an article from the Interview column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 6: Number 2, 1993.
The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.
CRI president Hank Hanegraaff recently had the opportunity to interview Chuck Colson about his new book, The Body. Following are highlights of this interview.
Hank: Chuck, you've written a landmark book entitled The Body. I want you to get right to the point and communicate what you're talking about when you speak of the "body" of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Chuck: I'm talking about exactly what the Scripture talks about. The "body" is the great cloud of witnesses, all those who have been regenerated, all those who are called by God to be His. There is one body, of which Christ is the head. The Reformers called it the invisible church that began with the beginning of time.
Hank: I know you agree with me that, ultimately, the solution to our nation's problems will not come from our nation's capital, but rather from our nation's churches. We have been called to be salt and light in a lost and searching world, but it seems as though the salt has lost its savor.
Chuck: Well, I think that's true. A Gallup poll found that there was no difference in the ethical behavior of people who go to church and people who don't go to church. And so, one has to conclude -- painful though it is -- that over the past decade in American life, churches have made very little difference in the lives of people. As a matter of fact, polls taken among pastors show that pastors themselves acknowledge that they aren't doing the job they're supposed to do.
We live in a consumerist culture. People go to church to get a spiritual fix. They pick the church they think will make them feel the best, or that's closest to them, or that has a schedule that best conforms with their plans for going to brunch on Sunday morning. People are going to church for all the wrong reasons.
The church should be a place to become equipped disciples -- to fulfill the Great Commission. Now, we're not doing that, and I think that's self-evident today.
Hank: We are a mirror reflection of the culture in which we live, rather than transforming the culture.
Chuck: Yes. We have been "sucked in" by modern American values. It's one of the great tragedies of our time.
Hank: I think that political leaders, the Congress, and the courts reflect the moral climate in which we live, and it is the body of Christ that has to make the difference.
Chuck: If you go through history you will see that there has never been a movement that has started from the top down; it has always started from the bottom up. When people's hearts and values are changed, the politics and the structures of the society will change accordingly. If you try to change the politics without changing the hearts and minds of the people, you will end up doing what we've done throughout the eighties -- which is to win a lot of political victories, a lot of political battles, and lose the cultural war.
Hank: What's the solution?
Chuck: Well, Luther once said: "Let the church be the church." And that means that Christians must first of all recognize that they are part of this body. We are not lone rangers. Eighty-one percent of the American people say they can find religious truth apart from a church or synagogue -- which means they believe in "do-it-yourself" God kits.
As someone said in response to a Gallup poll, "I am my own church." But you can't be your own church. Christians are part of a body. It's a community of faith. The witness that God intended for the world is a community witness. The kingdom of God is to be made visible through the body of Christ. You cannot fulfill the Great Commission apart from the church.
Hank: So you're saying that the church is the God-ordained means for evangelism?
Chuck: It is the God-ordained means for evangelism, for discipleship, and for witnessing of the kingdom. It is the only institution supernaturally endowed by God. It is the one institution of which Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
Hank: We have been called to be ambassadors of Christ. Most of us are secret agents -- and we've never "blown our cover" before the unregenerate world. Most of the time what we are doing is allowing the pastor to do most of the work for us, as opposed to the pastor equipping God's people for works of service so that the body of Christ may indeed be built up and strengthened.
Chuck: I'm so glad you said that! We have a completely distorted view of the church. We think it is a place that you go as a spectator to watch the pastor perform. And you spend the rest of the week criticizing what he did on Sunday morning.
It's not that at all! If you read Ephesians 4, the job of the pastor is to equip the saints so that when the saints come together in their congregations -- for worship, for the study of the Word, for the celebration of the sacraments, for discipline and accountability -- they are being discipled by that pastor and equipped for works of service in the world. And by being equipped they can be the light and the salt that influences the world. This is the whole purpose of the church. The task of the church, as I've described it in my book, is to be a place of equipping.
I compare it to my experience in the Marines. I was a lieutenant in the Marines during the Korean War. And that was a very dangerous time. Fifty percent of the Marine lieutenants being commissioned then were coming back in pine boxes. And so, when I went to basic training, let me tell you, I became "equipped" for eighteen hours a day -- going over that obstacle course, disassembling my rifle, assembling it blindfolded, engaging in night maneuvers, going under barbed wire, learning to survive live artillery shells, and memorizing the Marine handbook. Why? Because I was going into combat, and I was going to have fifty lives in my hands.
