(Continued from here.)
The Nuclear Family
The Biblical model for the family is the nuclear family: a man, his wife, and their dependent children. No matter what situation the family is in, the Bible does not prescribe any additional covenantal authority over the husband; there is no concept of extended family, or a clan, as a covenantal unit or institution. From the very beginning, the boundaries around the nuclear family are clearly established in Gen. 2:24. A man – which should mean in the context a grown up adult – should leave the covenantal authority of his parents, and start a new covenantal family with his wife. While Isaac lived in the same geographical place with his father Abraham, and Jacob and Esau lived with Isaac, the evidence is that they had separate households and made their decisions separately from their fathers. The New Testament also establishes the covenantal boundaries around the nuclear families in Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 11:3: “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman.” Thus, with the married man answering only to Christ as far as the conduct of his family is concerned (barring a violation or a transgression that falls within the jurisdiction or the church or the state), any other family allegiance is declared to be outside of the boundaries of the family covenant. The nuclear family is the only type of family, as far as the covenantal nature of that institution is concerned.1 Any relations with the extended family may be beneficial, and commendable, and economically desirable, but they are not covenantally sanctioned, and are therefore purely voluntary. (For example, Naomi had no inherent rights to support from her extended family; all support was the voluntary decision of a relative, not an obligation upon him.)
In the society of the fallen man, especially in rural settings, the temptation has always been toward replacing the nuclear family with the clan, where one family head controls all the families within his jurisdiction and acts as both civil government and religious priest over them.2 That model is rejected by the Bible, and it is oriented toward stagnation, not toward dominion. The nuclear family, as Gary North points out, provides maximum harmony.3
But in the context of the big city, a different temptation is present, one which acts in the opposite direction: the atomization of the society and the individual, and the flight from all human institutions, including those that are Biblical, good, and effective. Including the family. By a combination of factors – cultural, economic, psychological – the big city seems to discourage its young people from forming families, or, when they form them, from having children. A number of Roman authors of the imperial period point to the fact of the dissolution of the family bonds even among the Patrician families where they used to be the strongest in the antiquity. But the dissolution of the family and the lack of interest in the family is not limited to pagan civilizations. To a great extent such problem existed in Christendom between AD 1000 and the present, including cities like Paris, London, and the cities in Italy. The problem has been discussed by many Christian authors, both in previous centuries and in modern days, but one main aspect of that problem is especially troubling: that the more individuals rely on a centralized government to supply all their needs, the less willing they are to rely on the Biblical family as a covenant institution.
And, what is important for a missionary, the less they rely on the family, the farther away they are from the Kingdom of God. Therefore, the building of the Kingdom of God must necessarily include the restoration of the Biblical family, which means the nuclear family.
Every missionary who went to work in an urban environment, has encountered the problem of too many single young men and women (mostly single women), and very few families. The problem is especially persistent in Europe where the memory of two world wars and the several decades of Communism in the East and socialist policies in the West have dealt a serious blow on the family as a covenantal institution. (I avoid the label “traditional family” for it has no identifiable meaning from a Christian perspective.) In many places, and especially in the urban regions of the world, the family is not the basic institution of the culture.
This is mainly because in the context of a pagan culture, subjection and service are seen in negative terms, as a drain on one’s life, and as a liability which interferes with the “self-development” of the man or the woman. Rushdoony explained how the Christian family is based on the principle of mutual subjection and service.4 Without Christianity, there is no understanding of the moral value of mutual subjection and service, and therefore there is no psychological or emotional fuel for young men and women to spend efforts to start and build a family.
Man doesn’t become free by rejecting the Biblical principle of mutual subjection in the family; he only replaces it with totalitarianism and tyranny.5 The flight from the Biblical family in the cities has been the main factor which produced socialism. It is no wonder that in the 20th century the big cities have become a fertile ground for socialist ideas, as well as an endless supply of voters for statist political agendas. It has nothing to do with the supposed “modernity” of the city dwellers, nor with any social “progress”; the prevalence of socialist ideas in the cities is the direct product of the abandonment of the family as an institution. An atomistic society of lonely men and women will naturally try to embrace another principle of cohesion. If it’s not the family, then it must be the state. Mutual love and subjection and service in the family then is replaced with subjection and servitude to the state, without any love whatsoever.
