Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Enjoying the ride on the way to our destination

One of my favourite authors is Philip Yancey. He recently wrote an article in Christianity Today with the title: On the Grand Canyon Bus. In this article he says that Christians in general “find it difficult to maintain a commitment to both this world and the next, to this life and the next.” He then uses the analogy (which he borrowed from a friend of his) of a bus en route to the Grand Canyon. Although the people on the bus may be travelling through some of the most glorious parts of America, they often keep the shades down, making it impossible for them to see and appreciate the landscape they’re travelling through, being content only to focus on the final destination. And he then makes the remark: “We should remember that the Bible has far more to say about how to live during the journey than about the ultimate destination.”
I like this! Except that I want to go one step further. Keeping to the analogy of the bus trip, you would also find people appreciating the scenery as they drive along, without in the least anticipating the final destination. And ultimately you would find these two groups arguing whether the bus trip or the final destination is the best. In Christian history we have found this in the tension between evangelicals and ecumenicals, between pre-millennialists and post-millennialists, between those who are mission-minded and those who are more focussed on unity and today you would find it between evangelicals and those who oppose the evangelicals.
But the fact is that both are correct. It’s not the one or the other. We are en route to a glorious destination. Just take the time, once again, to read Revelations 21 & 22 and try to picture the beauty of the destination. But Philip Yancey is also correct when he says that the Bible has more to say about the journey than the final destination.
As I read this, I was wondering whether this analogy could not be applied to evangelism in a post-modern world. When I read books by authors such as Brian McLaren (A New Kind of Christian and The Story we find Ourselves in) and many others, they seem to be inviting people along for the ride, without really focussing so much on the destination. And I believe that there is something to say for this. “We’re busy with a trip through some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Care to join us?” And as the trip continues and the scenery is appreciated, the time will come when the traveller will learn more about the destination.
But then, once again, there isn’t a hard and fast rule about this. Because many people (and I’m probably one of them) will want to know what the final destination is before getting on the bus. That’s how people differ and that’s how personalities differ. Those people need to be approached with the invitation: “We’re on our way to the Grand Canyon. Care to join us?” And as the trip continues the new traveller will have to be taught how to appreciate the scenery through which they are travelling.
It’s not one or the other. It’s one and the other.

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Monday, September 29, 2008 - Posted by | Church, Eschatology, Evangelism, Millennianism, Mission, Theology

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