Moore: Gospel-defined conservatism needed

Russell Moore urges Christians to conserve Gospel authority and community in his keynote speech at the ERLC National Conference Aug. 26 in Nashville.
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NASHVILLE (BP) -- Christians need to make certain what they are seeking to conserve in America is distinguished by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Russell Moore told attendees of a national conference on cultural engagement.

"[I]f what we are conserving is not defined by the Gospel, defined by a righteousness found in the lived life and shed blood of the resurrected Jesus Christ, a Gospel that is seen in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God, a Gospel seen in the community of the redeemed, a Gospel seen in that ministry of reconciliation, then we have nothing worth conserving at all," the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said Friday evening (Aug. 26).

Moore's keynote speech came in the final session of the ERLC's two-day national conference titled, like his address, "Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel."

"[T]he shaking of American culture is no sign that God has given up on His church." -- Russell Moore

Many Christians may be interpreting the great cultural shifts in America wrongly, Moore said.

"We have many Christians who are fearful and panicky because their illusion of a Mayberry-like, Christian America is falling apart," he said.

"Brothers and sisters, the shaking of American culture is no sign that God has given up on His church. The shaking of American culture well could be a sign that God is rescuing His church from a captivity we didn't even know that we were in."

The dramatic cultural change does not mean this is "a time for fear," Moore told the audience at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville.

"This is good news, because with the changing of the culture around us, what is falling is the almost Christianity of cultural Christianity," he said. "Mayberry is great unless there's a hell, unless there's a judgment day. And if there's a day of judgment, an almost Gospel is worse than no Gospel at all. So we must be prepared to be the people who stand and stand fast and, if necessary, to be the people who are willing to stand alone."

Basing his remarks on Galatians 1:10-2:14, Moore said Christians should be the kind of people who conserve a Gospel authority and a Gospel community.

If Christians "are not consistently preaching and teaching and holding fast to the word of the Bible, some other authority will fill the void," he said.

The Gospel authority Christians should rely on "ought to feed and fuel a courage," Moore told the audience. "If I received man's Gospel, then I need to be afraid of men. But if I received God's Gospel, then I need to be fearful of God and in obedience to God."

Followers of Jesus should see their goal as "the approval of the invisible God more than the approval of the visible people that we admire or that we fear around us," he said. Christians fear, he said, "because we are seeking to conserve ourselves; we're seeking to conserve our lives; we're seeking to conserve our security."

Speaking of a recent report that a white pastor was fired because he wanted the church's Vacation Bible School opened to children of other races, Moore said, "A church that would limit the Gospel to one ethnicity or one skin color or one group of people is not just a church that is backward. It is a church that is anti-Christ. It is a church that is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Through the Gospel, God creates the kind of community that "brings us into family as a witness to the outside world of what reconciliation within the body really means," he said. "The church of Jesus Christ is not a coalition of old, angry, white people who are all outraged about the same stuff."

One of the biggest challenges for Christians is "to be separated from sin but not separated from sinners," Moore told attendees. "And what we often want to do is the exact reverse."

Christians can be guilty of fearing what others "in our tribe" in the church will think if they see them with a Muslim neighbor, atheist neighbor or gay neighbor, he said. "But am I a servant of Jesus Christ, or am I a servant of other people's expectations?"

Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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