More and more I'm quizzed by fellow Christians, pastors, and ministers regarding the nature of Reformation Brewery as "ministry to the culture." Often they come with notepads and are ready for my 5 Tips to Engaging the Culture. I usually begin by simply listening to their questions and trying to gain insight into their ministry and life perspective so that I can contextualize my answer to make sense. The more people I've met over the years, the more I've gained incredible respect for the many different perspectives that Christians and ministers have on life and the nature of ministry. It is truly a mosaic and there is great beauty in that.
However, there is one common thread that I've often found missing throughout these conversations when it comes to Christian living and the nature of ministry. It's this one issue that I go to when I'm trying to communicate the nature of my approach to life and ministry (and therefore business). Furthermore, I believe it's the one issue that connects all of faithful historical Christianity and serves to contrast Christianity from all other worldviews, philosophies, and other Christian distortions. When the thread is lost, forgotten, or suppressed the world suffers. When the thread is heralded, praised, and exalted the world transforms with peace, love, and joy. And it sounds very simple, yet in our day it is rarely recognized, much less exercised. Your Christianity is impotent without this one truth. There is no substitute for it. This one single truth is that all of life is to be lived OUT of salvation and not FOR salvation. Another way of saying it, all of ministry is to be exercised OUT of the gospel and not performed FOR the gospel. Add any "if's, and's, or but's" you will distort this truth and suppress its power.
Far too much ministry, far too many lives are lived attempting to gain and earn freedom (salvation) by performance. It's why we come with our notepads and crave the silver bullet method for life and ministry. We believe we have moved on from the gospel and that discipleship demands maturity. But the maturity we are gaining is too often self-righteousness rather than childlike faith in Christ. Any discipleship definition void of gospel centrality is bankrupt already. We never grow beyond the good news of Christ or past it, we simply grow deeper in love with it as it breaks us, heals us, and frees us over and over and over again. When we add things to the gospel we suppress the freedom of the gospel and therefore the attraction of the gospel. This suppression of the good news will always lead to new forms of moralism, to-do lists, and law. As a result, there is no freedom, there is no salvation, there is no peace, love, and joy.
This is where I begin to get into the conversation that is the very heart of Reformation. It's been central to reformation since the beginning of time. When the good news of the Messiah is recaptured and made the foundation, walls, doorway, windows, and roof of our message, reformation always happens. It matters not the context (culture, time or place). The gospel is truly universal good news.
There is a reformation of life and ministry in living OUT of salvation. Christian ministry, outreach, and cultural engagement become less project and more comprehensive lifestyle. When Christians are living OUT of salvation instead of FOR salvation they experience freedom. Freedom rooted in the very identity of Christ. This results in freedom to risk, freedom to engage, freedom to love, freedom to live as we are created to live. When there is nothing more to gain than the gospel itself, life becomes the gift that never stops giving. If you want to engage culture, or for that matter life and ministry, you've got to first stop you're "doing" for God and embrace the very goodness of God who has set you free. Life out of freedom will garner you plenty of critics and scorn from a world in bondage to its insecure self, but it might also fill up your church and your life with something that truly matters.
There is absolutely nothing more important or more central to my life and ministry. If I am more than five minutes away from thinking about the good news, I am lost. I need it over and over and over. I've tried growing beyond it and found nothing but bankrupt Christianity. Thankfully the gospel even came into that toxicity and rescued me again from such bondage. I never want to stray from it again. I want to be wise to discern the slick counterfeits and the sirens that call for anything else. I long to live out of its goodness and freedom regardless of who throws daggers. And I want to be so privileged to share it with anyone and everyone until all things are new.