Moltmann on the Mission of the Church

What do you think?

moltmannIn many Christian churches, similar polarization have come into being between those who see the essence of the church in evangelization and the salvation of souls, and those who see it in social action for the salvation and liberation of real life.  But in Christian terms evangelization and humanization are not alternatives.  Nor are the ‘vertical dimension’ of faith and the ‘horizontal dimension’ of love for one’s neighbor and political change.  Nor are “Jesuology’ and christology, the humanity and the divinity of Jesus.  Both coincide in his death on the cross.  Anyone who makes a distinction here, enforces alternatives and calls for a parting of the ways, in dividing the unity of God and man in the person, the imitation of and the future of Christ.

These alternatives are equally absurd from the point of view of practice.  Evangelization would lead either to a crisis of relevance or to an inevitable involvement in the social and political problems of society.  Beginning with preaching, one is then faced with questions of community organization, the education of children and the work for the sick and poor.  The humanization of social circumstances leads either to a crisis of identity, or inevitably to evangelization or pastoral care.  Beginning with the improvement of social conditions in the poverty-stricken areas and liberation from political oppression, one is then faced with the question how the wretched and oppressed can be removed from their inner apathy and given new self-confidence, that is, with the question of how to arouse faith and conquer the structure of servility in their minds.  Of course one cannot do everything, but at least everyone must recognized the other charismata in the body of Christ and the necessity for other work by other people to relieve misery.

‘Change yourself,’ some say, ‘and then your circumstances will also change.’  The kingdom of God and of freedom is suppose to have to do only with persons.  Unfortunately the circumstances will not oblige.  Capitalism, racism and inhuman technocracy quietly develop in their own way.  The causes of misery are no longer to be found in the inner attitudes of men, but have long been institutionalized.
‘Change the circumstances,’ other say, ‘and men will change with them.’  The kingdom of God and of freedom is suppose to be a matter only of circumstances and structures.  Unfortunately, however, men will not oblige.  Breakdowns in marriage, drug addiction, suicide and alcoholism continue undisturbed.  Structures which make people unhappy can be broken down, but no guarantee is attached that men will be happy.

Thus both must be done at the same time.  Personal, inner change without a change in circumstances and structures is an idealist illusion, as though man were only a soul and not a body as well.  But a change in external circumstances without inner renewal is a materialists illusion, as though man were only a product of his social circumstance and nothing else. (22-23)

From his book: The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology.

Credit for finding the quote goes to Joel Willitts – where he posted about it here.

passage of the day: John 3:16-21

This really is such an amazing passage, there is so much here to take in:

John 3:16-21:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

While I think there can be a few different ways to go with this passage, I like to look at it from the perspective of the missio dei.  I think it has much to contribute to how we know and understand the mission of God.  In fact, I like to look at a lot of the Bible as a whole in the light of salvation history and missio dei.  I don’t own the book but I know Howard Marshall in his NT Theology talks about how New Testament Theology is missionary theology.   I think he is exactly right!  And I think the whole thrust of John’s letters is missional through and through.  Sure there is Christology and other issues but I would say the overall theme of the book is a missional one – it is seen in God giving his only Son, that everyone who believes in his name may not perish but have eternal life.  

What is the missional focus?  God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son.  He sent him not to condemn, but to save.

I think the missional focus of the Fourth Gospel can be supported by the Letters of John.  First John tells us, 

1 John 4:9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.

So i think there is strong support for the missional elements of John (and I am sure the rest of the Gospels too).  It amazes me really.  Hebrews 3:1, too calls Jesus “the apostle and high priest of our confession.”   An Apostle is a missionary, one sent on the behalf of another to accomplish some purpose.  In the case of Jesus is was not to condemn the world, but to save it and see that all have a chance at eternal life.
This missional focus of John I think should be reflected in the mission of the church – that we go out not to condemn but to save.  Those who listen and believe on the name of his one and only son, they shall have eternal life and condemnation will not be on them.  To those who chose not to listen, they will be condemned already, and why?  This is the judgement, the verdict… Jesus has come into the world and those who like that will be drawn to him.  Those who don’t will resist and run to the darkness.
Would those who try to resist eventually be overcome because “light wins?”  Light always wins out over the darkness.  Jesus and his mission will be accomplished because like leven in the dough, the light will spread and the darkness will be overcome by the light (Christ).
Lots of interesting possibilities there!  It’s wonderful really.  🙂


on promoting theological education

theological famineIF you need an example of how NOT to do it – read this.   I find this approach not one that I could recommend.  I think maybe it has noble intentions as there is great need in the world for better resources for pastors and teachers in less developed areas of the world and especially in the global south where the church is growing faster then it can keep up with.   At the same time I think it somewhat misrepresents what theological education and “training for the ministry” is supposed to be about.  And perhaps unwittingly devalues the staunch realities and problems AND pain of true famines from which real people suffer.  It basically turns its back on the poor, the suffering, the oppressed.

