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Reclaiming Occupied Territory

The Great Commission and the cultural commission are not in competition.
2004This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

Some weeks ago I exhorted a gathering of pastors to engage today's cultural battles, particularly to support the Federal Marriage Amendment. Afterward, the pastors had many questions—but they were also confused.

One asked: "But won't engaging the culture this way interfere with fulfilling the Great Commission? Isn't this our job—to win people to Christ?"

That people still raise this question surprised me. "Of course we're called to fulfill the Great Commission," I replied. "But we're also called to fulfill the cultural commission." Christians are agents of God's saving grace—bringing others to Christ, I explained—but we are also agents of his common grace: sustaining and renewing his creation, defending the created institutions of family and society, critiquing false worldviews.

As I spoke, I saw the pastors' eyes light up in a great "Aha!" moment.

Understanding the cultural commission is especially critical as we approach a decisive election. We know what a key role our elected leaders play in culture war battles. But many pastors question whether it's appropriate to urge their flocks to vote for politicians who support moral issues—or even to engage in moral debates.

As for voting, the answer is obvious. While, as I have written elsewhere, pastors should not make partisan endorsements, it is our obligation to see that Christians as good citizens vote and do so with discernment about where politicians stand on moral issues. I wish we had the courage of some of our Catholic brethren who've threatened to withhold Communion (and implicitly, votes) from those who flout biblical teaching.

As for getting involved with cultural issues, Scripture is clear, starting in Genesis. For five days, God created the universe. On the sixth ...

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Charles Colson
Charles Colson was the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, an outreach to convicts, victims of crime, and justice officers. Colson, who converted to Christianity before he was indicted on Watergate-related charges, became one of evangelicalism's most influential voices. His books included Born Again and How Now Shall We Live? A Christianity Today columnist since 1985, Colson died in 2012.
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