Christine Caine's three keys to mission in a secular age

As we start a new year, it’s a good time to be reminded about why God put us on this planet!
And who better to talk about how the Church can engage with today’s world than Christine Caine? Here we revisit Caine’s message at Bible Society Australia’s inaugural Bible Conference on 2 September 2022 in Sydney and online. 

Christine Caine knows what it’s like to live in exile.

Growing up in Sydney as the adopted daughter of Greek immigrants in the ’70s and ’80s, she says, “I always felt like I didn’t quite belong.

“Greeks and Italians, we were really marginalised when I was growing up. So I knew what it was like to be in a country but not of it. I experienced a lot of pain that comes from being marginalised and ostracised because of your ethnicity,” Caine told attendees of Bible Society Australia’s inaugural Bible Conference.

However, this experience wasn’t wasted. In fact, Caine believes her childhood helped prepare her for the exiled life that Christians are now living.

We believe that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus have relevance for the needs of the world today.

She acknowledged that it’s tempting for the church today to avoid any missional engagement, especially in the Western world where Christians are seen as “too exclusive and too narrow in their claims,” “archaic in our moral perceptions, out of touch with reality” and “untrustworthy or hypocrites.”

However, she stressed that “hiding is not an option for a Jesus follower.” Referencing the Great Commission in Matthew 28, to “go and make disciples of all nations,” Caine argued that mission is intrinsic to Christianity.

“We have a conviction that unique truth is found in Jesus Christ, and we believe that his life, death,and resurrection have relevance for the needs of the world today,” she said.

So what does it look like for the ordinary Christian to engage with this world in a missional way? Caine identified three keys:

Authentic Christian living

“You and I have to earn the right to be heard by living lives that reflect the beauty of the gospel,” said Caine.

She warned against living “just like the world” by trying to gain our significance, value or security from things like our wealth, possessions, positions or titles. According to Caine, if Jesus followers instead live in a way that demonstrates their transcendent hope of eternity, it will draw non- believers to us.

“Communities living in exile, showing radical love in our world, radical hospitality, radical generosity, radical forgiveness, radical obedience, and doing radically good deeds and showing radical justice, those kinds of Jesus communities, those kinds of church communities, will shine brightly in the darkness in which we live today.”

See all people as made in the image of God

“We’ve got to stop othering people,” Caine stressed. “We’ve got to maintain a posture of respect and give dignity to all people, even if they don’t think like us, believe like us, or look like us.

“You and I have to truly listen to people, not talk at them. People don’t listen when they’re being shamed or dismissed or ridiculed or silenced. What we need to do as Jesus followers is assume a posture of true humility, where we are willing to listen to the lament of people, the questions of people, the concerns of people, the anger that people have, and we need to not be fearful or defensive or reactive.”

She added: “People want hope. People want to feel like they are seen and known and heard.”

Bring together things that have divided the Church

“I believe that missional engagement in the 21st century is not like the old paradigm of either/or – this binary world that is ripping us literally apart – but it’s both/and,” said Caine.

She explained that the church needs to take a unified approach by drawing together all its resources and all the different expressions of faith in order to reach our world.

She gave examples, “In the olden days, it was kind of like, is it faith or works? Well, you know what? It’s both faith and works. Is God going to use males or females? Well, both … Do we need skill
or zeal? Well, both. We need skilful people, but we also need zealous people. We don’t need to roll our eyes because people are full of passion. Though yet, do we still need to be skilled? Absolutely. So it’s not either/or.

“We need to bring those things together. Stop polarising what God needs to make one healthy body.”

As Co-founder, along with her husband Nick, of A21 – one of the largest anti-trafficking organisations in the world – Caine added that evangelism and social justice can and do go together.

Caine’s final word to conference attendees and the greater Church was: “The very things that the enemy has used to divide us, we need to bring them together so that we can be strengthened in our weak areas, and then we can go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. God didn’t give us something to do that is impossible, but we’re going to have to be unified to do it.

“I believe that we are on the cusp, on the threshold, of the greatest revival we’ve ever seen.”