Okay, I know it has been a long time since I posted anything on this blog. I am going to chalk it up to the full time job, the two classes I am finishing up, and my new found love of poker. That last part is a whole other topic altogether, one that I may post about some day.
My most recent class of Spirituality and Mission was quite interesting, since our Professor stepped out of her usual method of teaching. There was no lecture, just a question about how we define mission. Of course, there were all sorts of different answers, spanning from the modern idea of proclaiming a "truth" to a people who "need" to hear it, to a idea of a missional lifestyle, living out every day and each contact with people as a chance to reflect the love of Christ.
But then...things got really interesting. Our Professor reflected on a recent article she had read about the typical Modern, Western method of Missions. This usually involves a big T propositional Truth that some group has had revealed to them (the gospel) and sharing/proclaiming this Big T truth to a people in another context, finding some way to sneak the story into some format they can understand. Within this method, the Gospel is usually understood as 1) All are sinners 2) You need to repent 3) Ask Christ into your heart. Now, I know this is an extremely simplified version of the message that is preached, but this is pretty much what I get from the people on the street corners in Old Town Pasadena or at 3rd Street in Santa Monica. Basically, it is the watered down version of the Warrior attitude the Church adopted to evangelism in Modernity...We must prove them wrong!!!
Our Professor then went on to talk about how she has a major problem with this understanding of Mission, especially because it is centered on propositional evangelism. The idea that there is a Big T truth out there and that we know it is arrogant and borderline dangerous for our own faith, especially within the particular cultural context we come from. It is so easy for the Western Church to walk into another cultural Context, lets say Kenya, and to present this individualized Western concept of our faith, assuming that it is the correct way of understanding the narrative of Scripture and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. What this fails to realize is that the other context is subverted because it is primarily a context centered on community, while ours celebrates the individual.
So, our Professor argued for an approach that honors the particular historical context that God chose to reveal himself through Jesus Christ. We must bring this context and continuing biblical drama to anyone we are sharing this story with, so they are then able to read it within their own context, seeing how God has invited them into this larger narrative of love, relationship, and kingdom living. What is interesting to me is that people in the class wanted the Professor to draw it out in a diagram form. Once we try to develop a formula or diagram, we have succumbed to some of the negatives of the Modern, rationalistic mentality. There are some things we can participate in that still remain a mystery...isn't that what it is all about to live and walk humbly with our God. There are things we know of and participate in with our living Creator, but there is still so much more we don't know...and it is alright to admit this.
I was glad that we had this discussion in class. It was interesting to see that the majority of questions and comments about defining mission centered on the "decision moment" of evangelism and conversion. We didn't even begin to describe the holistic aspects of Mission, including Social Justice, care, ethics, loving our neighbors, and many more could be added to this list.
It was also interesting to hear many talk of how many people THEY had brought to a decision to follow Christ. The moment we think WE can do this, we have lost sight of the kingdom work we are doing. We have the privilege and honor of participating in the work that God is doing across the world, but we do not have a monopoly on God. We need to realize that by the time we come to any "decision" moment with a person, God has already been working and planting seeds in this persons life. Now it is our job to help them participate in the body of Christ and avoid using and living phrases like "my God" and "my Jesus". I am not discounting the relationship a person can have with this wonderful, living God, but we are called into the community of believers. It is all too exciting to see what it looks like to live out the fruits of the Spirit in a daily context, participating in the wonderful work that OUR God is doing.