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What is the Goal of Missions?

Two goals in missions are often affirmed as non-negotiable.They sound contradictory and can even work against each other.But they are, nevertheless, both wrong in their own right.The first goal is: nationalise (or indigenise) the mission.The second goal is: pursue multicultural identity. The first goal arises out of mission dynamics in the post-colonial era—we might say starting in the 1960s and picking up steam in the1970s.In mainline circles, it was strongly supported as a corollary to decolonisation, liberation, and antipatriarchalism.In other mission circles, it received milder support out of concern to strengthen the local church.It became popular for missionaries to say that they intended to ‘work ourselves out of the job.’Even Paul could be called forward as a witness: did he not say that his goal was to preach the Gospel where Christ had not been named before (Rom. 15.20)?Other reasons might be listed, some from the perspective of the nationals.Do nationals not know the cultu…
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A Process of Punishment vs. A Process of Forgiveness

One of the great developments in our post-Christian, Western culture is the absence of forgiveness.Instead of a process of forgiveness we are left with a process of punishment.The two religions in the world that have put forgiveness at their centre are Judaism[1] and Christianity; what we have replacing them in the West are an unforgiving, postmodern tribalism and, especially in Europe, a growing Islam. At the centre of the Jewish religion in Biblical times was the tabernacle or Temple.The activity of the Temple was worship and sacrifice.Worship was given to the one God who identified Himself—in the very midst of His people’s rebellion and sin—as the God who is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth …

Stay or Leave? Is John 17 Grounds for Staying in Mainline Denominations in Our Day?

In Jesus’ High Priestly prayer to His Father in John 17, he prays for several things, including unity.While anecdotal, it certainly seems that most Christians think of this chapter in John’s Gospel as primarily about unity.This is, however, one of several themes in the prayer.Moreover, the passage is regularly cited in the West as a reason for staying in mainline denominations in our day.Mainline denominations such as the Episcopal Church in the USA or Church of England in the UK, for example, have redefined themselves to such an extent that they promote the culture’s agenda and convictions instead of the historic faith they once affirmed.Thus, it is with some urgency that we ask, ‘Does John 17 offer grounds for those who advocate staying in these mainline denominations in our day?’ In John 17, Jesus says, John 17.11b (ESV) … keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
What is Jesus actually praying in this verse and in the prayer as a who…

What Does It Mean to ‘Learn Christ’ (Ephesians 4.20)? A Comparison of Paul and Plutarch on Learning Virtue

In Ephesians, Paul has an interesting turn of phrase when he speaks of ‘learning’ (manthanō) Christ and being ‘taught’ (didaskō) ‘in’ Him:

Ephesians 4.20-24 But that is not the way you be  learned Christ!— 21assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

The power of Paul’s language can be better appreciated when we see how he is using it over against the alternative in Greek philosophy.When Paul speaks of learning Christ, his concern is ethical.His ethical concern involves not only what the righteous and holy like should involve; it also concerns how a corrupt person with deceitful desires might be renewed and put on the new self.Thus, his topic, as Greek philosophers would say, is, ‘Ho…

The Missionary Call of Christian Counsellors and Pastors in the Post-Christian West

The calling of Christian counsellors and pastors is a spiritual calling and a missionary calling, rooted in the very Great Commission of Jesus to 'teach [disciples of Christ] to obey everything that He has commanded [in the Word of God] (Matthew 28.18-20).  This calling for nurturing ministries such as counselling and pastoring is increasingly difficult in a post-Christian culture that rails against the commandments of God.  Yet nothing is more important than that the Church gives a clear witness to God in such a culture.
There has been a trend in the United States to ban sex change therapy for minors since New Jersey was the first to do so in 2013.The current list of states doing so is: New Jersey (2013), California (2013), Oregon (2015), Illinois (2016), Vermont (2016), New Mexico (2017), Connecticut (2017), Rhode Island (2017), Nevada (2018), Washington (2018), Hawaii (2018), Delaware (2018), Maryland (2018), New Hampshire (2019), New York (2019), Massachusetts (2019), Maine (20…

Is There a ‘Right’ Music for Congregational Singing During Worship?

Answering this question is full of challenges, but I would like to suggest that there is such a thing as ‘right’ music for congregational worship.The question is, ‘Will I, or anyone, convince anyone else about this?’After all, if ‘beauty’ is in the eye of the beholder, and if worship is one’s gift to God, who is to be so bold as to say that this or that is ‘right’?Perhaps the best way to proceed is with a serious of questions that others might explore further.My own understanding of what ‘right worship music’ is will, I hope, come through by how I phrase these questions.I do believe that there are cultural, generational, and personal tastes in music that need to weigh into some of the answers.Yet this does not mean that anything goes—not at all.
So, here are twenty questions that I think are important to answer.In fact, I think that the ‘right’ answers to these questions would lead us to ‘right’ music for congregational singing during worship.The right answers might just revolutioniz…

Early Church Dynamics: Disappointed Enthusiasm or Missional Vigour?

Was there a crisis over a supposed ‘delay’ of Christ’s reappearing—His Second Coming—in the early Church?Did the early Church set itself up one way only to have to reorient itself later in the 1st century when believers’ initial enthusiasm about an imminent return of Christ was thwarted?The purpose of this essay is to challenge the thesis that (1) there was a ‘delay’ in the Church’s thinking about Christ’s return; (2) that this was the catalyst for the development of the Church from a non-eschatological/apocalyptic version of Christianity into a different version, ‘early Catholicism’; and (3) that the early Church maintained views, such as its understanding of Christian teaching (theology and ethics) or its ecclesial structure, that were not compatible with a focus on the question of Jesus’ imminent return.This discussion is of particular concern for missions, as will be shown.It offers a developmental view of the Church in the 1st century that finds disappointed enthusiasm at the cen…