Key 73 carries the vision of every unchurched family in North America being visited by someone who comes with loving concern to share his faith in Christ.” So reads the Key 73 Congregational Resource Book. 1 can well believe that when this vision abruptly broke upon the American church scene, it met with spontaneous, unconditional acceptance. How wonderful for North America! Replace disunity and cynicism and selfishness with the flame of God’s love moving from heart to heart! Reach every home with a winsome witness to Jesus Christ! And yet, will it happen? Why shouldn’t it happen? Others have written in these columns that action is the order of the day: let each Christian select a personal evangelistic project and begin to put heart and strength into its accomplishment. American and Canadian churches will be transformed! Imagine the difference if every Christian begins to say: “God works through me; God works where I am!” Imagine the many new converts who will join them in the worship and service of God!

But can this vision be realized? Can we actually come under the compulsion of God’s Spirit so that we are transformed into God’s envoys to the unbelieving world around us? I believe so. But how do we begin? I would like to suggest that we take time to reflect on the central Christian truths we already hold dear. Each one is related to the vision of Key 73.

Think of Jesus Christ and his Lordship. Did not the One who died for all command us to share the Gospel with all? And the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life—has he not imparted to every Christian gifts and grace for the service and witness of the Church? One cannot reflect on the Godhead without being renewed in his sense of missionary obligation.

Some Christians feel that the great truth to be held before this generation is the inspiration and integrity of Scripture. Its truths are inerrant. It is utterly reliable and worthy of the full trust our Lord accorded it. When mysteriously united with the Spirit of God it becomes a means of grace, and its authority reaches the hearts of men.

But dare we stop here? Why not resolve in 73 to take this wonderful book more seriously? Scripture’s ultimate witness is not to itself; it is to Jesus Christ and the desire of God that “all men should find salvation and come to know the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3). Do you want to do the will of God? Then take seriously the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. “All men” means just that! Forsake your comfortable existence and reach your neighbors for Christ.

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Others feel that the great truth for our generation is the imminence of Christ’s Second Advent. They are dismayed by the indifference of the Church to the “signs” of his coming. They consider history largely irrelevant, apart from—say—a late twist in the European Common Market tangle that confirms for them the revival of the Holy Roman Empire.

Recently a Jewish Christian approached a prominent “prophetic teacher” known for dramatizing the significance he sees in the epochal establishment and survival of the State of Israel. “Do you love the Jews?” He was taken back, and protested. “My ministry is largely devoted to analyzing the place of the Jews in God’s program for the ages.” “Yes, but are you in contact with any Jewish people, seeking to lead them to Jesus Christ?” Under this persistent probing, the pathetic moment came when he confessed he did not have even one Jewish friend. How different from the Apostle Paul’s abiding burden for Israel and his ceaseless efforts to win them. What good is eschatology if it does not issue in evangelism?

A contrasting segment of the Church that can’t abide the millennialists with their charts and predictions keeps looking backward. These people glory in the Reformers and the Puritans and sigh, “That was the golden age!” The call is for doctrinal loyalty, for rigid confessional orthodoxy. But will this win our neighbors to Jesus Christ? Did not Kierkegaard rightly affirm: “The highest of all is not to understand the highest but to act upon it?” And Robert Boyd added, “The God in whom the Christian believes is not the Object of prepositions that one can set about proving or disproving, but the Subject of encounter, an encounter centered on our moral response to Christ.”

The Christian lives by repentance and the forgiveness of sin. He cannot persevere without the Holy Spirit’s continuing work of regeneration. Indeed, Calvin included sanctification under regeneration and by this underscored the fact that the Christian life plays an absolutely decisive role in a man’s salvation. Calvin’s understanding of election did not keep him from affirming the biblical thesis that “the moment we turn away even slightly from Jesus Christ, our salvation, which rests firmly in Him, gradually vanishes away” (Institutes II, 16, 1). If we take at face value the warnings of the book of Hebrews, it would appear that one’s election can be forfeited.

The relation of all this to Key 73 is obvious. The Christian life involves a continual reaching out for a deeper repentance, a more complete regeneration, and a greater surrender to Christ. In short, the call is to “follow him.” And what will be the result? He will make us fishers of men (Matt. 4:19). And those who do not reach out after others this year are not faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

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Other emphases could be added. Those who contend for the primacy of the doctrine of election strongly affirm, “Only God can make a man winnable.” Agreed! But why not put this truth to work in 1973? If the parable of the sower tells us anything it is that the good seed should be planted in the “good” soil where large returns can be expected. In North America today, certain segments of the population are highly receptive to the Gospel. Do we know where they are? They may be next door! Why not engage in some soil sampling in your very neighborhood? Find out where God is at work and get where the action is! Let’s end the snide remarks about those who go from house to house and persuade men to embrace Christ.

And what of the ecumenical emphasis? Those burdened for the reunion of the broken fragments of the Church are on scriptural ground. They need to keep in mind, however, that the ultimate objective should be not ecclesiastical unity or even unity in spirit but rather the conversion of the whole world to Jesus Christ. This was his concern: “I pray … that they may all be one … so that the world may believe that thou has sent me” (John 17:20, 21). Do you want to be active in the ecumenical movement today? Don’t call churches back to the Luthers or Calvins or Wesleys; seek their reformation in the light of the Gospel. And nothing reforms a church more quickly than for its members to break with their introversion, confess their sins, pray to God for mercy and grace, and then reach out with the Gospel to their unsaved neighbors. That is what Key 73 is all about.

George M. Marsden is associate professor of history at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has the Ph.D. (Yale University) and has written “The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience.”

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