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