As I see it, it is based on false juxtapositon of physical hunger and spiritual hunger.  They are not mirrors of each other.  They are worlds apart.  Many in the Western world are a far cry from true physical hunger and yet ALL human beings, rich or poor, free or slave, white or non-white are spiritually depraved and in desperate need of a SAVIOR.  It trivializes real hunger, real poverty, real suffering.

I think it reveals some ignorance (either they just don’t understand don’t know or are just not paying attention to it) of larger missiological contextual issues that are face in cross-cultural work.  It is a imposition of Western values on to other cultures which is a big big no-no in cross-cultural missions.  It reveals ignorance of the changing role of Westerners in world missions and or evangelization.  While there are plenty of places where westerns can be and are quite effective in evangelizing the lost where the national might be less effective (for a whole host of issues and reasons) the increasing responsibility of the Western Missionary is that of PARTNERSHIP, a coming along side nationals to reach the lost and to teach, tran, equip men and women for teaching/preaching roles in their own contexts.  The end goal of mission is not transference of one set of cultural values to another, it is TRANSFORMATION of the target culture to the glory of God.  I think it is not a good way to go about it and in my personal opinion, it would be best not to support this movement either financially, emotionally or any other sort.

It is true, there is a DERTH of theological and or ministerial resources for pastors, teachers, and leaders in the now dominant Christian world.  They are really truly asking for and desiring materials for them to tach and train folks in the Word to be sure the Bible is being well understood and followed  and adhered to in their own contexts.  But see even that raises issues as to the idea that they are looking to us for resources because (and I happen to have just enough world experience to know) they see us as successful and good and blessed by God so they want to learn from us and to emulate us.

Instead I think it would be good to help the best we can but not from the point of view of “theological famine” necessarily but in partnership in obedience to the great co-mission.  Partnering with them to teach and train their own people and maybe even from their own cultural perspectives – seems to me like a kind of theological colonialism to think we should go there and train them from our view so we know they are getting it right.

This is why I am a HUGE advocate for promoting Inductive Bible Study and that in a community context much like what we see in Mike and Tim’s book: People of the Book: Inviting Communities into Biblical Interpretation (Wipf and Stock).  That way we are working best to not IMPOSE our theology on them, but instead EQUIPPING them to study the Bible and draw their own conclusions in a way that is faithful to the Bibilcal text.  That way, we could learn something too!  🙂

Well I think that is enough of that!


The Key to World Missions? Surrender.

The AG has a every other year event with college students called the World Missions Summit that takes place a few days before New Years.  The on going theme is “Give a Year, Pray about a Lifetime.   For this year one of the main speakers is Dick Brogden a missionary to the Middle East.  At this years Summit he talked about Surrender.  Give it a listen!

Then, Give a Year, Pray about lifetime!

missiology matters!

i have come across a new (to me )blog, it’s called missiology matters!  my two passions are the Bible and cross-cultural mission – this is a blog I have subscribed to so I will be following it!  If you have similar interests you may want to do the same.

The author of the blog is Robert Priest, a missiology professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

You might wonder what is missiology?  Very simply is it the study of missions.  Here is a brief statement from the blog:

Missiology is an interdisciplinary discipline which, through research, writing, and teaching, furthers the acquisition, development, and transmission of theologically-informed, contextually-grounded, and ministry-oriented knowledge and understanding, with the goal of helping and correcting Christians, and Christian institutions, involved in the doing of Christian mission.

For more read the blog and give it a follow (and this post too)!

Even so, I think these kinds of things are important for pastors to be reading up on.  You’d be surprised how much of missiological thinking and praxis can be applied to local church life and contexts, especially given the increasingly diverse (even pluralistic) our congregations and communities become.  Good pastors and exegetes of the Bible need to be well read in a broad area of issues, missiology is one of those.  That is, in my personal opinion!


photo of the day: go on a mission trip

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

–Mark Twain

If I may, I would say this is one of the biggest reasons why every Christian possible should go on regularly scheduled “short-term” missions trips… it helps us stay sane.  🙂

One reason I went to seminary was to get into cross cultural missions. I wanted to be able to do stuff like go teach in a Bible school overseas, but that is all still in process.

