…on the front burner…
Recently I was talking to a couple of guys, one a believer and the other not yet, on the why of missions in a world of vying belief systems. I’m sure you’ve had similar conversations when people discover you’re a missionary. It struck me again at how a faith-in-God answer can simultaneously sound normal and absurd. To the one, missions are a natural response to one’s faith in Jesus Christ; so many need to hear of God’s love and to understand His invitation into reconciliation. To the other, missions are at best a naïve and at worst an arrogant imposition of someone’s beliefs on someone else. Eventually, there’s a moment of realization in the conversation when the subject matter becomes personal—what do you
believe? But, don’t think the question is only for those who are “yet to believe.” What if someone’s faith-in-God answer is different than yours? Would you, could you recognize someone else’s genuine faith in God without all the forms we attach to our faith?
In announcing the Kingdom of God, Jesus called for an all-in response and amazingly, it’s your
choice! No coercion, no imposing, no naïveté, no arrogance. This all-in commitment is the new norm in God’s Kingdom. Accompanying this all-in commitment is an all-out effort to expand God’s Kingdom. But what if God’s Kingdom doesn’t look or feel like we think it should? Let’s face it; we are probably much more comfortable with a Westernized version of Christianity and we tend to replicate its forms, our
forms, despite our best efforts to facilitate indigenous expressions of faith in God. Further, we tend to measure the Gospel’s progress among peoples like we have experienced it among our people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for churches, and baptisms, and helping the needy, but what if God is at work among “them” in ways that we don’t readily recognize His presence? Could our expectations and forms of Christianity blind us to what God is doing and inadvertently keep us from knowing Him more completely?
As it was true for the 1st century Jewish band of Christ-followers, so it has been true down through the years that God is
at work in others in ways that the prevailing group can hardly grasp and understand. And if church history is any indicator, the prevailing group usually doesn’t tolerate well those differences. Consider this statement from Ivan Illich:
“Missiology studies the growth of the Church into new peoples, the birth of the Church beyond its social boundaries; beyond linguistic barriers within which she feels at home; beyond poetical images in which she taught her children. The Church is led to marvel about the ever new images in which her venerable knowledge can become meaningful for the first time…missiology therefore is the study of the Church as surprise.”
What God surprises are happening right now in your context, among the peoples God has asked you to share the Good News of His Kingdom?
…good to know…
This past May, Dr. Ralph Winter passed away. In honor of his significant impact in missions, I'm recommending a rather unconventional book of his this month. This work is more like a compilation of various articles, papers, letters, and thoughts of Dr. Winter's over the years. It's a treasure trove of questions, ideas, and thoughts on missions. His contributions to global missions thinking and call to action reflected his all-in commitment to Jesus. He'll be missed!
Frontiers in Mission
by Ralph Winter
This is an inductive, autobiographical presentation of the process of finding, recognizing, or discovering problems. It is only secondarily focused on solving them. Its purpose is not only to search for solutions for problems already under consideration, but also to use those problems as a means of gaining expertise in the identification of other obstacles to common and uncommon goals.
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