Why Christianity Today Matters
During a recent Christianity Today staff retreat, Dr. Josh Moody explained why Christianity Today matters to the Christian community. Dr. Moody is senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, and earned his doctorate from the University of Cambridge. His latest book is Jonathan Edwards and Justification (Crossway, 2012).
Dr Moody's remarks are adapted from his retreat address with select insights drawn from a talk he gave to the board of Christianity Today.
As I consider the impact of Christianity Today, I want to begin by simply saying "thank you" three times.
First, thank you for believing in the church. The very fact that I am here addressing you today as a pastor speaks of your continued commitment to the local church. Your service to the church, of course, doesn't simply take place in the work you do at the Christianity Today offices, but it extends into the hours you volunteer and offer leadership through the many congregations you represent. So, thank you for believing in the church and demonstrating this belief through the work you do at Christianity Today and by the way you personally serve in your local congregations.
Second, thank you, Christianity Today, for being irenic. Your peaceful, gentle, balanced tone is a tonic to a church that can, at times, sound shrill and partisan. Your historic emphasis on calling people to the gospel, irrespective of secondary issues, is important for today's sometimes fragmented body. Remaining doctrinally rigorous while seeking to be irenic is speaking "truth in love."
Third, thank you, Christianity Today for your high level of reporting. The service you offer in this area helps keep the church true to the facts.
I am, then, three times over grateful for Christianity Today! I hope that encourages you as I now want to motivate you to glorify God by reporting what God is doing around the world.
I'd like to focus first on the first two words of that statement: glorify God. This is a basic theological principle of success: "Those who honor me I will honor" (1 Sam. 2:30). The more Christianity Today can continue to point to the glory of God the more Christianity Today will be honored by God. Think of the text that encourages us to work with all our heart not for men for the Lord (Col. 3:23). So this means that the aim is to glorify God, not to sell magazines, or get a certain market share, or beat the competition. Obviously all those things can be great! But that is not the aim. It is partly an attitudinal, affectional, orientation of heart. It is also practical. The first question about any potential new venture, new piece, new story is this: Does this project please God? Does this story reflect and encourage a commitment to God and his Word. Think of the text: "These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my Word" (Is. 66:2). The more Christianity Today trembles at God's Word the more it will be esteemed by God.
A good illustration of this comes from church history. When you read the creeds of the historic church you notice that as church history goes on they get gradually longer. The Apostles' Creed is very brief, the Nicene longer, and by the time you get to the Westminster Confession you practically need a tractor trailer to carry it around. The reason for that gradual expansion of volume is not increasing pickiness, or increasing legalism, but a need to express God-honoring truth in response to falsity. The reason why the Nicene Creed was necessary after the Apostles' Creed was because doctrinal error had moved on.
I am making a connection here between glorifying God and doctrinal clarity. What was not necessary to say when Billy Graham or John Stott were in their prime is necessary to say today. Doctrinal statements that covered all your bases 50 years ago now leave enough holes to sink the Titanic.
Second, I want to encourage you to glorify God by reporting. Obviously, as I understand it, by and large Christianity Today is a reporting organization with various media and communication means. You all know far more about that than I do so this will be the shortest of the three points I think of Doctor Luke who wrote his gospel and the book of Acts as the model here. He carefully examined and reported based upon credible eyewitness accounts. The church is well served by Christianity Today's commitment to high quality, excellent, unbiased, credible reporting based upon eyewitness and appropriate sources. Your excellence in this area is a key distinctive.
In this regard a proper understanding of Christianity Today's history is critical; its original founding purpose, its connection to the aggressive evangelism of Graham and the theological rigor of Carl Henry, combined with their commitment to truth telling and theologically grounded reporting.
Third, glorify God by reporting what God is doing around the world. It seems to me that the goal which makes your ministry matter to the local church is trumpeting what God is doing through the church, around the world, by the proclamation of his gospel.
I spoke to one younger church minister about what Christianity Today could do to encourage him to read it regularly. He talked about wanting to hear about theological themes, not in a heavy sense, but in that cross over between theology and ministry philosophy in the real world. That's what makes our young guys check certain blogs every day. They are telling them what's going on, and doing it from a theological, ministry philosophy sort of way. You want to be reporting the growth of the gospel and that movement.
I want to conclude with two stories, one about John Stott, the other about Billy Graham. John Stott was a senior adviser to our executive committee when I was president of the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union. The first time I heard John Stott speak he stopped as if he was coming off his notes. He said "You know if I had to live my life again I'd live it all for Christ." Then he paused as if thinking, You know if I had a thousand lives I would live them all for Christ.
Christian people are looking for leadership that points people to Christ and his glory.
Now, my Billy Graham story. I've only met him once down at the Cove, and this was recently so he was later on in life. He came into the small room, flanked by his long time key lieutenants, "The team." What struck me about this man was the way he spent most of the time not talking about himself but talking about other people in the ministry. He was constantly pointing away from himself and to what God is doing around the world.
Christianity Today, here, then, is my encouragement to you: Glorify God by reporting what God is doing around the world.