’ve just mentioned make it clear that God’s people cannot reduce God’s concerns for his human creation to sporadic and often weak-kneed evangelism and social service alone, valid though it is. Its been far too clear for far too long that this limited vision is not cutting the mustard in a re-paganising western world.
In Mt 23:23 Jesus drives this point home with reference to religious leaders, accusing them of being bound up by form and ceremony while neglecting the far more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness: that is all about the righteous application of God’s laws in the whole of society because when you do that you draw Him to the attention of far larger numbers of people. Once again that is exactly what the NGC strategy is designed to do.
Let’s turn now to 1 Sam 8. The implications and parallels for the times in which we live today are profound, but mostly ignored by the Church. I’ll summaries the salient points:
The Israelites rejected God as his king in favour of a leader like the other nations around them. At important levels the close parallels with what has happened in the West post 1960 in undeniable.
The Israelites ignored Samuel’s warning that it would lead to centralized government and eventual enslavement to state-ism. God, in applying his free will principle, gave them what they wanted and the rest is history – they spiraled into self-destruction and repression and would have remained in that condition if God had not made an everlasting covenant with them.
The Western world has followed a similar trajectory, but God’s covenant is with his Church not the western nations. They rejected their Judeo-Christian traditions in the mid 20th Century and embraced stat-ism. The results were fore-told in 1 Sam 8 – a slow spiral into subservience, oppression and virtual wage, debt and moral slavery. There is no love for our God or our neighbour in a Church that sits on its hands waiting for a ‘move of God’ before doing anything. Doing that denies Jesus testimony in the parables of the talents and the minas (Mt 25:14-30, Lk 19:11-27) . Christians are to multiply what they have until Jesus returns. The wicked servants were those who seeing little evidence of his close presence chose to do the bare minimum. An adulterous generations looks for signs. We don’t need signs when we have the whole counsel of God in the canon of Scripture. True faith is to found in action relevant to our times (James 3:17), not pious pinning for a miraculous shot of spiritual adrenaline. Jesus followers act on their faith, not on what they actually see (Jn 20:29)
Psalm 119:46: “ I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame…” The NGC strategy would certainly speak to our current ‘kings’ because it is founded on biblical principles that they have categorically defied in commerce, academia and politics.
The French writer and critic, Charles Pierre Baudelaire once said, “True civilisation…lies in the reduction of original sin”. Over the last five decades Western Civilisation has certainly not seen a reduction in sin - quite the opposite. Yet, Christians readily use their political energy and vote to support political parties and a political process that have spearheaded an accelerating slide into hedonism and paganism. The 12 Reforms at the heart of the NGC strategy, if implemented would reverse this process. So, that is exactly where the Church needs to be – leading a public square call for cultural reformation as a stimulus for evangelism. As I often repeat – 2 birds with one stone.
NGC Christians would abandon party political or ideological partisanship for God-centred cultural leadership – prophetically calling, in the public square, for transformations for good, instead of the evil harming so many today. The 12 reforms have as their foundation 5 core C, biblical WV principles:
1. Gen: 1:27- we are made in the image of God. I argue in my books this is about individual potential – if everyone is so made then we all have God-given gifts and abilities that can find noble and unique expression if society is so ordered that the opportunities to find that expression are maximised. That is what the 12 Reforms would enable.
2. Free will (1Pe 2:16, Gal 5:13-14): I’m not talking about the reformed-Arminian debate about election here but about the freedom God has given us to make life choices, for better or worse (the Bible is replete with examples of God giving people this sort of free will). The 12 Reforms are aimed at maximising good choice-making. Because God loved those he MIHI he gave us free will, for without it, we are little more than animals living for nothing but selfishness and unable to rise by our right choices to the sort of nobility God is looking for. It’s no accident that in the J-C West free will is a founding civilisational value.
3. We are to exercise individual responsibility in all of life’s spheres because at the end of the day we will have to individually answer for our actions. Ezekiel 18 (Ro 14:10 too) is devoted to this principle.
