I'm not sure when I started hearing more about "the common good" from fellow Christians. But I'm pretty sure Christianity Today had something to do with it. This magazine spent 2005 exploring pastor Tim Keller's proposal that Christians be "a counterculture for the common good." Now we're in the midst of This Is Our City: two years' worth of articles, documentary films, and events for leaders in cities around North America. Our team has realized that what we're really looking for are what we are calling "common-good decisions"—times when Christians make choices, some small and relatively easy (say, volunteering in a neighborhood school), others major and costly (say, moving into a tough school district), to seek the good of their neighborhoods.

The phrase also comes up in the perennial but newly vigorous conversation about the role Christians should play in American culture. Gordon College president Michael Lindsay titled his 2011 inaugural address "Faithful Leadership for the Common Good." Gabe Lyons, who convenes diverse church and civic leaders every year at the Q conference, describes its mission as "ideas for the common good." (Full disclosure: Lindsay and Lyons are friends, and their organizations have been the recipients of my family's financial support and have paid me for speaking engagements.) The phrase appears three times in the National Association of Evangelicals' (NAE) 2001 "call to civic responsibility" titled "For the Health of the Nation," which CT editor in chief David Neff helped draft. After longtime vice president Richard Cizik left the NAE, he founded a new group called the New Evangelical ...

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