What Does it Mean to be a World Christian?

I don’t read very many books more than once. One book that I’ve read several times in the past few years is Don Carson’s The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians, 2nd ed. (Baker, 2004). I recently had cause to read Carson’s fine book once again, this time with a Southeastern student and fellow First Baptist Durham member whom I’m discipling. The final chapter, an exposition of 1 Corinthians 9:19–27, is titled “The Cross and the World Christian.” In that chapter, Carson provides an excellent short summary of what it means to be world Christians:

Their allegiance to Jesus Christ and his kingdom is self-consciously set above all national, cultural, linguistic, and racial allegiances.
Their commitment to the church, Jesus’ messianic community, is to the church everywhere, wherever the church is truly manifest, and not only to its manifestation on home turf.
They see themselves first and foremost as citizens of the heavenly kingdom and therefore consider all other citizenship a secondary matter.
As a result, they are single-minded and sacrificial when it comes to the paramount mandate to evangelize and make disciples (p. 117).

I appreciate Carson’s summary, which very much resonates with what I hope to communicate in my teaching and preaching ministry (however imperfectly). It also fits nicely with our ethos at Southeastern Seminary, where our mission statement is “Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.” We want to be a “world seminary” equipping “world Christians” to make disciples of all peoples.

I think the only point I would add to Carson’s thoughts, and it’s a complementary one that I’m quite certain he’d affirm, is that being a world Christian begins by being covenantally united with a particular congregation, which is a local outpost of the one universal church that includes all Christians everywhere. Healthy local churches should be “world churches” that embody on a corporate level the priorities that Carson outlined above. It is through the local church that we learn to become and ultimately embrace all that it means to be a world Christian who lives, loves, and serves for the sake of the world that God so loves.

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  1. Paula Hemphill   •  

    Absolutely agree! If we are kingdom citizens with a kingdom agenda, we do not care who gets the credit or the blame for our King’s work. To Him be glory and honor and blessing! Local healthy bodies make up the “world church” and contribute their best to taking the Gospel to all peoples. One day we will worship together forever. Getting to share a taste of heaven now is the blessing of living as a “world Christian!”

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