I’ve never read any books written by Bill Easum, but I recently read a review written by someone on Bill Easum’s way of thinking about the church. There’s about four pages of books written by him on Amazon.com so I wouldn’t know which one to start with. If someone has a clue, drop me a comment.
I’m pretty sure that Easum will have many people who won’t agree with him and I don’t think I will agree with him in everything he says. But as I read the review I felt some excitement. One of the questions he asks is why we attach so many labels to the church, such as “Missional” and “Emerging”, to name just two. He believes that these labels are unnecessary. We need to ask only one question: “What does it mean to be church in a Biblical sense?” It’s not about labels and styles. It’s all about what the church is doing in the world.
The church exists for those who have not yet heard the good news of God in Jesus Christ. The church is the visible sign of the invisible reign of God in this world. He then concludes that mission and evangelism is the identity of the church. Churches don’t need commissions for mission and evangelism, because this is what church is all about.
A friend and his wife came to visit us last night and we had a long discussion about the purpose of the church. And we all agreed that there is only one purpose for the church, regardless of how we formulate it. Ultimately we have to proclaim the kingdom of God in the world in whatever way is appropriate for the circumstances within which we find ourselves. In a book I read many years ago, the author made the remark that the church’s Finance Committee should also be the Mission Committee. His argument was that the Finance Committee is appointed to decide how to spend money and the most important place they can spend it, is on mission.
I realise that all of these remarks may be stretching things a bit. But what it does for me is to readjust my focus. Why do we exist as church? Do I actually believe the well-known words of archbishop William Temple: “The church is the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members“? If this becomes the focus of the church, then it may well be true that we need to get rid of all the labels. I’m open to be corrected, but I’m convinced that these labels mean little or nothing for the countries and continents where Christianity is growing the fastest today, such as in Africa, Korea and in China. If I start telling churches in Swaziland that they need to become missional, they will think I’m crazy, because for most church leaders this is exactly why the church exists.
What I do appreciate about the modern movements within the church is that they help us to focus on a broader audience than the traditional group of people which was reached in the past. They’re helping the church to understand that God’s kingdom encompasses His entire creation. Pollution, slavery, justice, etc all become part of the church’s agenda.
But possibly Bill Easum is correct. Perhaps the church does have only one question to answer: “What does it mean to be church in a Biblical sense?” And then I would like to add three more words: “…here and now?”
Monday, April 6, 2009 Posted by Arnau van Wyngaard | Africa, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Culture, Ecology, Evangelism, Indigenous church, Mission, Social issues, Swaziland, Theology, Vision | 8 Comments
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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