The simple fact of the matter is, if one has gone overseas at all, be it to study, or do a missions trip, one has gone further than nearly 90% of most Americans… a vast significant majority of Americans are like Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings, they have never left the Shire…

World Christian?

Are you one?  Dave Black quotes Dan Clendenin, who, in an election year, confronts our more or less, would you call it “geo-centrism”?  Here is what is says in this blog post (in part):

           Two radical corollaries follow from the global character of God’s kingdom — the decentralization of your geography and the reorientation of your politics.

 Christians are geographic, cultural, national and ethnic egalitarians. For Christians there is no geographic center of the world, but only a constellation of points equidistant from the heart of God. Proclaiming that God lavishly loves all the world, each person, and every place, the gospel does not privilege any country as exceptional. A Bosnian Muslim is no further away from God’s love than an American Christian. A Honduran Pentecostal is no closer to God’s love than an Oxford atheist.

Much has been written lately about American exceptionalism and our global dominance. In terms of economic, political, military, scientific and cultural influence, America is unrivaled. In that sense, it’s accurate to say that America is “exceptional” (although there’s no reason to think this will last forever, or that all our influence is good). But from a theological or Christian point of view, America is no more or less “exceptional” in God’s eyes than Iceland, India, or Iraq. While allowing for a natural and wholesome love, even pride, in your own country (“there’s no place like home”), in the long run, Christian egalitarianism subverts every form of geo-political nationalism. Our ultimate citizenship, said Paul, is a spiritual one (Philippians 3:20).

Christian global vision also asks me to care as much about every country and its people as I do my own. Christians grieve the deaths of 90,000 Iraqi civilians as much as the 4,124 American soldiers killed in Iraq, or the 560 soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Christians lament the human tragedy of cyclone Nargis that killed 140,000 people in Burma, or the earthquake in the Sichuan province of China that killed 70,000 people, as much as they do that of Hurricane Katrina.

Christian globalism implies that your politics become reoriented, non-aligned, and unpredictable by normal canons. In the gospels Jesus never proposed any political program. There’s no such thing as a “Christian” politics, and efforts by both Democrats and Republicans to co-opt Jesus for their side badly distort his message. Rather, Jesus calls us to something far more radical and demanding. He asks us to do what God Himself does, as expressed in two of the most famous verses in all the Bible. He calls us to “love the whole world” (John 3:16) and “your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

Dave Black finishes out asking:

So … has your geography been de-centralized? That is, are you a world Christian? And … have your politics been reoriented? That is, does your heavenly citizenship trump your earthly?

Good questions, if you ask me.

Yes, good questions and a proper challenge.  One thing I might like to add is that perhaps one way to ensure this globalization of your faith life and practice would be to go on missions trips!  Go overseas as often as you can and for a long as you can (more than just a week – the typical “missions” trip).  Regular excursions across the boarders of your home country as often as possible will, more likely than not, easily ensure you maintain a decentralized geography when it comes to “being a Christian”!


The Holy Spirit in Mission

J.P. Moreland has posted a two part interview done by Joe Gorra with Gary Tyra on his new book The Holy Spirit in Mission: Prophetic Speech and Action in Christian Witness (IVP, 2012).  They are good interviews!

Here is a key part of the interview I found interesting:

In the Introduction, you speak to “the need for a new pneumatology” (14ff). Specifically, what is that need? How is (for lack of a better descriptor) the “old pneumatology” incomplete?As I’ve suggested, as an evangelical I’m much committed to the authority of Scripture and the need for all spiritual experiences to be evaluated on the basis of the sacred text. On the other hand, as a missional Pentecostal I am acutely aware of the possibility of, and need for, fresh, ongoing experiences of Spirit-empowerment that enable a missional faithfulness.

Over the years I’ve become more and more convinced that even though both evangelicalism and Pentecostalism have in common a commitment to mission and devotion to the Bible, what has been missing is a pneumatology that, because its focus is on mission rather than boundary-marking and boundary-reinforcing pneumatological doctrines, has the power to unite rather than divide evangelicals of all stripes. It is this kind of pneumatology I have attempted to put forward in this book.

Sadly this is the truth!  We have allowed our insistence on adherence to Pentecostal distinctives to hinder us in getting on with the mission of the church which is the mission of God.

You should read the rest of the interviews!  Part One & Part Two