Christians must trace their identity to the supreme, universal and trans-cultural Triune God, the head of the Asia Evangelical Alliance told the WEA GA on Monday night.
The Rev Dr Richard Howell, who is also the general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India spoke at length on the supremacy of God in the plenary session, 'Evangelical Identity: Non-negotiables in an age of pluralism'.
"The Gospel message in the context of plurality of religions and cultures will continuously challenge other faiths, world views and ideologies, and at the same time it will be constantly challenged by them," he said. "However important it may be to reflect upon the challenges the churches are facing, we should remember that in reality, the Christian faith is or must be first and foremost a challenge to others."
It is particularly important for evangelicals to maintain faith in the Triune nature of God as Father, Spirit and Son, he said.
"We have but one agenda: obedience to the Triune God revealed in Jesus Christ," said Dr Howell. "We are evangelical Christians for the sake of God."
"Our identity has to be related back to God. Unless we do that, we will never know who we are. Our identity comes from God and God alone."
An identity rooted in Christ allows the formation of a new community in which old barriers are broken down, he continued.
"Only in Christ can people be given that new identity as sons and daughters of God the Father. Identity cannot be provided by relief, welfare, or development projects. Identity is provided by the Gospel."
Dr Howell said that God's universal nature demanded that Christians prioritise their identity in Christ before all other cultural labels.
"The Christian belief in the oneness of God implies God's universality, and the universality implies transcendence with respect to any given culture," said Dr Howell.
"Christians can never be first of all Asians, Africans, Europeans, Americans, Australians and then Christians."
Just as the first disciples responded to Jesus' call by leaving their nets and their father, Dr Howell said it was essential that evangelicals leave behind the cultural contexts in which they are found.
"At the very foundation of evangelical Christian identity lies an all-encompassing change of loyalty, from a given culture with its gods to the God of all culture," he said.
"When disciples respond to God's call it necessitates a reordering of an entire network of commitments … indeed a whole new reordering of relationships. Leaving is part and parcel of Christian identity."
Dr Howell said that the purpose of leaving was to enable Christians to effectively transform the cultures of the world.
"We choose wisely when we select goals in accordance with God's revealed values and purposes. We choose to be salt and light of the culture we dwell in.
"Churches in mission must seek to transform and enrich all cultures for the glory of God, thereby fulfilling their mandate to be the salt and light of the world."
Dr Howell concluded with a reminder to evangelicals that the church's priority was to proclaim Christ above all others.
"The church is called to invite people to acknowledge the lordship of Christ personally and not privately. This requires accepting the lordship of Christ over total life, personal as well as social. The lordship of Christ relates personal conversion and social responsibility. The church is a sign and a signpost of the Kingdom of God."
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