Monday, September 6, 2010

The Relationship of the Elements of Mission

Assuming the elements of mission in the previous blog, here are some thoughts on the relationship of evangelism to the other elements of mission.
  1. All elements need to be involved together at all times to see effective mission. When one or other element is lacking, the progress of the mission is to some degree thwarted.
  2. All mission begins with points one and two above which lay the foundation from which the mission flows: the Spirit’s empowerment and leading to unconditional love, sacrifice (and so suffering) and service. This is the origin and heart that should drive all mission at all times.
  3. Mission in any context begins with engagement with people and lavish response to material need accompanied by the communication of the good news. These must continue in all contexts at all times. Any diminishing of either will see the effectiveness of mission diminished. Evangelism then is central to mission but must be set in the context of a whole strategy that embraces the fullness of the mission of God. Where the gospel is not established, evangelism is of more significance in the initial establishment of the gospel. As the gospel takes root, the people that form are to work for the fullness of God’s whole mission. Where the gospel is established, evangelism must go on with determination to see all people come to Christ. For evangelism to be effective as the mission goes on, the other elements must work alongside it. The tendency is for evangelism to wane as the gospel is established with other dimensions becoming dominant. This is understandable as the progress of the gospel will increase the ability of the people to impact society and the needs of the converted will grow. At times too, it has to be acknowledged that this is not necessarily a negative thing. Churches and societies go through cycles and at times emphasis needs to go on consolidation to ensure that the gospel mission can regain momentum. However, generally speaking, the church must continue to prioritise evangelism and set aside resources to ensure that communication of the gospel does not wane. Currently, this is the challenge of the west. Where resistance to the gospel is experienced through opposition, rejection and persecution, the church must adapt to this and continue to witness to Christ. This will involve in some instances experiencing persecution and even imprisonment and death. The church needs to shift approaches to a less direct and relational approach whereby the gospel is communicated more subtly. History tells us that this is possible. In any given society the people of God must assess the best methods of sharing the unchanging gospel to reach its people. This will mean adapting the patterns in which the content is communicated and the media. In this way, the evangelism will not die.
  4. The goal of mission has individual, social, and cosmic implications.
    1. Individual: Wider transformation comes from transformed individuals who experience God’s healing and from them transformation flows into society and creation. That this is the case, places evangelism at the heart of mission for it is from initial reception of the Gospel that transformation flows from individual to society to the world.
    2. Social: Mission involves the formation of a new humanity (the church) in the world. The ultimate goal however is the transformation of all of human society in its many organizational forms (family, suburb, village, city, nation, social gatherings, educational contexts, medical environments, workplaces, sports contexts, arts, leisure, science, music etc). There is thus a balance to be found in mission between the formation of the people of God (church) and working to see God’s mission to the whole world furthered.
    3. Cosmic: Mission involves the use and care of God’s resources for human good and care for creation.
  5. Mission involves a compassionate heart for those who are in need whether material or spiritual. Where material needs are concerned, Christians should lead the world in caring for its poor, sick, mentally ill, broken, disabled, oppressed and marginalized. Mission then will involve Christians in the establishment and furthering of initiatives that alleviate suffering. Mission cannot be merely about spiritual restoration but is holistic.
  6. Mission involves not only the conversion of the lost through proclamation but the nurture and teaching of those who come to faith (discipleship). As such, a full strategy will be deeply concerned about ongoing care and nurture so that people find wholeness so that they too can participate in God’s mission to the world.
  7. Mission involves our work. The workplace is not merely a place to witness and raise funds for family, mission and church. The work itself is missional is that it builds and shapes God’s world. In that most people spend a good percentage of their time in a workplace (whether home or otherwise); this is a critical element of mission. The workplace then is a place where mission occurs through the building of God’s world, witness, and raising funds for personal needs and the mission of God in all its aspects.   

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