Are we still in the salvation business?
Martin Smith asks the question over on the Daily Episcopalian, and he provides some answers.
It is a good question to ask about the church. Does the church ‘mean business’? Do we accept that our main business today is with meaning, the struggle to find meaning, and the mission to help people discover the gift of meaning through the good news that has Christ at its heart? Are we still in the business of being saved and saving others? I wonder sometimes because of the negativity or indifference with which many Episcopalians react to the very concept of being saved. Perhaps it’s because they equate being saved with the idea of God reprieving (some of) us from the sentence of eternal damnation in hellfire. In recoil from that idea many seem to think that salvation is a concept best quietly shelved. In how many of our churches is the language of salvation really alive?
A certain historical perspective can help. How did the church mean business at first in the culture in which it grew so rapidly? It brought good news to a civilization haunted by the ravages of mortality, the inevitable decay that reduced human effort to futility. The gospel of the resurrection counteracted all that with an unprecedented sense of God’s abundance of life and his desire to bring human beings into such intimacy with himself that they could experience a fullness of being that was proof against death. How did the church mean business in later centuries? Its good news addressed the nightmare of alienation, the sense that guilt estranged us from the Holy One…
It’s sad that we even have to ask the question. Smiths’s musings are powerful, reminding us of why we must be in the salvation business. In a time frought with pervasive questions of meaning, the church needs to be in the conversation. And we need to be practicing conversion. I’m not talking about poaching people away from other Christian denominations and world religions. We need to be converting people from lives of meaninglessness, fear, and angst into a the Christian life of salvation, peace, and joy.
If we do that, we’ll be saving souls — and we won’t have to worry about saving the church.