And then, of course, the state in its turn implements policies that additionally atomize the society and separate the individuals from each other, until the only social cohesion that would be tolerated by the brainwashed majority is the cohesion of the crowd under the dominance of the political elite. The individuals end up dealing only with the government in all their endeavors – whether in business, or in welfare, or in intellectual development – while all other institutions except the government are left without any purpose for existence. The family has no reason for existence in such a society; and therefore, the church and the faith in Jesus Christ have no foundation in it. A culture of single men and women dependent on the state is a Satanic culture, even when there is no direct worship of demons involved.
A missionary who wants to build the church in such setting, then, must make sure he builds families. As I mentioned above, the synagogue model requires at least ten families for a synagogue to be established. Without families there is no church, and there is no Christian culture. And in the context of the big city, the problem of lack of families is a major problem. And that might turn out to be the greatest challenge of a culture-changing missionary.
It all starts with preaching on the topic of the family. While the family shouldn’t occupy 100 percent of the sermon topics, it must take a much more prominent place than it has now in most missionaries’ sermon plans. And the most important thing is this: These young men must get married. The sooner, the better. A church can not be built by single individuals; and the culture can not be challenged nor changed by single individuals. It is the nuclear families that build churches and change the culture. Therefore, much of the work a missionary does would be pastoral: help his listeners – and especially the young men – develop the courage to overcome the fear of marriage and get married. Of course, not every marriage is healthy and Biblical; one must make sure his future spouse is a God-fearing person. But in general, more marriages is better than less marriages. Against the challenges of the city culture and life, marriage may seem like a serious undertaking. A missionary must work hard to help his young men and women face it, and conquer it.
There is one caveat, though. It is fashionable today in many churches and groups who call for a return to the Biblical family to mainly look at the family as a “relationship,” and to emphasize the “relationship” aspect of it. The family is mainly preached and described in terms of the love between a man and a woman, or of the mutual respect, and the joys of having children around, or of how a father should spend time and show affection and attention, etc., etc. It’s all beautiful, and cozy, and emotionally satisfying and fulfilling. In the context of the broader teaching that “Christianity is all about relationship with Jesus,”, the family as a relationship is the logical thing to teach.
There is a problem with this approach. And the problem is that it is female-oriented, just as the concept of “relationship with Jesus” is female-oriented. I have talked more about this problem in the church, and how the church destroys the Christian family, in my article, “Relationship vs. Purpose: How the Church Destroys the Christian Family.” It will suffice to add here: Trying to keep the men in the church, or to encourage them to have families, by preaching relationship is analogous to teaching them literature by forcing them to read all of Jane Austen’s novels and discuss them. They will get bored. By their very nature, and by creation ordinance, men are created to work and conquer. Relationship is important, but it inevitably will have a secondary role in their thinking. Emphasize the family as mainly relationship, and you have lost the majority of them.
A wise missionary, then, will preach the family as it is described in the Bible: as the basic institution for the fulfillment of the Dominion Mandate to man. Man was created to work and conquer (Gen. 2:15); and the family must be preached as the institution to give him the tools to work and conquer. Without a family, a man is unable to be a successful worker or conqueror (Gen. 2:18). He needs the family in order to achieve God’s purpose for his life, and for the lives of those around him.
That purpose is not limited to one thing only. The family has limits on its authority, of course, but its prerogatives and functions are many. The main ones are the reproductive and the economic functions (“multiply and take dominion,” Gen. 1:26-27). The reproductive function is not simply having children but also teaching and training these children to know God, know His Law, and obey His Law in their life. Therefore, together with preaching Christian families, a missionary will also teach the parents to take the responsibility for teaching their children, especially in cultures where government education has become the accepted cultural norm. There is no true Christian family where the parents have abdicated the responsibility of training their children to those outside of the family, and especially to unbelievers. The economic function consists of the family’s place as a trustee of God’s resources. It includes wise management but it also includes care for the poor and needy, and especially care for the elderly. Just as the family must reclaim the education of its children back from the state (and sometimes from the church), so the family also must reclaim the economic initiative and the welfare functions back from the state (and sometimes from the church). In the cities, where the covenantal family has been under severe attack, a missionary must start preaching the purpose and the function of the family from the very beginning of his mission. A Christian culture can not be built without Christian families who are restored in their purpose and function under God.
