Archives For missions

“Ramon Lull [1235-1315] must rank as one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the church.  Others were filled with an equally ardent desire to preach the gospel to unbelievers, and if necessary to suffer for it; it was left to Lull to be the first to develop a theory of missions–not merely to wish to preach the gospel, but to work out in careful detail how it was to be done.” …He conceived a missionary methodology that could be summarized in three points:

1.  A comprehensive and accurate knowledge of the language

2.  The composition of a book in which the truth of the Christian religion should be demonstrated logically.

3. A willingness to be a faithful and courageous witness…even at the cost of life itself.

The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone Samuel Escobar, quoting Stephen Neill
Read as part of the MAGL

The Most Important Missionary of All Time?

…Self-regarding interest, in whatever guise it appears (and even the language of rights descents to self-interest when the theological roots of that language are forgotten) is an inadequate basis for moral action.

For Nicolas Lash, the gospel can be summed up in the simple statement ‘We have been made capable of friendship‘ –  with God and with one another.  To say this, seriously, against our actual background of brutality and devastation, of ancient and deep-rooted group and individual egotism, of terror, isolation, and exhausted disbelief, is to say something either very foolish or, if sensible, then very dark and strange indeed.  And yet, I have been taught by that particular people which identifies me more deeply than does my British nationality – namely, by Catholic Christianity – that I must learn to place my fundamental loyalty with no people, no possibility of friendship, more restricted than the human race.

Vinoth Ramachandra, Faiths in Conflict?

Capable of Friendship

“…pray for the nations…”
“…families values….”
“…substitutionary atonement…”
“…God spoke to my heart…”
“…separate and apart from the Lord’s Supper…”
“…let your Spirit fill this place…”
“…four point, double predestination…”
“…racial reconciliation…”
“…false metanarrative…”

The list could go on and on.

Every Sunday, in Churches across the world, we listen to professionals explain theology to us. With years of training, they are paid to be experts, which means precisely knowing the ins and outs of your topic. Doctors know latin words for diseases. Computer scientists know about code. Interior designers know names for colors that others can’t even differentiate. Professional Christians use theological terminology. It’s what makes them professionals.

Add to that the language created by 500 years of Christian tribalism. When Luther broke off the Catholic church he taught about justication by grace. When the Anabaptists broke off they started formulating their peace teachings. Calvin’s followers, in an attempt to differentiate themselves from Arminius, articulated the five points of Calvinism. The results today can be heard in people’s language. Neo-reformed types use the word “gospel” a lot. Charismatics love to talk about “the nations.” Social justice types have use phrases like “racial reconciliation.”

We use these terms because they’re important. Nuanced language is neccessary for discussing nuanced theology. Denominational phraseology helps express hard won, distinctive values. This is good and important, but for a missional practitioner, it is also dangerous. Here’s three reasons why:

– It means nothing to the secularist who has no theological training.
– For the dechurched, it’s a path to bringing back old, painful memories.
– It sends a message that you are only interested in talking to people who are already like you.

In a post Christian world, insider terminology it’s the equivalent of a street corner preacher in Mexico speaking in English. It tells your audience “I have nothing to say to you.”

So how do you avoid this missional misstep? You do you what the gospel has always done. As Jesus was translated into flesh, the gospel was translated from Aramaic to Greek to Latin, to almost every language on earth. We have to do the same everyday: remember who we’ve been sent to, and find new ways to translate the gospel for them every day.

How the Irish Saved Civilization

Chris —  September 22, 2010

Although I doubt that author Thomas Cahill meant it to be a missiological textbook,  How the Irish Saved Civilization provides an almost step-by-step breakdown of the methods necessary to catalyze a continent-wide missional movement.

The book opens with a description of the western world on the precipice of the fall of Rome.  The key player is Augustine, the brillia

nt thinker credited with inventing individualism, and medieval Catholicism.  In comparison to the state backed, violence justifying Augustine stands Patrick.

Exiled as a shepherd in ancient Ireland, the Roman Patricious develops a deep faith and love for the Irish people.  Despite being released back into the Empire, Patrick feels called back to his adopted homeland.  In a single generation, the first recorded missionary since Paul is able to affect a change that can only be paralleled by the pre-Constantinian church, and perhaps today’s Chinese Christian movements.

Learning from his humble and trusting example, Patrick’s heirs take his mission back to the continent. Monasteries become starting points for cities that will gather and nurture civilization.  Along the way, they painstakingly copy down the Old and New Testaments, as well as the great works of Latin and Greek literature.

Here we find an Irish model for missional living.  While saving souls, bring people together and promote the best of what man has to offer.  Perhaps it’s not too late for us to save civilization.

Check out part 1 of my thoughts on Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways here.

Reading through chapter 3, I found myself almost giddy considering the simple core truth of the Christian faith: Jesus is Lord.  Tradition is nice.  Theology is helpful.  But the core element that catalyzed the first century Jesus movement, is spreading throughout China and has been at the center of all great Jesus movement is the life changing confession that Jesus is Lord.

Hirsch unpacks just how powerful this would be in a polytheistic society, where one is living in constant fear of upsetting one deity or another.  He compares this to the false claim of Communist state as Lord, as well as exposing America’s own polytheism, the worship of money, power, health, etc.

He also points out the tendency of Christians to a dangerous syncretism.  His example of how the false god of comfort and power got mixed up with the Church in South Africa to create apartheid is a chilling reminder of what could happen to us.

Chapter 4 makes the argument that powerful Jesus movements are little more than disciple making systems.  He quotes Neil Cole of Church Multiplication Associates saying “we want to lower the bar of how Church is done and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple.”

The primary barrier to disciple-making is consumerism, both inside and outside the church.  Our culture is set up to make us disciples of consumerism, we consume food, art, and even identities.  We take this mindset with us, expecting to be “fed” at church.

Secondly, our current system of religious education also inhibits disciple-making.  Unlike Jesus disciples, who met with him day in and day out, we remove a select few and pump them full of book learning, then return them to the church.  This may help them learn how to think, but it often does little to help them live more like Jesus, and lead others to do the same.

Hirsch’s accusations are clear: we have added so much to the gospel and so much to the way we teach about Jesus, that it impossible for our current way of being church to spread.

What do you think?  Have you seen a simpler, more effective Church?