Restore the World: A Q&A with Author Gabe Lyons
By Emory Colvin
The first time a self-proclaimed atheist asked me to pray with her, I knew the tide was changing. After spending several months intentionally doing life with a group of mostly non-Christians, she began to openly ask questions about my beliefs and initiate requests for prayer. Where did I find this spiritually curious group of people?
I work with them.
They’re my friends and peers in a tightly knit performing arts community, and I love them deeply. Most do not or would not attend a church service or Bible study; but they listen to and watch me, because they know I’m a Christian, and they’re curious about my faith (whether they agree with it or not).
If Christians are truly going to share what they believe, they must live it — day in and day out — so those around them can see a difference. Author Gabe Lyons pinpointed this concept, what he identifies as “restoration” in his book The Next Christians. Here’s how Gabe answered a few of our questions.
Collegiate: Gabe, what does it mean to “restore” the culture?
GL: To restore is to take action. It’s a call for Christians to have eyes to see the areas in which our world is broken, unjust, and in need of renewal, and then to use their gifts and talents to play a role in restoring those areas. It’s the way the Christian gospel makes a tangible difference in our physical world, not only our spiritual lives. Living the gospel means daily allowing the lens of the gospel to filter the way we see the world. Anything we recognize as distorted from the way God intended it, we have a vision for how it can come into right alignment with God. Our lives are lived with intentionality; we recognize that God’s gift of grace to us was the beginning of a waterfall of grace we are to bring into the world.
Collegiate: One of the things people get concerned about when we talk about “restoring” is that it’s replacing the gospel with a social gospel of good works. Can you unpack the gospel, the biblical narrative, and how they relate to restoration?
GL: It’s quite the contrary. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul exhorts the church to take on the “ministry of reconciliation” to which Christ has called us. We’re to be reconcilers. We’re to help men and women reconcile their relationship with God by acknowledging sinfulness and need of a savior. And we’re also responsible to bring God’s love to every human being on this planet in tangible, physical ways that go far beyond words. We are to do both, not one or the other. Jesus modeled this in almost every miracle He performed in the New Testament. Physical transformation always accompanied spiritual transformation.
We must never lose sight of what the good news is: Christ’s death on the cross, His payment for our sins, His resurrection. The metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration is what helps make that story more coherent, though. When we only talk about the fact that somebody’s a sinner, that through Christ they can be saved — and then oh, by the way, your role is to get as many people as possible to make that same decision so you can all spend the afterlife together — it’s not a very coherent story in a post-Christian setting. You’re speaking to intellectual people who are thoughtful and well-read, and they’re just not buying into something that sounds a bit fantastical. It’s not that none of that is true. It’s actually all true. But it becomes way more coherent when you begin the story understanding that 1) every human being is made in the image of God, 2) the fall corrupted that, and 3) once we’re redeemed through Christ, we have the opportunity to help people understand that story and what restoration looks like: in their relationship with God, in their relationships with others, and in the work God wants to do through the Holy Spirit’s power to be reconciling all things to Him in this world.
The “restorers” I talk about have actually recovered a key understanding of the gospel that has gone missing in some parts of Christian teaching and doctrine in the last century. They believe part of their responsibility in following Jesus is to prioritize their lives around working to restore broken people, systems, schools, neighborhoods, marriages, and other things to reflect God’s original intention for His creation. They don’t only care about social good, but they see it as something that naturally opens the door to much deeper conversations with their friends about the meaning of life, who we are as human beings, and as God’s best for His creation.
Collegiate: There’s been a lot of talk about the younger generation leaving the church. How have young people responded to this new conversation about faith?
GL: They light up. They want to know how to live faithfully in a challenging world but still carry credibility with their friends and colleagues. They’re excited to hear the stories throughout this book of how their peers are bringing the gospel to bear on every area of society — from Wall Street to public schools, the arts, and citywide renewal.
Are you curious about how you can be a part of restoring your family, friends, campus, and community to God’s original intentions? If so, The Next Christians offers seven ways you can live the gospel and restore the world. The tide is changing and our broken world calls out for healing. So put feet to your faith and change culture with the story of the gospel of Christ.
EMORY COLVIN is an actress currently residing in Nashville, Tenn. She feels called to offer hope and grace to the theatre and film community by being salt and light. For more information about her endeavors please visit EmoryColvin.com.
To learn more about Gabe Lyons, The Next Christians, or his other resources, visit Gabe’s Web site: qideas.org. You can also follow him on Twitter: @GabeLyons.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Collegiate magazine.