4. Mark 12:31 Love your neighbour as yourself. This is the principle that links self-interest to a concern for others. Much of what has been done in the West by the liberal-corporate alliance has hurt or limited most of us and literally killed many millions. Jesus tells us it is one arm of the great command. The 12 Reforms majors on reformations that would restore our neighbour by taking out the liberal-corporate elite that impose policies and practices causing just about all the social and economic dysfunctions hurting and killing so many.
5. 1 Jn 5:2; 1Jn 3:24 and Jn 15:10. Love God by obeying his commands. This is a very specific injunction to express ones love for God in action. The 12 reforms open up the public square for Christian to call, prophetically speaking, on communities to return to moral and practical sobriety in all areas of life according to God’s commands.
Richard Niebuhr in his 1951 book Christ and Culture argues, “Beliefs are not genuine unless they affect one’s conduct as well as one’s mind. To anticipate the coming of the Kingdom of God is merely sentimental, a private frivolity, unless one seeks ways of reshaping society according to the form of the imminent community…we cannot take a prophetic stance while taking care that the established institutions are maintained in their present form…”  The NGC strategy actualises the intent in Niebuhr’s statement because it seeks to ‘reshape’ western societies along lines which Jesus would likely approve because the core principles behind the NGC’s 12 reform engine are completely biblical.
In my first book Issachar’s call I spell out my central premise
Evangelical Christians need to independently and prophetically engage with society to re-establish respect for God’s commands and principles, improve the evangelistic environment and promote ‘peace’ in Western society. Those people and institutions, secular and ecclesiastical, which oppose and convince others to dismiss Truth and a properly biblical world view, must be challenged.
When I wrote that I suspected it might take me places I had never thought of and it certainly did – it led me to the NGC strategy. With the advantage of hindsight I’m not surprised because I had begun the whole exercise believing I had to go where the scriptures insist we go - away from following the secular herd. 2Cor 6:14-15 warns us not to be yoked with unbelievers. The NGC strategy adheres to that principle. Go to Psalm 1:1, Pr 4:14, Ph 1:27, Eph 4:17 Le 19:2 and 1Pe 1:17 and 2:11 if the injunction in 2Cor 6:14-15 has yet to sink in for you. Remember we are to be doers of the world and not just hearers.
There is another core biblical principle that Churches have not followed with any vitality. It is to be found in Ro 12 and 1 Cor 12 where we are told to make room for all the giftings and leadings God has in his Church – there are many parts to the body of Christ. Over 30 years I’ve seen this principle largely ignored and many Christians, men in particular have found themselves refugees from the Church as a result. Those who would be the NGC champions, like David’s mighty men (and women) are pushed to the margins of churches who find existing in the wilderness much easier if they just rub along with the surrounding world. The NGC strategy would extend the Churches actions across all its giftings by re-engaging those with a calling to go into the public square to be champions for the gospel and the great command. Missing this has been a major failing of the western Church. The NGC model redresses this mistake.
Let me finish with an obscure biblical passage from 1 Chron 12:35. Like me others have come across it and it has galvanized them as it did me. It talks of the Men of Issachar (one of Israel’s 12 tribes. They are distinguished from the fighting men of the other tribes because they were strategic leaders. It says they understood the times (Remember Jesus is critical of those who didn’t understand their times) and from there (crucially) they knew what Israel should do. I called my first book Issachar’s call. The challenge offered to the Western Church is this. Find the men and women of Issachar in your church (there are many parts to the body of Christ) and release them to embrace the NGC strategy because it is telling you how we need to respond to our times. It breaches the secular-pagan walls of today’s western anti-Christian world for truth and the gospel to pour back in.
 Cited by Oz Guinness (1994) in his: The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counter Culture and How it Changed America Forever. See the definition of original sin in the word and term definitions addendum to Chapter One.
 Niebuhr, R. (1951). Christ and Culture. Harpers, New York.
 There are many scriptures that could be examined to support what is essentially an apologetic thesis. Obvious examples, to which I will allude often are 1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3 and 2 Corinthians 10:5.