Missio Ecclesia (part1)
- Dec 4, 2005
- Series: Missiology
Last week we began our study of Missiology looking at how our God has completed His sovereign plan for redeeming mankind. This plan was necessary because of our sin that separates us from God and the redemption was completed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We looked at missio Dei or the mission of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. John 20 shows us that each one plays a different role within God’s sovereign plan:
John 20: 21-22
21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
Before we begin looking at how we can be this missional church, I wanted to present a quick historical background on the church and its missional nature.
II. Missiology History
a. Early Church
The Church started its life as a persecuted group. When Jesus was killed His disciples fled and denied Christ to avoid a similar fate. Jesus returned and gave the church the gift of the Spirit, they began to go out to tell people the good news, but the persecution began immediately. After Pentecost, Stephen was the first Christian to be martyred and the future apostle Paul (then Saul) was the one giving the go-ahead. These persecutions continued as seen in Scripture.
Regardless of these persecutions with the confidence of seeing Jesus raised from the dead and being given the Holy Spirit, the good news was preached with 3000 coming to a saving faith the first sermon following the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
Christianity was a life changing event. To choose Christ in this day and age often meant you were rejected by your families, lost your friends and lost your occupation. To choose Christ was a serious decision that required absolute conviction. This is why even in the face of death by Roman coliseum, being eaten by lions, being hung on a cross, being stoned etc., those who died were of such a faith that they could not help but desire to share the good news. The churches identity was in it’s mission.
This all changed dramatically with the convert of one Roman emperor, Constantine. Allegedly having seen a vision of Christ’s cross in the sky as he rode into battle, Constantine was the first emperor to convert to what had been a despised and dismissed “slave religion”.
Not only was he the first emperor to convert, he made his aim the legislation of Christ’s millennial kingdom in a generation. And indeed he enacted a number of laws that no doubt pleased the church of his day – making divorce difficult, aiding the poor and ending gladiatorial games. Constantine was the first of a long line of emperors, princes and presidents who saw Christianity as the unifying force that might bind and discipline their otherwise diverse subjects.
The Constantinian shift occurred with the church deciding to derive its significance through the association with the identity and purposes of the state. The church was to serve God by encouraging the good and restraining the evil, i.e. to serve peace, preserve social cohesion in which the gospel can go forth and build the church.
With Constantine the church made the ruler the model for ethical deliberations. The question from the earlier church, “How can we survive and remain faithful Christians under Caesar?” now became “How can we adjust the church’s expectations so that Caesar can consider himself a faithful Christian?” Thus the ethical requirements of the church were adapted to what might be deemed reasonable within the world.
I don’t want to communicate the idea the pre-Constantine Church was all good, we can see the many struggles the Church had through the letters written in Scripture. But the significance of Constantinianism was the idea that the church became the sponsor of the world, with “world” meaning the fallen rebellious creation.
When a church is young and a minority, its identity is shaped by tension with the world—defined as civilization or culture in the grip of idolatry—and an aggressive evangelism. Its members recognize that they are a distinct people and this moves them to evangelism. This missional nature proves to be successful as the gospel salts the society and helps shape the public life of the culture. There are signs of repentance and faith among the powers of the culture. But it is precisely in this success that the problems lie. The salting of the society has the effect of diminishing the church’s missionary consciousness. It relaxes its rigorism and begins to live at peace in the culture.
c. The Church & State
Let me mention a couple consequences to the area of missions that occurred with the state acceptance of Christianity.
First, this acceptance leads to the presumption that the missionary task has been completed so that the church is no longer a mission but simply a community. In terms of missionary and pastoral activity, an established church assumes only pastoral responsibilities. The church becomes preoccupied with its own welfare and maintenance. Outside the empire the initiative for Christianization of peoples is taken by the state as it extends its empire. The church participates as the religious arm of the empire. Mission often became coercive by means of religious wars.
