I want to share one last quote from N.T. Wright's "Surprised By Hope." I actually purchased the book because I was curious about Wright's analysis of Scripture as it relates to the afterlife. As much as I enjoyed reading that bit, I have to say that my favorite part of the book was the final third of the book, where Wright applied the "hope" to come to our mission--the mission of the church in all that we say and do. Here's a teeny tiny sampling that I hope you enjoy:
"One of the things I have most enjoyed about being a bishop is watching ordinary Christians (not that there are any 'ordinary' Christians, but you know what I mean) going straight from worshipping Jesus in church to making a radical difference in the material lives of people down the street by running playgroups for children of single working moms; by organizing credit unions to help people at the bottom of the financial ladder find their way to responsible solvency; by campaigning for better housing, against dangerous roads, for drug rehab centers, for wise laws relating to alcohol, for decent library and sporting facilities, for a thousand other things in which God's sovereign rule extends to hard, concrete reality. Once again, all this is not an extra to the mission of the church. It is central.
"When the church is seen to move straight from worship of the God we see in Jesus to making a difference and effecting much-needed change in the real world; when it becomes clear that the people who feast at Jesus's table are the ones in the forefront of work to eliminate hunger and famine; when people realize that those who pray for the Spirit to work in and through them are the people who seem to have extra resources of love and patience in caring for those whose lives are damaged, bruised, and shamed, then it is not only natural to speak of Jesus himself and to encourage others to worship him for themselves and find out what belonging to his family is all about but it is also natural for people, however irreligious they may think of themselves as being, to recognize that something is going on that they want to be part of. In terms that the author of Acts might have used, when the church is living out the kingdom of God, the word of God will spread powerfully and do its own work." (Wright, N.T. "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church". New York, NY: Harper Collings Publishers, 2008.)