Businessmen as Teachers
I said above that the modern church has insulated itself into something similar to a pagan temple, an institution limited to providing liturgy and religious experience on Sunday morning. I also said that a culture is captured not when Sunday morning is captured but when Monday morning, and every other week day, are captured.
Many churches, then, after having defined themselves in such limited way, realize that not capturing the week days makes them lose the hearts of their members, and that much of the significant and relevant life of their members happens outside of the “church,” during the week. The solution then is not to expand the definition of the church beyond the limited institutional setting and the strictly religious gathering on Sunday morning but to expand the number of religious activities within this limited definition of the church. Instead of capturing the weekdays, many churches are working hard to destroy the weekdays and replace them all with Sundays.
This is the underlying religious motive behind the numerous activities which characterize many American churches today. Women’s meetings, prayer meetings, youth meetings, church singing nights, three or four or more services a week, Fourth of July celebrations, and many more, there is always some “event” that the local church organizes that is designed to make the life of its members more connected to the “church.” None of these events in themselves, of course, are intrinsically bad or unnecessary. The problem here is rather that they are based on the assumption that the life of a church member outside of these church “events” is a life “in the world” and has nothing to do with the church. So, the more a church member participates in the “church events,” the less he is “in the world.” Eventually, of course, attending “church events” becomes almost mandatory, and non-attending is considered as almost “apostasy.” And events or activities organized by individual church members but not by the church session are not even considered “Christian.”
Many American missionaries abroad have adopted the same approach to “church-planting”: Once a “church” is formed, the main concern becomes what activities need to be devised and organized so that the “church” justifies its own existence. The goal is to capture the time the new converts spend “outside” of the church service. Since most American missionaries have no comprehensive Biblical worldview and are unprepared to speak and teach to all areas of life, such activities are designed to be a substitute for solid Biblical instruction about the practical life of the new believer during the week, in his family, his job, his business, his political activities, his recreation, his intellectual endeavors, etc.
Such approach, while it is taken for granted by the modern church, is in essence dualistic, and therefore not Biblical. It assumes the duality of life – church vs. secular – and therefore assumes that there are two areas of life regulated by different laws. It denigrates the practical life and work of a believer to be “lower-class” compared to his “spiritual” or “church” life; and then it attempts to replace that practical life and work with a set of irrelevant activities believed to be “spiritual” or “evangelistic.”
But Biblically, the time from Monday morning to Saturday night is time for work (Exo. 20:9). And it is exactly work that most church activities are competing against, not the world as a system. Work, of course, includes both the actual process of working, but it also includes rest and recreation which make work bearable. The time during the week is supposed to be time of work, not time of activities with the only purpose of making people busy “for the church.” When a church is trying to take the time of its members during the week, that time is at the expense of work, and not at the expense of the “world.” (Church activities can be more worldly than any “worldly” job out there.)
