Christopher J. H. Wright began this series of Global Conversation essays with an exposition of the Lausanne Movement's driving definition: "Evangelization requires the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world." What does that gospel look like when it invades the margins of the world, sectors where our more traditional churches don't often go? To catch glimpses of that gospel in action and to understand the biblical themes that can animate ministry at the margins, we turn to Joel Van Dyke and Kris Rocke of the Center for Transforming Mission in Tacoma, Washington.

The psalmist asks, "How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?" (Ps. 137:4). It's a beautiful question springing from the heart of a poet struggling creatively to live out in a strange land (Babylon) what he knows to be true in another, more familiar context (Jerusalem). English poet e. e. cummings once wrote that the beautiful answer is always preceded by the more beautiful question, and in this psalm we discover a beautiful question. It has given theological roots to missional communities of grassroots leaders in six countries throughout Latin America (as well as in urban centers in the Caribbean, Kenya, and North America) under the banner of the Center for Transforming Mission (CTM).

We are learning how to read the Bible not to or even for those we serve, but with those we serve—those who have been wrongly labeled the least, last, and lost. Sustaining this approach is the belief that grace is like water: it flows downhill and pools up in the lowest places. We are learning to see God's grace pooling up in places of extreme poverty and violence.

The core theological values of CTM are formed by the incarnational mission of Jesus Christ. In Jesus' incarnation—and here we mean all that Jesus did and said, including his death and resurrection to save us from our sins—the intimacy of human and divine is fully realized. Said plainly, the Incarnation unites what the world divides—always, and in all ways. It says that matter, not just spirit, matters. Ministry that spiritualizes away the problems we face in the world of matter is simply not true to the biblical picture portrayed in the Creation and the Incarnation. Biblical, incarnational ministry is radically holistic. It touches the body and the soul. It calls forth personal transformation and systemic change. It invites righteousness and justice. It connects God and humanity, heaven and earth, and, perhaps hardest of all, "us" and "them."

Our concern to incarnate Jesus among the least, last, and lost has introduced us to some amazing grassroots leaders who are singing God's song in some very strange lands, such as among populations of street youth, families in extreme poverty, prostitutes, women in the throes of domestic abuse, and incarcerated gang members in the prisons of Central America. We have learned that "misfits" are critical to the mission of the church. Let me (Joel) try to illustrate.

There is a men's prison in Central America with a surprising group of residents. A ragtag clan of girlfriends, wives, sisters, and mothers connected to one of Central America's major gangs sleep under and on top of the cement tables in what ...

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The Conversation Begins
Selected writers respond to Joel Van Dyke and Kris Rocke from around the globe.

In the mid-1960s and early '70s the church was thriving in Burundi. One denomination in particular, the Burundi Pentecostal Church, experienced a tremendous move of the Holy Spirit in the southern part ...

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The evangelical church in Africa is thriving. The numbers are phenomenal. In Lagos, Nigeria, almost every other street has a church, and every other evening features a "revival" or an evangelistic rally. ...

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In Theology of Hope theologian Jurgen Moltmann reminds the church that " … if God is not spoken of in relation to man's experience of himself and his world, then theology withdraws into a ghetto ...

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There is a story that I cannot forget from one of the Egyptian villages where we have done development and social work through CEOSS (Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services). One day we found ...

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The Conversation Continues: Readers' Comments

Displaying 1–3 of 18 comments

Mason Tanner

December 04, 2015  6:06pm

In a world riddled with sickness, doubt, and fear I feel our mandate as the people of God should be to put our hand in almost every area of influence in the world. There is a need not only in the slums but also in the ivory towers, not only with the sick but also with education. Church leaders are not and were not ever intended to simply lead ministries but to inhabit and work the ground where they live. There is no separation of the sacred and the secular any longer. If you are a believer, what you do wether teaching, selling groceries, starting non-profits ect its all sacred because your ministry and who you are are not a product of what you do but who's you are. That said, there is a need for strong Christian leaders to engage the work place. Don't be surprised if in the coming year we see bi-vocational pastors making the largest impact in terms of transforming entire communities in the name of Jesus. The world is not going to walk into church... the church must be in the world.

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Rodger Sukh

March 28, 2014  2:35pm

God came to the earth as an incarnate Son not only to save our souls but also with an equal concern for saving our bodies from the ravages of degenerating earth and from Satan's conspiracy against His coming kingdom. As the Bible describes, our soul is contained in a vessel made from the clay of this earth, (Genesis 2:7). Until the message of eternal security of the soul becomes a personal experience through spiritual regeneration, sustaining and preserving the vessel (man's physical body) from the evil schemes of premature death and destruction is a kingdom necessity. Satan has spread a web of lies concealing the truth about a default position of eternal death as a conspiracy against the kingdom. All humanity is affected by the fatal snake bite and is destined to eternal death. If no action is taken in a conscious choice for the eternal security of the soul, on account of our default position in sin the physical death would mean an automatic eternal separation from God. If the Gospel fails to reach the unsaved with the antidote in Christ before the vessel is shattered, the eternal death of the soul will be an inevitable consequence. By creating the distortions and the deficiency of the truth about God and His plan for restoring His kingdom Satan is maintaining his conspiracy in the manifestations of spiritual darkness. As a part of his conspiracy the elements contributing to the premature physical death of humanity are concealed from human understanding for most people. In the absence of eternal security in Christ, on account of the default position Satan has the assurance of souls in eternal death from all who fall victim to his devices of destruction. Some of his devices of destruction are active in the form of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, disease, crime and corruption to name just a few. They are all focused on destroying human lives before the antidote of eternal life in Christ is administered. Based on this hypothesis it is of extreme theological importance to understand the holistic nature of the mission of the church and the holistic paradigm of the Great Commission inviting urgent attention to the physical needs of humanity along with the spiritual need. Failure to respond to the social and physical needs of humanity also has a serious ramification in the caution given by Jesus, (Matthew 25:45-46).

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Evangelist (MRS) BUKOLA.S

April 27, 2013  10:01am

Dear Beloved, I request to be come upon one of the associate member of global mission project. A strategic mission mobilizing the National church to the national church to reach unreached peoples make their church became mission base, especially college students, Christian leaders vision to reach unreached people group and be more resources for individuals and the body of Christ as a teaching and empowerment nation ministry and individual who have desire to have impact help to their mission minded and in other to see our people become great , disciple makers, leadership development and the people should have divine call to became a missionary. Many churches and ministries find it difficult to retain elderly people and people with active minds as they only know how to minister to people’s potentials. Trinity partners mission is therefore organizing a workshop entitled “Making men become fragrances presentable by Christ” which is a forum to teach every believer not only to activate their potential but teach others to do so. We need your urgent information to became your associate mission workers Yours in Christ Evangelist (MRS) BUKOLA.S For global mission project

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