Whenever Bishop Azariah received candidates for membership in the Church of South India, he had them place both hands on their heads and say, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel”—a dramatic reminder that each new member of the Christian church is to be also a messenger of the Good News.
Ever since the Madras Missionary Conference Christian leaders have been increasingly preoccupied with the meaning of Mission and Church. This concern reached its climax last fall with the publication of two significant books, The Missionary Nature of the Church by a Dutch theologian, Johannes Blauw, and Upon the Earth by an Asian Christian leader, D. T. Niles.
Conceived at Willingen ten years ago, these books reflect not merely the thinking of two church authorities but the wrestling of conference groups and consultations in many cities of the world. Evangelical readers will object to a few things, such as the soft-peddling of eternal punishment or the statement that only a few verses in the Old Testament have missionary significance. But such matters aside, the double-barreled thrust of these books is biblically oriented.
At the present time new books on mission theology are not hard to come by: they float like cream among the top echelon of the Church. But application of their truths is needed at the congregational level, both at home and abroad. Such “homogenization” calls for some drastic changes.
The concept of the local congregation must be transformed. Principal C. H. Hwang of Taiwan aptly describes the prevalent pattern as the “active pastor, passive sheep structure.” Often evangelistic emphases have contributed to this misunderstanding. People are led to believe that they are saved to be served. This “only believe” theology does ...1
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