The Best of Times & the Worst of Times: The Promise and Peril of Modern Gospel Ministry

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” With this opening line, Charles Dickens introduced the themes of contradiction and paradox in his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities.  Dickens’ timeless words might aptly describe not only pre-revolution France, but also modern-day ministry.

The “worst of times” is easy to document.  Culturally, we see the rising tide of secularism encroaching all around. Geopolitically, there remain “wars and rumors of wars.”  And, of course, economically, we find ourselves making our way out of a season of acute economic disruption.

Yet, in light of all of this, as believers in Christ we may rejoice.  We rejoice because though consequential areas of life often appear to be moving in unfavorable directions, we are confident in the Lord’s kind providence in all of these things. Moreover, we rejoice because during these times of tumult, we see before us open doors of unprecedented ministry opportunity; thus positioning ourselves and our churches for opportune gospel service.

Culturally, the darkness of the times enables the light of the gospel to shine all the more brightly. The church must have preachers who are equipped rightly to divide the Word and combat the forces of darkness, and resolute ministers, who give their lives in service to the local church. Perhaps as never before, gospel ministers must be equipped to speak words of light with prophetic boldness in an age of militant darkness.

Geopolitically, while the evening news continually reminds us of the raging of the nations, the Lord is accomplishing a great gospel work around the world. Doors of gospel opportunity are opening all over the globe, and missionaries are annually penetrating countries previously closed to the gospel.  Remote people groups are hearing the name of Christ for the first time. The firsthand reports missionaries are sending back from the field are heartening, as they tell of the power of the gospel to change lives, transform villages, and establish indigenous churches. The nations are calling, and the churches are sending.

Economically, the past five years have challenged our fiscal assumptions and humbled our market expectations. We have learned again Christ’s words to be busy storing up treasures in heaven and not on earth, where moth and rust destroy. Yet, the Lord’s work is not a seasonal endeavor. It is a perennial undertaking. Whether the culture is receptive or rejecting; whether the world is at war or peace; whether the markets are up or down; the Word must be preached, the gospel must be spread, and lives must be changed by the power of the gospel.

In a very real way, the year 2013 positions the church at the intersection of all these currents of change, and the church has been providentially placed for maximum kingdom impact.  Indeed, in a strange way these are simultaneously the best of times and the worst of times. We must be ready to see and seize the best in these times for the glory of Christ.

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