The third verse of the beloved Advent hymn “Joy to the World” includes the following phrase: “He comes to make his blessings known far as the curse is found.” It’s an audacious claim, really. As evangelicals — people of the good news — we understand that good news to be wide and deep, bathing every corner of the cosmos in the love, mercy and justice of God.

The National Association of Evangelicals seeks to help followers of Jesus understand and embrace the comprehensive scope of the gospel, which includes the public as well as private dimensions of life. Last year, the NAE hosted the Flourish conference for pastors and ministry leaders as a forum for engaging in difficult issues from a biblical framework, recognizing that the gospel touches every aspect of our world. Reflecting on her experience at Flourish, Mary Frances Giles said, “In addition to personal salvation, the gospel is very much about the work that Jesus is doing to bring God’s kingdom to fruition in the world right now, not just in the world to come.” 

“Over the past few years, I have been incredibly encouraged by the work the NAE is doing in areas that many evangelical churches have historically ignored or resisted,” she said. “For me, three areas of significance are issues surrounding immigration, race and creation care. Through articles, interviews and advocacy, I’ve been grateful for the work the NAE has done in each of these areas to increase my awareness of how our love and care for neighbor and creation are fully within a scriptural and historical Christian framework.” 

Shirley Mullen first experienced the NAE as a college student in the mid-1970s when she attended the Christian Student Leadership Conference (CSLC). “The CSLC is one of the most powerful things that NAE does. It changed my view of what Christians can do, and gave me a broader sense of how Christians are involved in society.” Mullen eventually became a leader in Christian higher education, serving for 15 years as president of Houghton University, and has served on the NAE board since 2010.  

“Throughout my whole life, the NAE has called me out of what I currently know,” Mullen said. “Every board meeting, I learn more about the global Church and what is going on in different sectors of society. The NAE has expanded my worldview.”  

Similarly, Ryan Alexander, lead pastor of Hosanna! Church in Twin Cities, Minnesota, and NAE board member, reflects on how the NAE has broadened his view of the good news. “Engagement with the NAE stirs my prophetic imagination and stretches my vision for how the gospel of Jesus Christ is to touch all aspects of life, private and public. The NAE is committed to maintaining biblical foundations and frameworks as well as effectively engaging culture in a humble, nuanced, faithful, Spirit-empowered, Jesus-like way.” 

Recognizing the breadth and depth of the good news in Jesus Christ, we acknowledge that no Christian has it all figured out. Perhaps most important is the NAE’s role in creating an environment for evangelicals to grapple honestly with complex issues. Lisa Treviño Cummins, founder and president of Urban Strategies, celebrates how the NAE fosters an atmosphere of humility and encourages a posture of learning. As an NAE board member, Cummins testifies that it is “refreshing to be in a space in which I can grapple with issues among people who may have different experiences but have a shared commitment to live and love faithfully.”  

Mullen also attests to the NAE’s unique capacity to convene gatherings of diverse leaders such as the group that developed the NAE’s guiding framework for Christian civic engagement, “For the Health of the Nation,” of which Mullen was a member. “I really enjoyed the diversity of thinking on the project and the fact that the document reflects different strands of the political spectrum.” 

Joe Lee, chair of the Highrock Network of churches in New England, recounts his journey of faith from a narrow, private enterprise to an increasingly broad engagement with the world. “I grew up in an evangelical tradition where the main focus was being saved and being in a personal relationship with Christ. I looked down on some mainline churches who neglected evangelism and personal salvation. To me, social justice and liberalism went hand-in-hand. However, the NAE has demonstrated for me that the gospel is not ‘either or’ but ‘both and.’ I am learning that I have defined the gospel too narrowly.” 

Reflecting on his experience of Flourish, Mike Haddad of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference shared, “Flourish was an encouraging picture of the unity of the Body of Christ even as we wrestled with topics that have often bred division in the Church. We need more opportunities just like this to practice open and biblical conversations regarding such complex issues with great humility and grace.” 

Indeed, the gospel we proclaim is both personal and public, encompassing every aspect of our world, and it is witnessed not only through words but as a way of life. May God empower us to bear faithful witness to this good news, which sin’s curse cannot outrun, and which culminates in the reconciling of all things in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:20).  

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