Many modern pastors, and many modern missionaries do not realize that work is not only not a “worldly” thing, but it is the most spiritual and ethical activity of all activities mentioned in the Bible. Based on the number of verses work is declared to be an ethical and spiritual virtue, it is more spiritual than prayer, church attendance, praise and worship, singing psalms and hymns, helping the poor, offering sacrifices, healing the sick, performing miracles, raising children, having the right relationship with other people, be nice to people, street evangelisms, etc., etc. From beginning to end, man’s very nature as the image of God is defined much more by the word “work” than it is defined by liturgy, relationship, or prayer. Man was created and put in the Garden, and the first task he was given was to work. The Law of God as given to the Hebrews, from beginning to end, presupposes a working culture, not a culture of religious observances. (Any religious observances were peripheral and temporary in nature.) The Promised Land was described as a place where work will be blessed, not cursed; the commandment for offering the first fruit presupposes they would work the land (Deut. 26:1-2). The exiles who went to Babylon had no formal liturgy anymore – God must not have considered it as important as it is for some modern liturgical zealots – but they were commanded to work and serve (the same word in Hebrew) there, building houses, planting gardens, and advancing the welfare of Babylon (Jer. 29:1-7; 40:9). And the warnings against laziness in the Book of Proverbs are far too many to list in one short article. In any case, the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 is almost entirely described as a working or businesswoman; and we know that she is portrayed there not only as a moral instruction to the believers today but also as a symbolic description of the Church.6
Our modern interpretation of the Fourth Commandment often focuses on the Sabbath rest and we seldom stop to think that that commandment actually has two parts: work and rest (not work and worship). But Jesus challenged our modern interpretation and explained that the more important part of that Commandment is work; in John 5:16-17, he replied to the Jews concerning their interpretation of the Sabbath and their accusations, that “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus talks about the trees being good or bad according to what they produce. Immediately after that, He says that religious observances do not secure one’s place in the kingdom of heaven (vv. 21-23). And of course, that great parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 declares that refusal to work and produce and increase wealth may cost a man his place in the Kingdom. Jesus there specifically calls the servant, “wicked and lazy,” indicating that laziness is a vice. Paul told the Thessalonians to “do their own things and work with their own hands” (1 Thess. 4:11), and in case they hadn’t gotten the message, in his next letter to them he warned them that “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat either” (2 Thess. 3:10). (Seriously, Paul? You’ll let a man starve just because he doesn’t work?) The threat of starvation must be a convincing testimony to the ethical importance of work in Paul’s thinking.
In general, work is considered in the Bible as more important and of a greater spiritual value than religious observances. Therefore, teaching the Biblical laws and principles about work, occupation, and business must be considered a priority for a pastor or a missionary, higher than teaching about church services, liturgy, or church organization. A missionary who doesn’t address work and business in his preaching, is delivering to his listeners a dualistic, almost Gnostic “gospel,” not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And therefore, a missionary who is making every effort to engage his converts in “church” activities during the week, thus taking from their time of effective work or recreation (which will make work bearable), is a missionary who is wasting his time and the money of his sponsors.
Much more can be said about the theology of work and the ethical importance of work in the Bible; or about the focus on work that the Reformation created, and thus created the modern world as we know it.7 R.J. Rushdoony says that, “It is a serious but common error that work is an aspect of the curse,” and then, “Work was central to man’s creation and nature.”8 Modern missionaries, influenced by the error Rushdoony is talking about, are usually silent about work and business. I have witnessed firsthand how a Gypsy community converted to Christianity by Charismatic missionaries, had no idea that being a Christian involved becoming industrious and economically productive. Modern Reformed missionaries are not much better; a theology of work is missing completely from the modern Reformed teaching on the mission field. A century ago, the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions still included changing the work and business habits of a nation in the legitimate tasks of a missionary;9 the testimonies of many of the missionaries at the conference in 1910 included the changing economic and business environment in places like Latin America, Turkey, India, and Eastern Europe as a result of spreading the Gospel. Such testimonies today are seldom heard of, and I have been criticized quite a few times by American Reformed missionaries for “diluting the Gospel” with focus on work and business.
But work is a spiritual virtue, and a pagan society will naturally tend to despise, hate, denigrate, and reject work. No wonder; for the fallen man, work is curse, and the less time is spent in work, the happier the fallen man feels. Conversely, a Christian society will put a heavy emphasis on work and business, and on “redeeming the time” to use it in serving one’s fellow beings.
Work has two main purposes in the Bible. First, it is increasing the value of one’s capital. The parables of the talents and the minas are very clear about that. The examples of Abraham and Jacob are also very clear. The Old Testament expected of the faithful Israelites to build, and plant, and expand in the land. This first function of work includes production, management, investment, organization of production and labor, education and training, marketing, trade, and many others. Second, it is solving problems. In a regular day, where there are no accidents or unfortunate circumstances, a man works to increase his capital. But in a world that is not entirely under man’s control, there are contingencies which man must anticipate and deal with to prevent his capital from shrinking.10 This second function of work may include insurance, contingency planning, protection of assets, maintenance and safety, damage control, rescue of human and non-human capital from dangerous situations, etc. This second function of work is so important that Jesus said it trumps the Sabbath regulations: Matt. 12:11 and Luke 14:5 show that safety, rescue, damage control, and protection of assets were permitted on a Sabbath day; Luke 13:15 shows that maintenance was permitted on a Sabbath day.
