Our discussion surrounding MissionSHIFT has been fun and I believe profitable. I am pleased again this week to have so many voices thinking about missiology together, as we look forward to the future and the work of mission.
Here are some excerpts from Monday's discussion around the blogosphere. If you want to read these posts in their entirety, you can follow their links. To see the rest, hit the comments from Monday's post.
Most of the readers indicated that they believe there is a connection between word ministry and deed ministry in the mission God have to the church.
I do not think that making proclamation central necessarily excludes good works and social action from being constituted as mission. As the state of the poor around the world gains greater prominence, Christian missionaries need to re-look at how they conduct their 'mission' to those who are suffering. As a social worker working with the marginalised, I am not able to accept mission as merely that of proclamation and discipleship, but yet not extending concrete help to them. In 1 Thess 2:8, Paul shared both the gospel and his life with the people.
Winter has done an excellent job in linking the role of good works to the larger missionary enterprise. He has opened the door to an analysis of the various historical forms of "Evangelicalism" and their relative strengths and weaknesses. Likewise his work promotes a larger discussion of Church History and its implication for missions. Lastly he has challenged us to "attempt great things for God and expect great things from God", to borrow William Carey's words.
Luke 2:52 shows Jesus developing in four key domains...physical, mental, social and spiritual. We need to be sure that we proclaim Good News in each of those areas, or else we will be proclaiming a truncated gospel that works on Sundays, but is impotent the rest of the week.
In the end, I do hope that evangelical missions has an eye to concurrent proclamation and deed. Not because it will necessarily produce the most "salvations," but because it is most biblically faithful to our Savior and Master and Commander, Jesus.
The SIE focused on the eternal status of the individual, with a reduced emphasis on social development of culture. This period of focus on individual conversions was ushered in by evangelist like D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday and others from roughly 1875 to last years of the 20th century. Ralph Winter predicts that in the 21st Century, Evangelicals will re-discover their roots in First-Inheritance Evangelicalism, with a great emphasis of both conversion and social development. I agree with Winters.
In my extended family, conversation about church life is a common theme. For years, my seventy-two year old uncle has been saying, "The church is no longer relevant because it doesn't operate institutions like hospitals, cemeteries, schools and social agencies." This statement is coming from a man who remembers the 1950's well, when the United States was still enjoying the residuals of the FIE era.. Though I only can observe the legacies of the FIE social involvement, I can agree that the US church has largely abandoned a focus for societal change.
Others who see a connection still pressed for the centrality of Gospel-proclamation in the mission.
As an evangelical conservative, I call my conservative friends to engage in social responsibility in a way that places the cross and resurrection of Jesus as the primary focus, but does not continue this mentality of "I'm just passing through this life."
Likewise, I ask my liberal friends, of whom I have a great many, to consider again the writings of the Apostle Paul and the words and actions of Jesus in the Gospels, particularly in the passion narratives with a view toward rethinking their view of the cross and resurrection, and the importance of a personal faith decision.
At this point proper hermeneutics and modern application of those principles (function over form especially) should rule the day. If local churches and leaders can teach and apply those things in developing new leaders and churches, I think we truly can see the Kingdom grown much more quickly than ever before. Gospel truth invading communities, transforming families gathered into churches who would transform their own communities.
Doug Foltz argued that it was the culture that helped to determine what the emphasis would be, at least upon entry.
The question of contextualization that was handled so brilliantly in the second part of the book was largely ignored in the third part. There are situations where the best strategy is to come in to a community and serve first, to earn the right to proclaim. Where deeds must first tell demonstrate the gospel and provide environments to proclaim. There are other contexts where proclamation must happen first and as a response to hearing the gospel social justice will overflow. We can't forget our context.
Others were hoping for more specifics as we look to the future of the church and her mission.
The future of missions cannot be considered separately from what is turning to be the phenomena of the 21st century - the Internet. The relationship was properly discussed in the third and more predicative part of MissionShift. Since our own paradigm of missions and ministry is heavily involved with internet technology, it is my desire to respond to this one particular point in a more holistic way.
So what is the future of mission? A healthy balance of ministry of word and deed are critical. Contextualizing the gospel for maximum effective communication balanced with an appropriate level of social concern builds bridges to those being reached. As the next generation of Christ-followers seeks to engage our world, we need to have an understanding of the past to guide how we approach the future. I believe this will have to be a conversation that will have to include a wide range of issues; from advances in technology, the fight against AIDS and malaria, those living in extreme poverty and the lives impacted through human trafficking, contextualizing the gospel in appropriate ways to effectively communicate the gospel with oral learners, non-theistic people groups, as well as other worldviews. While these are complex issues, we have been given the task to take the gospel to the nations!
Much more was said, but I can't fit it all into one blog post. So, head over the last Monday's post and follow he conversation there.