We are a bit behind on our MissionSHIFT discussion, but that does not mean we are not weighing in on some excellent content.
Here is what we have covered thus far:
We are about to move into the third section, built around the future of mission. I think it will be worth your time. We have 50 or so bloggers who will post their responses next Monday to new input from David Hesselgrave. Also, this week, I will post an apology from some wrong information in one of the sections (and a response to that apology). And, we will hear from two more of the book's contributors with their "second thoughts."
Today, my friend Mike Barnett comes by. Mike is a professor at Columbia International University and was one of the contributors to MissionSHIFT. He gives an overview of the book and some more thoughts along the way.
SECOND THOUGHTS ON MISSIONSHIFT
On The Mission--Van Engen
On second thought I will stick to my first thought. (See my comments posted earlier.) I will not abandon the mission of God to some ecumenical conundrum and post-modern confusion. God clearly defines his mission throughout Scripture. He will be worshipped by all peoples on earth (Gen 12:2-3). He defines his mission, not us.
Are we protecting our ministries at the cost of God's mission? I work with more than one mission agency that has a history of sending workers to minster alongside established churches in other countries. These workers are called "missionaries" but many of them are really "ministers." They seldom have time to engage non-believers. They spend almost all of their time ministering to believers. Like their North American colleagues, they become consumed by ministry to the church. They are ministers, not missionaries.
God's mission is to reach those who don't know him. Yes, we need ministers, but their role is to equip the rest of us to accomplish the mission (Eph 4:10-13). We must let God's mission define our ministries. It's not the other way around.
That is why I am careful to word the question to my students. It's not, what is your call, what ministry has God given you, what project or program do you lead? The repeated question for my students is, "Where do you fit in the mission of God?"
On the dynamics of contextualization, I agree with Eitel's second thoughts, "[W]e who wish to be true to the Great Commission are speaking past each other." Perhaps this is because we've taken our eye off the simple but profound mission of God, reflected throughout Scripture? God is obsessed with being known and worshipped by his creation--all peoples on earth. The true missio Dei is not what we make it but what he made it. His sending of Jesus Christ and his working through Israel and the Church to accomplish his mission among all nations as he defined it (Matt 28:18-20).
Contextualization is simply the practice of communicating the truth of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture in a way that makes sense. The purpose of contextualization is to clearly communicate Jesus, nothing more. Some of us fail to communicate the truth about Jesus because we refuse to step out of our cultural skins. We fail to contextualize. We can't get past our cultural worldview.
Others fail to communicate the truth about Jesus because our priority is something other than communicating the truth about Jesus. We want do the mission of God rather than let him do it through us. We lack faith in the power of the gospel and the leadership of the Spirit, so we create our own mission, or ministry. That leads me to my final second thoughts.
There can be no substitute for the priority of proclamation. Piper's call from Capetown (see my "Where Is the Lausanne Movement Headed?" at the Mission of God blog) to "especially" serve those who do not know Christ so that their lives might be transformed spiritually, is the right word. It is a both/and endeavor, word and deed, but the priority must be proclamation of the truth about the mission of God, the sending of Messiah and his transforming affect on us today and forever.
What is our problem with this? Are we no longer to be witnesses (Acts 1:8)? Do we think it is wrong to share the truth about Jesus with those that don't know him? Have we bought in to some kind of false concept of political correctness or ethic that says we must not proclaim Christ. Or is it that we never learned to be witnesses? Is it that we've never been discipled?
Aha! Another topic--maybe for MissionSHIFT II?
Feel free to weigh in... Mike will be visiting the blog today.