But, the response to everything here would be, a missionary is not necessarily supposed to organize workers, do business, invest money, give example of productive work or prudent management of risk and opportunities. True, some missionaries – the Apostle Paul being the prime example – had their own business and not only supported their own ministries but also gave an example for others to follow. Others, on the other hand, were supported by private individuals – like Jesus Himself, for example (Luke 8:2-3) – or by the churches, like Peter (1 Cor. 9:3-7). If work as increasing capital, and work as protecting assets is such important spiritual virtue according to the Gospel, how is a missionary to teach his listeners about it, if he himself has the “right to refrain from working” (1 Cor. 9:6), and therefore may not have the sufficient experience about work, capital, investment, etc.?
The problem is even more acute in the big cities given the fact that from very early in history the cities have attracted not only the most innovating and industrious members of the society, but also the most corrupt and the lazy. Sodom and Gomorrah were extreme examples but they were certainly not exceptions. Athens, Rome, and Alexandria had their share of the population which was committed to living without working. “Panem et circenses” was a successful policy of control exactly because the population of Rome expected bread and circuses; it was corrupt and lazy and it viewed physical labor as something only the slaves do. The same policy, represented today by the modern policies of government welfare, works mainly in the cities where there is a separate class of dependents on the government who have lost their ability and desire to ever be independent and productive. Even among those who have work and are better off, the welfare mentality runs strong. (In fact, welfare recipients can be found in all strata of society, from the poor to bank owners and CEOs.) So, what’s a missionary to do in the big city?
The solution is in returning to what I said above about the synagogue model for the church. A missionary must realize and accept the fact that the Church is not limited to the institutional organization and its gatherings, but it is also an organism, and its members are lawful representatives of the Church in their vocations. The missionary must also recognize that teaching work ethic, stewardship, and problem-solving is an important part of the Gospel, and therefore the church members must be encouraged to learn and practice those important Gospel virtues. Of course, every member of the church must be a hard-working member in his area of vocation and expertise. But the businessman, the entrepreneur, the innovator, is in a special position to learn, practice, and teach those skills. The Christian missionary has a special obligation to that specific type of person, and can reap results that can help his church and his work grow beyond the results of many modern missionaries.
It is often assumed that business and entrepreneurship is about money and profit and getting rich. It is true that this is part of motivation of a businessman; just as part of the motivation of an employee is getting that paycheck at the end of the week. (In fact, very often the paycheck is a much greater motivation for an employee than is profit for a businessman.) But to declare the financial result the essence of business is the same as to accuse parents who have decided to have many children that their only motivation is to have someone take care of them when they retire. Of course, parents expect their children to take care of them. But there is much more to parenting than that. In the same way, there is much more to business than simply profit and getting rich.
The essence of entrepreneurship is stewardship of resources. And these resources include raw materials, time, and – notice carefully – labor. In the context of the modern city, in a constantly growing population and an economy getting more and more complex, organization of labor becomes one of the main tasks of business. What is seldom realized by modern critics of capitalism – both Christian and socialist – is that industrial capitalism wins not because it is profit-oriented but because it is superior to other social systems in its organization of work. And since work is the highest spiritual virtue in the task of dominion, modern industrial capitalism will always take dominion, criticisms and predictions to the contrary notwithstanding. Making work more effective is a Biblical virtue; and businessmen and entrepreneurs, risking their own capital, and employing their own resources and skills, are the people who are taking up the task of making work more effective. As the Gospel grows, capitalism will grow, for it is the system that most effectively puts to practice the Dominion Mandate: increase and multiply, and take dominion over the earth. A businessman in the church, therefore, is just as important for spreading the Gospel as is the pastor, or the evangelist, or any other church occupation one can think of. He is a steward of resources, and especially of work. And work is a spiritual virtue.
