I’m currently reading through parts of the book Mission Shaped Questions, edited by Stephen Croft.
In chapter 10, John Hull looks at marks of the Kingdom. He claims that often mission is church-shaped rather than the church, mission-shaped. Looking out for others and being involved in socially transforming the world for good is an integral part of who God is – Hull brings to mind the prophets such as Amos who cried out against OT Israel. Even though Israel was offering worship and sacrifices in the temple they had neglected the plight of the most needy in society. Jesus said some similar things too. Hull later goes on to a short analysis of worship being simply directed upwards towards God instead of outwards towards the image of God in others.
I certainly agree with him on this – social action is a mark of the Kingdom of God, in which Christians live. The kingdom has been inaugurated here and now by Jesus even though it is not yet fully realised. Christians living today, therefore, should be engaged in the actions of amending their lives to live out the values of the kingdom, such as social action.
However, in the way Hull puts is, he gets dangerously close to the idea that Christians never need to say anything. His theology could degenerate into “be good to others and you’ll get into heaven.” This is not what he means, but I fear it could be taken this way.
I guess, with relevance to fresh expressions and new forms of church, this chapter is a reminder that simply having a funky worship service is not enough. If a church is going to demonstrate the kingdom of God to the culture it must look outwards in this way. Social action is not an optional extra.