To impact the world for the cause of Christ is to recognize the problem of brokenness, to develop deep theological convictions which become our moorings, and then to live a life of gracious activism by restoring broken walls and raising up age-old foundations. (Dr. Barry Corey in Christian Leadership Essentials: 262)

I read this recently, and it quickly settled like a burr under my saddle.

christian-leadership-essentialsOver-simplification usually hurts more than it helps, but I have seen the paralyzing and stultifying fruit of over-complication. On the one hand, some say that the Christian life is just a simple matter of following Jesus (as if there’s anything simple about it). On the other hand, others keep adding layer after weighty layer until the burden of faith stifles us.

Barry Corey, it seems to me, strikes a powerful path down the middle. He provides a profound approach to authentic discipleship. In three simple statements, he aligns us with the work, ministry, and heart of Christ in the world. Here’s his simple proposal:

First, recognition. Recognize the multiple ways in which people experience brokenness in the world. Until we open our eyes to see the depth of woundedness, pain, and suffering around us, we’ll see little need for Christ, grace, or Gospel.

Second, conviction. This conviction reflects more than a strong feeling that flows from a personal sense of justice or fairness. It wells up from the deep theological convictions (firmly grounded in Scripture) which moor our souls. It reflects an intimacy with the heart of God and the Word of God.

Third, activism. This involves the gracious (and oftentimes hazardous) work of rebuilding broken walls and raising up ancient foundations. It demands that we participate, not merely spectate. It calls us to engagement and drives us to redemptive and sacrificial service.

This model of Christian faith compels me. And all three elements must combine. If we embrace just one or two but not all three, we will surely undermine our impact for Christ. Consider this:

Recognition and conviction, without activism, leads to heartless passivity.

Conviction and activism, without recognition, leads to legalism.

Recognition and activism, without conviction, launches us into self-reliance and destructive subjectivism.

Dr. Corey’s quote might deserve a place on the cork-board or refrigerator. It certainly deserves our reflection and response.

Would friends or family use these three terms to describe our Christ-following lives?

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3 Responses to Recognition-Conviction-Activism

  1. Dan Gonzaga says:

    “Recognition and activism, without conviction, launches us into self-reliance and destructive subjectivism.” So true! Recently, IV plunged into the murky waters of the LGBTQ issue. Tough nut to crack that really only the Lord can do. We certainly can’t, even till now. Our sense of activism as a community on a mission is in disarray on this matter. Your thoughts speak truth and help sort out.

    • David Timms says:

      Dan, that’s a painful and pain-filled example. Corey suggests that this “conviction” (grounded in deep orthodox theological reflection based on Scripture) may be our greatest challenge. In a Christian community that is often biblically illiterate, this may be our nemesis to advancing the authentic cause of Christ.

      • Dan Gonzaga says:

        Indeed! The interesting twist to our situation is that we have a deep tradition of manuscript study. It’s deeply embedded in our discipleship of new followers of Jesus. But on this LGBTQ matter, we can’t have unity beyond staying in the agreement to continue the debate and keep the dialogue going. Anything beyond that causes discord and divides us into separate camps. A colleague recently remarked that some of us within the organization and also alumni may be tormented with “Scripture shame” on this issue.

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