A missionary, therefore, must start his preaching with a heavy emphasis on work ethic and the spiritual value of entrepreneurship. Of all points in his preaching, this one is the most probable to meet opposition, whether vocal or silent. In many nations, the myth of “our people is a hard-working people” has been nurtured by populist and socialist politicians, and by the self-righteous attitude of pagan populations. The truth is, a nation that needs the Gospel is also a nation that lacks work ethic, for it is only the Gospel that produces work ethic. Especially in the cities, the prevailing attitude is socialist, anti-work ethic and anti-business. Stewardship is a foreign word for the majority of the city-dwellers around the world. Therefore, a missionary must start with preaching the work ethic of the Bible, and by defending business and entrepreneurship from a Biblical perspective.
This would mean, in the first place, preaching and teaching the work ethic of the Bible, starting from the Dominion Mandate and explaining the meaning of that Mandate, and its place in the Gospel. The regular temptation for a missionary, even when that missionary is truly Reformed in his theology, is to focus on the pietistic part of the Gospel, emphasizing personal salvation and faith without obedience. But the Gospel is about restoring man in his original place in the Covenant, and enabling him to fulfill the Dominion Mandate. Brought to bear on the individual life of man, this means productive work and problem solving. A missionary in his sermons and messages must attack laziness, dependence on handouts and welfare, and entitlement mentality, as much as he attacks sexual immorality or any other kind of immorality. Encouraging work, education and training in productive skills, seeking productive employment, and the spiritual value of expanding one’s dominion over the earth is among the first things a missionary must preach to his listeners. Conversion to Christ, Who is working as His Father is working, means conversion to a new understanding of the importance of work, and therefore new practical attitude to work.
Then a missionary must preach about business and the importance and the necessity for the covenant community to value and support those in it who have devoted their life to the risks and the responsibilities of entrepreneurship. Modern churches look at entrepreneurs as simply milking cows supplying the “needs” of the church. Pastors and missionaries often care only about the financial result of a successful business – in the form of tithes and offerings to the church, of course. But if work is an important spiritual virtue, then businessmen in the church must be encouraged to use their skills to teach others the virtue of work and industry. According to an old Jewish saying, “A father who doesn’t teach his son Torah and a trade, makes him a thief.” Modern churches, of course, teach their members neither Torah, nor a trade. But a missionary who understands that the church is larger than the institutional gathering on Sunday morning, and also understands that the Dominion Mandate has never been repealed by God, will make sure that his listeners are encouraged to enter the field of business, and those who do and are successful, will teach others to be responsible stewards as well.
Spiritual virtues can be twisted to become vices. Yes, even prayer can become an idle and ungodly exercise (Matt. 6:5, 7). Work, then, can be twisted to serve the purposes of Satan. That’s why a missionary also needs to teach the Law of God concerning work and business. This is an area largely left gray for most pastors and Christians; Biblical economics is not a common topic in the churches, and neither is business. Of course, it all follows from the larger rejection of the Law of God as our standard for righteous living today. Indeed, a pastor has no place to go but to the Law of God, if he wants to draw the Biblical principles for work and business. But in the general atmosphere of antinomianism in the churches, such move is seldom even contemplated.
In the United States, the consequences of such omission are not so obvious. The reason is, there is a strong legacy of an earlier Theonomic influence which is still very strong in America. Christian America in the past did look at work and business as areas under the jurisdiction of the Gospel, and the Puritan preachers of the past did preach on economic and business topics. Entrepreneurship was a godly thing to do, and the laws for righteous business were found in the Bible. This strong legacy remains, and therefore entrepreneurship is still strong in America, despite the theological and spiritual blindness of our modern pastors and theologians and seminary professors. The dualism is very strong in the American churches, but the Puritan legacy is even stronger. American pastors and teachers are living off the very legacy they are opposing; and yet, so rich it is, it continues to defy their theological efforts to destroy it, and continues to work.