The pre-Constantinian church saw the outsider as a test to one’s love (Mt. 5:43-48; Lk 6:32-36) The Church of the Middle Ages had largely ignored the outsider as “barbarian” or heretical. But with the Constantinian wedding of church and territorial state enabled by the Reformation, the outsider became the “infidel”, the incarnation of anti-faith. And destroying the outsider became a positively virtuous undertaking.
We see missions tying into colonialism. As Western nations advanced into new territories, they brought their churches along with them. Nations brought under this new imperialism were given the option of death or conversion.
Now looking back we may see the errors of this thinking but in January of 1992, President George Bush addressed the National Association of Religious Broadcasters, wanting to say “thank you for helping America, as Christ ordained, to be a ‘light unto the word’.” He linked this with the Persian Gulf War, a war he characterized in distinctly black-and-white crusade terms as a conflict of “good versus evil” and “right versus wrong”. Sadly, thousands of evangelical Christian leaders responded with standing ovations to this comment.
Next, the church in the era of Church & State becomes a powerful and privileged church. The church was now made up of the educated, powerful and rich. Christians were given privileged positions within the culture. The "Christian empire" is powerful. Mission now is taken from a position of strength--from the superior to the inferior.
Finally, in contrast with the early church, the church takes on cultural responsibility. The church is no longer opposed to culture, but takes on responsibility for developing culture.
It is easy to see with hindsight how quickly the church fell into the temptations of worldly power. It is easy to point to the glaring contradictions between the Jesus of the Gospels and his followers occupying the seats of power and wealth. We belong to a culture that has been shaped for a thousand years in “Christian society” in which the whole of public and cultural life was permeated by Christian revelation. It is important to note that this too is part of God’s plan.
d. Secular Enlightenment
The Enlightenment began to separate the connection of the Church and State. The Enlightenment offered another vision of public life based on an autonomous, scientific rationalism. In this new situation, the Christian faith moves from the center to the margins of the culture. The search for truth and answers moved the church to a private religious realm.
The vision of the Enlightenment appeared promising to that generation for two reasons. First, the religious wars were fragmenting all the countries of Europe. It seemed that the gospel or the Christian faith could not provide a center for European society. Alongside the success of the natural sciences in explaining the natural world gave hope that scientific reason could provide an alternate center. At the heart of the Enlightenment worldview was a commitment to autonomous human reason as the sole arbiter of truth and primary instrument of social progress. Reason disciplined by the scientific method, applied to society and translated into technological power had the ability to transform our world into a materially and socially prosperous utopia. Methodological and neutral reason was to be the sole arbiter of truth. Tradition and authority were not to be trusted as guides to truth. Only human reason disciplined by the scientific method held such esteemed power.
The claims of the gospel became submitted to the dictates of methodological reason. Since such claims cannot be proven by scientific method the claims of the gospel have been shunted to the netherworld of private values that are a matter of subjective opinion and personal preference. The gospel is not to be considered as public truth but mere private taste. One may find the gospel privately engaging but its truth claim is dismissed. It can have no place in shaping the public life of a nation.
Unfortunately much of the church instead of resisting this idolatrous faith-commitment to scientific reason has been absorbed and domesticated into the culture. It has quietly and meekly conformed itself to this alien faith-commitment. It has accepted its role in the private realm. The church may offer an otherworldly and entirely future salvation to interested individuals. The church may influence the morals of its members. It may meet the religious needs of its adherents. But woe to the church that dares to believe that the gospel is the true starting point for understanding all of human life.
The Church still sees itself as a part of the established power structure. And it still believes it has a role to play. However, it has been greatly reduced since the Enlightenment to an institution that cares for the religious needs of its members and perhaps influences the individual morality of the nation.
In other words, the church has become in modernity a chaplain to society. A chaplain is a hired employee of a bigger organization. The Church is employed to meet the religious needs of those in a community with a higher and more comprehensive purpose. The Church contributes to the maintenance of the status quo; it does not challenge it.
e. Critique of the modern North American church
In this framework we begin to see the pieces that create the picture of the missional work of the church. This missional nature has been created over roughly 2000 years of history.