Should we be any less serious about the equipping and disciplining of the church? No! We're in spiritual combat -- cosmic combat for the heart and soul of humankind. We ought to treat it just as seriously as I treated preparing to be a Marine lieutenant in the Korean War.
Hank: When we talk about equipping, so often we think of equipping in terms of evangelism. But equipping is a whole lot more than that, as you demonstrate so wonderfully in this book.
Chuck: The Great Commission is far more than evangelism. I think many evangelicals have a very simplistic view of what it is that God is calling us to do. Of course it is to proclaim the Gospel. Of course it is to share the Good News. But the Great Commission is to make disciples, "teaching them all I have taught you" (Matt. 28:20).
Hank: Let me raise another issue. There seems to be this invincible ignorance in the body of Christ today that size means correctness, or size relates to orthodoxy, or size means that God's hand is blessing the church. And nothing could be further from the truth. Size does not determine orthodoxy.
Chuck: No! And size is not a measure of success, either. Faithfulness is the measure of success. Biblical fidelity is the measure of success.
Now, there are cases in the Book of Acts, as you well know, where the church grew dramatically. But, you'll notice that it always grew as a direct result of a fear of God. Can you imagine some church-growth experts walking in to a pastor's office and saying, "I've got a formula for building your church. Preach on the fear of God." I mean, no way, they'd tell you. They'd say, "Tell the people what they want to hear. Go out and find out what their perceived needs are and meet those needs." Truth is always the casualty when technique becomes supreme. That's what happens.
Hank: Chuck, I'm going to switch gears and ask you about the ministry you founded which is having a tremendous impact, not only here in the United States, but worldwide as well. It's called Prison Fellowship.
Chuck: It's just amazing what God has done through my prison experiences. When I got out of prison I really thought I'd go back and practice law quietly. I was writing a little book called Born Again. The last thing I wanted was to go into Christian service. I had had enough public life -- four years in the White House, two years in the middle of the biggest political upheaval in American history, and then seven months in prison. I just wanted to go home and be with my kids and take life easy.
But I felt God's call to ministry. And I wrestled for a full year with God. I did not want to do this. But I was convicted. This is what He wanted of my life, and we started a little ministry. Six of us sat in a circle -- three ex-convicts, and three who "hadn't been caught" -- and prayed that God would use us. And from that has grown a ministry today with almost 50,000 volunteers working in America.
About 50,000 inmates went through our various training programs last year in the United States. We're now in 54 countries around the world. I just came back from Seoul, Korea, where I had one of the most exciting weeks of my life with people from the former Soviet Union who had been converted through reading one of my books -- and who had begun to preach in the prisons.
As well, there was a former prisoner in Ethiopia who had built a church inside the prison with 3,200 inmates. Then they were released because the Marxist government was overthrown, and all of his captors were put in prison -- where he's now evangelizing them, and has 500 in the church.
These kinds of things are happening all over the world. And the most exciting thing to me, frankly, is that I did not engineer any of this. Some of the most exciting reports are coming from countries I haven't been to. And I love it, because I know it's God's move and not mine.
Hank: Chuck, one final question. I want you to communicate to our readers how they can have an eternal perspective.
Chuck: Well, I'm a few years older than you are, Hank, and have been through more of a roller coaster in my life. I've seen the utter vanity of those moments of power and triumph in life. And I can really identify with the Book of Ecclesiastes, which speaks of "vanity of vanities" and "striving after the wind." How empty so many things of this world are!
At 39 years old, I was sitting in the office next to the President of the United States, looking out on the manicured green lawns of the White House. This was the American dream fulfilled. But despite all that power, I was empty.
Over the last 20 years, I've lived as a Christian and I know what fulfillment is. I mean, I've been through cancer surgery, I've been to prison, and I've had my tough experiences. But I wouldn't trade the worst day of the last 20 years for the best day of the 40 years that preceded that. And I guess as you get older -- I'm closer to that day when I'll meet the King than you are -- the more you begin to realize that the only thing in life that matters is a relationship with Christ.
If you are interested in learning more about Prison Fellowship, you can write: Prison Fellowship Ministries, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC 20041-0500.
End of document, CRN0057A.TXT (original CRI file name), "An Interview With Chuck Colson" release A, July 15, 1994 R. Poll, CRI
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