Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Missionality" from My 1995 Fuller DMin Dissertation -- Part One

            Mission originates in the heart and mind of God, flowing out of his divine character and being.  The mission of God, or missio Dei, is to establish his rule and kingdom on earth, as well as in heaven.  It consists of his purposes for the creation of the world and the redemption of humankind, impacting every realm of life including the spiritual, moral, personal, social and physical realms.  Mission centers upon the salvation of the world through the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

            Therefore, the mission of the church is the continuation of the saving activity of God in the world.[1]  It is a mission of humble service that embodies the total impact of the church as it is sent to carry out God's will and work in the world.[2]  This mission continues the mission of Jesus, heard in his words, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you," (John 20:21).  The church participates in establishing God's rule and kingdom on earth and in heaven.  It was re-created in Christ Jesus for this very purpose.

            The mission of the church includes the mandate for compassionate service and the mandate for disciple-making.  They come together in the mission of God, as integrated ministries of word and deed, components of the witness to the saving work of Jesus Christ.[3]  The church acts in its commission with God to restrain sin in the world and to redeem sinners.  It possesses a responsibility for social action as "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world," (Matt. 5:13-14).  It has an evangelistic responsibility to "go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation," (Mark 16:15).

            The mandate for compassionate service, also known as the cultural mandate, carries authority and responsibility to care for all creation and to maintain order, peace and justice in the world.[4]  It is good works with redeeming value, whether directed toward individuals or to society in general.  It stems from a Christ-like compassion so that the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the sick are healed, the oppressed are liberated, the ignorant are educated, and the estranged are reconciled.  Despite resistance by a secular world, this mandate fulfills God's standards of grace, righteousness and human dignity.

    [1]Roger E. Hedlund, The Mission of the Church in the World (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 73.
    [2]John R.W. Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), 24.
    [3]C. Norman Kraus, ed., Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1980), 23.
    [4]Lausanne Covenant, International Congress of World Evangelization, Lausanne, Switzerland, July 1974, para. 5.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rethinking Christian Witness -- Part Two

New Orleans - sharing the good news
after a day of gutting this family's
How else have I been challenged in my thinking about evangelism—sharing the good news of Jesus Christ? Fourth, I have found it helpful and necessary, as others have, to question periodically the received tradition. This can bring necessary change and renewed perspective and conviction.  When I visited with George Hunsberger at a local restaurant this past year, he mentioned that for many, evangelism in the second half of the 20th century was based on the sales model. I have to admit as a former Campus Crusade for Christ staff member with a business degree that I recognized and embraced the similarities. The emphasis was often on “closing the sale” by leading a person to pray to receive Jesus. What George mentioned is that there are other paradigms for sharing the gospel such as the journalist model . A journalist is a storyteller, but in order to do this he or she must ask questions, listen to others’ stories, and then write or tell the story.  The goal of the journalist is not “to sell” or “close the deal” but to ask, learn, comment, and then, tell. I appreciate the humility of this model. It communicates that we are here to learn about others, to understand their stories, and as we have opportunity, to share the story of Jesus with them and how it intersects with their stories.  This introduces a fifth challenge that has reshaped my thinking.  In our postmodern context, we must operate with humility, not arrogance that we” know it all.” While we embrace the truth of the gospel, we cannot approach others as though we have all the answers. And we don’t!  While a seminar in apologetics can help us answer questions that we or others may have, it runs the danger of us coming across as experts with all the right answers. The problem may not be in what we say but how we say it. Again, it is necessary to maintain an attitude and posture of humility. As 1 Peter 3:15 says: “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”We need to acknowledge the limits of what we do and can know.  We need to empower others in conversation by asking questions that they have and then joining them to find answers.  A sixth area of Christian witness that I have been challenged to re-examine is the gospel itself.  What is the gospel? This question makes some nervous, especially since we are “evangel-icals”, those who believe the “evangel”—the gospel.  On this point my former professor at TEDS Scot McNight in his book The King Jesus Gospel says that we have not been proclaiming the gospel but rather a reduced-to-a-minimum, personalized soteriology (doctrine of salvation). I agree.  In contrast, the gospel as told in the Gospels, as well as in Acts and the Epistles, is the story of Israel fulfilled in the story of Jesus.  While this story clearly has application to individuals, it is a story about God’s work in creation, humankind’s fall, God’s work of redemption in Israel, the coming of Jesus the Messiah, his life, death, burial and resurrection. I think we need to be faithful at telling this story and simply invite people to believe.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book review of Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church by Soong-Chan Rah

Although I grew up singing "Jesus loves the little children, red and yellow, black and white" I can't say that my context gave me much opportunity to practice this same love for the "other." Or perhaps the problem was that I didn't see the opportunities. If you suffer such "color blindness," this book by Soong-Chan Rah can help correct your vision. Framed within a kingdom-driven-, holistic gospel-, missional perspective, the author explores culture in its good and fallen aspects with a call to engage it responsibly. He provides a chapter on understanding our current North American cultural landscape in light of political, social, and ecclesial histories, answering how we got to where we are. His chapter on the spectrum of expressions within a culture is quite helpful as he examines differences such as: individual vs. group, guilt vs. shame, equality vs. hierarchy, direct vs. indirect, and task vs. relationship. Whether you aspire to plant a multi-ethnic church, or minister cross-culturally within a North American context or abroad, this book challenges you to examine aspects of power, dominant-culture privilege, and systems with new lenses. The books gives practical means too for hospitality and storytelling (under-the-radar evangelism) that easly translate from culture to culture. In contrast to McGavran's application of the homogeneous unit principle, Soong-Chan Rah advocates that despite numerous obstacles in society and human nature, God calls local churches to be a diverse community that truly represents the kingdom of God. I am glad to have required this book for my course Evangelism and Missions in an Urban Setting.