But a missionary in a foreign land doesn’t have the luxury of that same Puritan legacy. If he opposes preaching work as a spiritual virtue, or if he even omits it, there is no moderating influence in the culture to supply the spirit and the practice of work and business. Outside of the US, most nations are in the grip of a demonic, socialist ideology and psychology that continues to consider work a curse, and leisure a blessing. Not addressing this ideology and psychology will mean that a missionary has accepted it as normative, and thus has rejected the most important spiritual virtue of the Gospel. Therefore, he must preach it, teach it, and encourage it; and encourage the businessmen and the entrepreneurs in his congregations to join him and help him in transforming the work ethic of his listeners.
In short, where the missionary doesn’t have a Puritan legacy to help him, he must create it.
The cities are the future of mankind. Knowing how to do missions in the cities will be vital to the mission endeavor in the next generations. History moves from rural to urban, from the countryside to the cities, from small communities to big conglomerates. From the Garden to the City, is the Biblical pattern. We better learn to do missions in the cities and build a Christian culture in the context of the big cities.
In the modern context, a missionary to the big cities has three immediate problems to worry about: church, families, work.
The church must be built by restoring the old model of the synagogue. It was built and tested in the cities of the Roman Empire by the Jewish Diaspora, and then taken and perfected by the Christian diaspora. It helped the Church become the most influential and successful cultural factor, and transform the ancient world. Not the limited institutional model of the temple, but the “cultural beachhead” model of the synagogue is what will build and sustain the new Christian civilization in the context of our modern civilization.
No culture can be built without families. The modern city has destroyed the old model of the extended family – which was not Biblical anyway – but it has also discouraged the nuclear family, which is the Biblical model. A missionary can’t continue his work in a city unless he encourages his young men to overcome their fear of having family and taking responsibility for a wife and children. This must happen by preaching and teaching on the purpose of the family in the plan of God – and especially the purpose of the family in the Dominion Mandate. The modern city church in many big cities around the world is a church of single men and women. Until this pattern changes, churches will come and go, and the cities will remain unevangelized.
And third, a Puritan legacy of work must be built. This means, restoring the Biblical theology of work, and the Biblical work ethic. This will mean expanding the definition of the church to include the effort of all its members, and especially of those who are gifted and experienced in organizing work: businessmen and entrepreneurs. Without restoring work as a virtue and as practical way of life, under the Law of God, modern churches will remain irrelevant and short-lived. The goal must be to build the same culture of work as the Puritans built in America, which today survives even the attempts of pastors and theologians to destroy it.
A modern Christian synagogue, built of nuclear families, where the men work and engage in righteous, profitable business. This is the beginning of a successful Reformed mission in any big city in the world today. The Scottish Presbyterians, the English Puritans, the Dutch Reformed, the Swiss Protestants, they all put it in practice, and within a generation their nations became Reformed. It will work today too. The complexity of social relationships in the big city can be conquered only when a new culture is built, and that new culture is established upon these simple foundation pillars.
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- “Christian Culture vs. Clan Culture.” [↩]
- See, for example, Fustel de Coulanges’s insightful study into the religion and social organization of the ancient Romans and Greeks, The Ancient City. The statist societies that emerged in Greece and Rome were simply a continuation of the same clan organization; the state was just a bigger clan. The same impulse toward clan organization can be found among the Chinese and the Indians, as well among pre-Columbian Native Americans. [↩]
- Gary North, Sovereignty and Dominion, Chapter 10, “The God-Designed Harmony of Interests.” [↩]
- R.J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 1, p. 333-4. [↩]
- Idem. [↩]
- See Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Proverbs 31. [↩]
- “The Rhetoric at the Foundation of Capitalism, and the Ethics at the Foundation of that Rhetoric.” [↩]
- R.J. Rushdoony, Revolt Against Maturity: A Biblical Psychology of Man(Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, , 1987), p. 17. [↩]
- http://bit.ly/StudentMissions [↩]
- Gary North, Sovereignty and Dominion (Dallas GA: Point Five Press, [1982, 1987] 2012), ch. 30, pp. 272-79. (The book was originally published as Dominion Covenant: Genesis.) [↩]