“ILLEGITIMATE PROBLEM” OR “GOD’S GIFT?”

“ILLEGITIMATE PROBLEM” OR “GOD’S GIFT?”

screenshot-2014-02-03-091322That’s the question (above) posed by the Dutch theologian Johannes Christiaan Hoekendijk about the church’s role in mission.

 

 

Personally I’ve always liked questions. Whether we agree or not, they still inform how we think and act. Working with churches I (Phil) get asked lots of questions about the words ‘mission’ and / or ‘missions’ which people tend to use as ways to describe, “spreading the gospel,” everything, “…from basketball in the church gym, to a day-care centre, to church planting in Papua New Guinea and everything in between” (Tennent 2010:54). Such all-inclusive mission makes sense to me, since I believe, “The gospel is meant to place the totality of life under the universal Lordship of Jesus Christ” (Padilla 2010:54), and Jesus commands us to love God with everything (Mt 22). Billington (2012) believes:

Where we spend most of our time – at home, at work, in the neighbourhood – matters to God & to his mission in & for the world. Far from restricting our faith to the ‘personal’ sphere, disengaged from everyday living, Scripture encourages us to take the Lord of life into the whole of life.

“Mission-is-everything” (Cardoz-Orlandi 2002:25) gained momentum amongst 16th Century Jesuits who promoted, “a new spirit in the Catholic Church” (Ferguson 2005:59). Previously, the word ‘mission’ had only been used to describe, “the doctrine of the trinity…the sending of the Son by the Father and of the Holy Spirit by the Father and Son” (Bosch 1991:1). In the 1920’s the original meaning of mission was revived by Hartenstein (1928:59-83) who coined the phrase missio dei – “the sending of God.” Missio dei didn’t replace mission-is-everything, but enriched it, since not only is God’s mission directed toward the entire creation, but its also about, “God and who He is” not “us and what we do” (Tennent 2010:54). “Integral mission,” the phrase Soul Action uses a lot, originates from the 1970’s, when Latin American’s, searching for a holistic way to a express, “God’s purpose to restore every dimension of human life” (Corrie 2012:55), also recognised that missio dei is mission’s source.

As a Christian minister you won’t be surprised to hear that I don’t think the church’s role in mission is, “illegitimate,” but do I find myself agreeing with Hoekendijk (1966:38), that, “missionary thinking is bound to go astray,” whenever it forgets that, “Mission is first and foremost about God and His redemptive purposes and initiatives in the world,” rather than, “any actions or task or strategies or initiatives the church may undertake” (Tennent 2010:54).

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