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The Mission of the Kingdom 2/3

Here is the second part of three:

Settling in. The church was born. In time the movement developed systems to transfer their vision, songs and creeds gave language to basic theology, buildings and teachers reinforced the message, slowly the movement became a community and then an institution. The first believers faced anger and mistrust, many were killed, others recanted, some ran. Everyplace they ended up, the followers of Christ would dream dangerous dreams. They dared to ask what the world could look like if everyone made everyday decisions between the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Caesar.

The historical story of this body reveals moments of wild success as well as dramatic failure in their mission, often it happened at the same time. Great social oppression as well as great political acceptance each carried painful compromises. Sometimes the problem was from within, their mission was at times ignored and forgotten, its leaders grasped for power in the name of the kingdom, the church made horrific mistakes, and blamed it on others.

Still it stumbled along, voices from the centre called out to the margins. Power was laid down. Everyday people made the little choices that would reject Caesar and attempt to live the new kind of kingdom. The mission carried on: people believed in the dream of the kingdom enough to act as though it exists, and continue to find others peculiar enough to join the movement. The cycle of passion, settling in, discontent and then renewal continued and still carries the Mission forward.

Discontent. Every generation is newly made aware of how simply the Mission of the Kingdom (and the Church) can be forgotten, or consumed by caring for the needs of the institution. At times the mission gets sidelined and rather than existing as the purpose of the church, it becomes a program of the church. It sits alongside the youth or kids club as a line item on the budget.

When Personal Spiritual Development became the Mission of the church, missions became activity. Noble and Excit!ng opportunities for Western Christians to practice and perfect their personal spiritual growth. In subtle as well as significant ways, Mission can be reduced from inviting others into the kingdom way of Christ, into a tool for pastors to use in promoting lordship development in parish members – the problem may be, that as a tool, it works too well!

It is natural, reasonable and even commendable thing to value and promote the spiritual development and care of people. Yet, while this goal is understandable, Mission as Program does pose a problem.

This “missions for the benefit of me”, has lead to the critique by some that perhaps the majority of recent missions dollars we spend is actually money spent on ourselves. There are legitimate concerns regarding the effectiveness or ethical responsibility of naming this ‘tourism with a purpose’ as the mission of the church.

Is mission really intended to be more for the one going than the one receiving? Some suggest that a trip is 80% for the participant and 20% for the host culture, others suggest an obverse in that relationship with the 80/20 reversed. Some suggest a 50/50 split is more equitable. 60/40?

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I will get the third and final section up soon.  Any thoughts so far? I love a comment or two …

Mark Crocker

December 17, 2008

3 responses on "The Mission of the Kingdom 2/3"

  1. Profile photo of Mark Crocker

    Great thoughts! I tend to think that the message of Jesus, when boiled down, tended to be a simple message of relationship. Initiating and growing a healthy relationship with God and others (Love God, Love Others).

    If all of Jesus’ words and works are viewed through that lens, then that helps me focus on the activity of mission. Mission for me is engaging with equals in such a way that we can share our existing, relevant, real and authentic relationship with God. No ulterior motive or agenda.

    It is ‘love, care and mercy’ … but those terms cannot exist in a vacuum. They do not exist as concepts or mere words, they do not exist when merely spoken. As nouns they are not truly real, but as verbs … Incredible!

    Love care and mercy must be practiced. In the various Missions that God inspires us to join him in, sometimes sharing our loving and authentic mission will take place while using our words (proclaiming a message) urging people to the cause! At other times, Mission exists only through our actions (the fruit of our lives), engaging in issues of injustice, humbling ourselves, taking less so others may have some.

    Mission is never simply social work, nor simply articulating a theological standard in such a way that people cannot argue their way out of a brilliant thesis …

    Beautiful Mission tends to be far more holistic, organic, and relational (but maybe that is just the West Coast speaking ..)

    Attempting good international mission is not for the faint of heart, nor the lazy. Failure in this IS an option, and in fact, is a fairly common reality. For every story of bad mission you can tell me, I could tell you 10 more, it is time to take this seriously and promote some best practices.

    Mission preparation is of course what I spend my life doing. I value it incredibly, and I know that I help people out when I do so. Still, I would rather see the poor, uneducated, inappropriate, awful first attempt, than to hear the excuses that keep people from trying.

    Even Mission that fails is still often uncommonly beautiful in the attempt IF it is attempted in humility.

  2. Maybe the reason the mission failed was due to its implementation, not its motivation. A mission can still fail even with wanting the full success to go to the glory of God. Perhaps going to a country, money in hand, facing language barriers and other frustrations are due to lack of preparation. The acts of researching with other churches/NGO’s/business for the right partner on the field, building trust with that partner before arriving and of course, having a translator to better understand what kind of organization the money could be left with would have met with better success.

    Money isn’t the way to get people’s attention to turn to God. It’s a quick fix that nations will depend upon and even at times pretend to appreciate if it provides a means to obtain basic necessities, better health and less disease. Love, care, and mercy, shown through direct and constant interaction, will reveal God.

  3. I would say that the mission is always 100% for the glory of God and for nothing else. If Missions become a way of fixing a social problem and not about glorifying God things will go very wrong. I have a friend who found that out the hard way, bringing money to a third world country that was given to them by people who wanted nothing to do with the gospel only to give money as a charitable donation. The money ended being used for something else. There was a language barrier and there was huge misunderstanding. In the end the gospel was not preached and a horrible discovery found that this organization was exploiting and abusing women and children in order to get money from people in America. The hardest thing was realizing that even though social justice was being done, it was void of the message of Jesus.
    those are my thoughts.

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