Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Does the church need mission and evangelism committees?

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 | Africa, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Culture, Ecology, Evangelism, Indigenous church, Mission, Social issues, Swaziland, Theology, Vision

8 Comments »

  1. hey. one of the books I’d recommend you reading first is Unfreezing Moves. Then if you are helped by it read Leadership on the OtherSide.
    You can download both of them on my website for a fraction of the cost of print.

    Comment by Bill Easum | Tuesday, April 7, 2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks Bill. It’s great to get the right information directly from the source!

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Tuesday, April 7, 2009 | Reply

  3. Hi Bill and Arnau –

    I also loved “Leadership on the Other Side.” There is a quote from there that I have repeated often (and am probably massacring here, not having the book in front of me):

    “There is a big difference between being chosen because you are special and special because you are chosen.” And then Bill, you go on to describe how the children of Israel continued to get these two mixed up.

    I think many American evangelical churches have these two mixed up too, which is why they develop mission boards and committees. We are special because we’ve been chosen to be used by Jesus as his “hands and feet” (as another of my favorite authors would say), in ushering in the kingdom. We are late coming to the table to discuss and participate in addressing the Aids/HIV problem in Africa because we [too often] think we (American evangelicals) are the chosen people, chosen because we are special. Like the children of Israel, we have forgotten that the God has blessed us is so that we (all, not just our mission committees) could be a blessing, in an Isaiah 58 kind of way, to others.

    Wendi

    Comment by Wendi | Wednesday, April 8, 2009 | Reply

  4. Touché, Wendi!

    It’s not only Americans who have this idea. I think it’s probably fairly true amongst most Westerners. Ironically the Christian church is growing at tremendous rates in places like China, Africa and Korea, while the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent. In Europe the number would probably be even higher.

    I’ll have to make a plan to get some of Bill’s books. It sometimes is necessary, even for missionaries, to have their minds stretched.

    Arnau

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, April 8, 2009 | Reply

  5. I have a friend, Titus Baraka from Uganda, who ask me to come to his country and teach some principles of spiritual formation. After meeting with Titus for some time here in Holland, Michigan, I realized he and his people were way ahead of the US church in many respects. I said, “Titus, you need to bring your people here and teach us.” He said that after every preaching service, no one leaves the church. They all stay and break into twos and threes and confess their sins to each other. That technique would majorly downsize our congregation of 2500 in one Sunday. It might however be an authentic model for church growth–real growth.

    Roger Perkins
    Holland, Michigan
    USA

    Comment by Roger Perkins | Thursday, May 14, 2009 | Reply

  6. Thanks for sharing that, Roger. There is so much that we Westerners can learn from our brothers and sisters in Africa and Asia about serving the Lord.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, May 14, 2009 | Reply

  7. Individuals require a certain amount of human leadership and organization to facilitate their efforts becoming synergistic.

    Unfortunately, over time, the organization and its activities take on a life that drains the original purpose of life.

    It gets so skewed that too many individuals who have no particular calling for the true purposes join the organization but too often they are interested in joining the group to have a sense of belonging or hoping the group will somehow fix them spiritually.

    My sense is that we need to lay, as foundational, the necessity of a private devotional life of contemplation a and meditation, followed by regular confession of sin to at least one or two others. This must be followed by establishing a pattern of taking responsibility to correct whatever convictions proceed from the first two disciplines of prayer and meditation. This helps to keep a person centered and obedient before entering any effort requiring a team approach.

    If individuals are not centered in God, making them into a committee is like mixing weak ingredients in hopes of producing a good loaf of bread. Won’t happen. But religious institutions keep trying. Nothing new under the sun.

    My thoughts are evolving on this.

    Roger Perkins

    Comment by Roger Perkins | Thursday, May 21, 2009 | Reply

  8. Thanks for your input, Roger. I think what I hear you saying is that mission should be a ministry of the church and not a program (one of many issues on the agenda.)

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, May 21, 2009 | Reply


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