Mission and the Kingdom of God
As I said in my previous post, I’m busy with Bob Robert’s Glocalization. Admittedly, it’s not as easy to read as his previous book, Transformation, but it’s great reading. Highly recommended! But the heading of one his chapters made me post last week on defining terms. Chapter 2 is entitled: Its all about the Kingdom – not Missions. Obviously, this got me a bit worried. Am I still a missionary or not? Am I involved in missions or am I involved in the Kingdom? With a title like that, I couldn’t put the book down until I had finished the chapter.
Missions, as Roberts understands it, is about evangelism. When arguing that we have to leave missions and get involved in the kingdom, he writes: We have to move from a one-shot evangelism perspective that says, “Boom – here’s the four spiritual laws. If you don’t accept them, it’s over. I’ve done my duty,” to a radically different faith response where one is unabashedly proclaiming the gospel, and serving, and loving.
The kingdom is a wholistic, viral response to the different infrastructures of society within a connected world… It’s societal, as opposed to religious, skeletal, and institutional.
When I read this, I immediately sensed that my definition of missions is somewhat different from his definition. On 1 August I wrote about the distinction between Mission and Evangelism and also quoted a paragraph from David Bosch’s magnum opus, Transforming Mission, in which he wrote: Mission includes evangelism as one of its essential dimensions. Evangelism is the proclamation of salvation in Christ to those who do not believe in him, calling them to repentance and conversion…
Mission, as Bosch understood it, is a much greater entity than mere evangelism. Social upliftment programs, medical assistance, home-based caring and many other things being done in the name of Jesus Christ (done, merely because I am a Christian and because God has done and will do the same for me, not because of what I can get out of it) to assist those suffering from some kind of problem, is mission.
And this is more or less what Roberts means when he speaks of the kingdom. The kingdom is all about society, he says, quoting Matthew 25:35-46. The church is not a gathering of people. It is the scattered or sent community!
What has changed? Actually (and Bob, if you’re reading this, I say this with great humility) – nothing has changed! Perhaps this is why I find his books so remarkable. He uses new terms. He explains things in a new way. But in essence what he’s telling us, is to become the church that Christ intended it to be. God didn’t want the church to lock itself up in a room, worshipping and praying day in and day out, year in and year out. God’s intention, as I understand it, was to get the “normal” believers (i.e. not the leaders primarily) out into the streets and into the towns and cities surrounding Jerusalem in order to become witnesses for the Lord. This is exactly what happened in Acts 8 when the persecution of the Christians started. They fled from Jerusalem and as far as they went, they became witnesses for Jesus Christ. And it is clear, when reading Acts, that they did not restrict their witnessing to evangelism alone, but adapted according to the needs of the people they met. And obviously, the way we do it today will be different from the way they did it in Acts, but the message remains the same. It’s just the application that has changed.
As for myself, I’ll still speak of missions. But I will also continue to explain missions in the way I believed that God intended it to be – to get involved in the whole world, simply because God loves the world, not only a lot of souls!
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This is a blog where I would like to share some of my ideas about contemporary mission. I have more than 25 years experience as a full-time missionary in Swaziland, have done a PhD on the theology of mission – specifically on the relationship between mission and eschatology – and am presently specialising in the problem of HIV/AIDS and how the church should approach this problem. You are welcome to respond and share your ideas on this blog.
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