First, the church doesn’t look at their local community as a missional field. We have bought into the belief that America blesses God, or that we are a Christian nation. While we go to work with thousands of co-workers who are dead in their sins, we still view all missionary work as sending people to Africa.
Second, the mission of the church has been neutered to all evangelistic activity. The first week, I asked you, “What is the mission of the Church?” 3/4 of replied talking about community. Community is the symptom of our calling, to spread the gospel to all ends of the earth. The modern church is now a shopping mall to meet the communities needs, not a light or the salt to a lost and dying world.
Lastly, we have attacked the body of God by saying the most important thing in Christianity is an individuals relationship with God. It is just this kind of faith that avoids confronting truth in scripture because it might reveal a particular God with a character and purpose different from our own. We read and accept scripture as we feel it and pick and choose what best fits our own desired “personal faith”.
So the Church has adapted by shifting its focus. It is now a self-help program filled with pop-psychology no longer concerned with social change but how the individual can adjust to the status quo. People leave churches because their “needs aren’t being met.” This attitude causes a doctor- patient relationship with God. We have made Him a God who only meets our needs.
It is in this context we find the Church, stripped of its power with the state, robbed of its original mission, and marginalized down the subjective feelings of the individual believer. It is in this context the church needs to re-learn its mission. As a church we feel useless because we don’t understand why we are here, sent by God to participate in His plan.
III. Missio Ecclesia
The mission of the church is to participate in the missio Dei by continuing the mission of Jesus throughout the world until the end of history. Jesus did not write a book. He chose, called and prepared a company of people, he entrusted to them his teaching, and he promised them the gift of the Spirit of God to guide them in matters which were beyond their present horizons. First, it is a fact of inexhaustible significance that Jesus was not concerned to leave as the fruit of his ministry a precise verbatim account of his teaching and works, but was concerned to create a community that would witness faithfully to the gospel among all the peoples of the world.
Jesus formed a community and bound that community closely to Himself. Jesus’ intention was that the gospel be communicated, not through a book written by his hand, but by a community that would continue his life in this world. Second, he entrusted his teaching to them. The culture in which Jesus called his disciples was an oral culture that did not rely on the written word but knew how to tenaciously treasure, preserve, and hand on the teaching of Jesus. Third, Jesus promised to give them the Holy Spirit to lead them into a fuller understanding of the truth of the gospel in the context of new situations and cultures.
We need to be a missional church; otherwise we are rejecting God’s only call for us. We are to continue the mission the Christ originated and completed. He “is” the good news; we are to spread the good news to all the nations. This is how we are going to attack this over the weeks to come.
First, tonight we are going to look at how we can be an authentic community (Hermeneutic of the Gospel), living out the gospel and being the salt of the earth as Jesus tells us to be. (Royal Priesthood)
The next couple weeks we are going to begin our look at our Culture. It is important for us to understand the culture we live in so that we can know how to present the gospel to them. This is called Contextualization or communicating the gospel in context to the people around us.
1 Corinthians 9
19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
There are two major errors people make in presenting & living out the gospel to people around them; one, we are tempted by Syncretism wherein the gospel is so wed with culture that it is the gospel which is wrongly converted to the world in which it is preached. Second, we are tempted by Sectarianism wherein the gospel is so divorced from culture that the world is largely forbidden from hearing the gospel and the people of God lose the gospel because without a cultural engagement it becomes co-opted by the people of God.
After we finish our study of culture, we are going to look at Apologetics. As we go to spread the good news, we will have to defend our faith and present the reasons we have hope in Christ, which is apologetics. This occurs when others attack our faith because they are Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islamic, New Age, Secular or any other belief.
1 Peter 3
15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
Proverbs 19: 25
25 Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge.
3Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
Lastly, but most important we are going to look at Evangelism, our primary call is to spread the good news. We are going to look at scripture for insight at how we should witness to others. We are going to look at how modern evangelism is failing, with an emphasis on love.
19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
IV. Authentic Community
As we strive to be missional, we must ensure that we are authentic in our life, words, and deeds. We cannot call others to live out the gospel if we ourselves aren’t doing this. In order to do this we need to understand the gospel and live it out in such a way that we are seen as the salt of the earth.
a. Hermeneutic of Gospel
A hermeneutic of the gospel is a wholistic biblical method of interpretation which includes looking at literature, grammar, history, context, author, audience, and theology. So we need to do the hard work of understanding God’s word so that we may live it out authentically.
Gospel living as a Church has not been what scripture says, but what we feel, how we interpret scripture or by what we’ve heard from someone else. When God reveals his plan and purpose in scripture often we don’t want to hear it because it is too difficult of a calling for us.
As a church we need to live out the gospel. We each are missionary preachers in our community who need to understand out hearers in order to present the gospel in context, something we’ll discuss more later. But as we are only as relevant with our words as we are an authentic reflection of the gospel. As Christians, we often present the gospel, but we don’t live it. This contradiction has caused much damage to the Churches ability to call people to Christ.
We need to be an authentic community, and so we are going to look at 6 ways we need to do this.
i. Community of Praise
Our society wants to tear down anything that is considered praise worthy. It is in this environment we must lift our praises to God. As a Church we need to look at God as one who is greater than we are.
46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
1 Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. 2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. 3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, 5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.
We must find our identity in praising God. This includes Thanksgiving. We need to be thankful because we are a community that has received boundless kindness & amazing grace.
30 I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. 31 This will please the LORD more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs. 32 The poor will see and be glad- you who seek God, may your hearts live! 33 The LORD hears the needy and does not despise his captive people. 34 Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them,
2 Corinthians 4
14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 15All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
Our gratitude for God should spill over into care for our neighbors because we recognize what a gift of grace we’ve been given.
ii. Community of Truth
Our society has lost its hold on truth; we are mired in a relativistic society that is skeptical of all things. We must live as a community who has truth.
1 Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. 2 Test me, O LORD , and try me, examine my heart and my mind; 3 for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth. 4 I do not sit with deceitful men, nor do I consort with hypocrites; 5 I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked. 6 I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, O LORD, 7 proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds. 8 I love the house where you live, O LORD, the place where your glory dwells.
24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
Because we have the truth, we can handle the worlds skeptism. We must live presenting truth in a legitimate fashion, not perverting it so that it isn’t offensive.
iii. Community Concerned with our Neighbor
The Church exists in its mission to the community surrounding it. We are a people sent by God to proclaim the good news. We need to be concerned with our neighbor. Our church needs to be identified in its outreaching.
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
8If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. 9But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
Christ tells us that we are called to a sacrificial love even to our enemies.
iv. Community of Royal Priests
We are called to train ourselves so that we are able to be effective priests to this world.
13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
1 Peter 2
5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Our response to this should be one of humility and gratitude. This work is not done inside the Church, but as part of the world. Sundays are a time for renewing the body in our service as priests.
v. Community of Mutual Responsibility
God did not create us to be individual, but a community. Christ came to build a community to continue on his work.
16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
In our mutual responsibility we must share in each others lives. We must pray for one another, hold each other accountable, and look after one another’s interests.
vi. Community of Hope
Society has lost hope in its pessimism and skepticism. We need to be “indwelled” in the gospel, the story of life an hope. This story needs to shape our live and how we live.
2 in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. 3 No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. 4 Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. 6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. 7 Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD .
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we alone can offer hope as God’s people, proclaiming the good news.
As a church we need to begin by being an authentic community. It is only then our gospel message will be received as a legitimate and real call to those who are lost that God has a plan of redemption for them. As we learn how to live in a legitimate fashion, we MUST do this within our culture. So next we will begin to examine our Culture in order to understand how to communicate the good news to them.