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Let's Reform Christian Missions

Let’s reform Christian missions. One day, our family was together in the car and my father happened to mention a problem with one of the missionaries serving in our mission.  My older brother commented, ‘It seems that the only requirement to be a missionary is to be able to crawl across the border!’  After many years of missionary work on different continents, that once humourous comment from one little boy to his family has continued to ring in my ears.  Crawling across the border seems, at times, a higher requirement for missions when the requirements seem to be: (1) are you a Christian?, (2) do you ‘feel’ called?, and (3) have you raised your support?  I would like to focus on reforming missions with respect to theological education and mission training--one of several topics for reforming missions in our day.  (And I know there are exceptions to comments made here, with some great examples of good practice.) I think, for example, of the Cambridge seven—missionaries at the end of …

Ministry, Not Leadership: The Call to Renunciation

One of the differences between understanding Christian ministry as ministry versus leadership is that ministry in Scripture is thought of in terms of renunciation.Since the 1980s, the language of ‘leadership’ has largely replaced the language of ‘ministry’, at least in Protestant, Evangelical circles.My purpose here is to explore one way in which a call to ministry is not a call to leadership.  It involves renunciation, not the acquisition of authority.
When Jesus called his first disciples, Luke tells us that they ‘left everything and followed him’ (5.11).Later, as a follow-up after Jesus’ challenging words to the rich man who sought eternal life, Peter said to Jesus that he and the other disciples had ‘left everything and followed’ him (Mark 10.28; Matthew 19.27).Similarly, Jesus affirms a model for ministry that involves renunciation.In fact, all who would be disciples of Jesus were called to a radical renunciation, even of natural relationships if they encumbered one’s following of…

Understanding Romans 3.21-4.25, Part One: The ‘Faith of Christ’

In Romans 3.21-4.25, Paul presents two passages from the Old Testament as proof for his argument that God reckons righteousness to those who have faith in Jesus Christ.I am well aware that this simple statement needs to be argued point by point, since alternative, scholarly views have been presented and because those using English translations will struggle to see some of the points.Here I take up the first point in the phrase from above ‘to those who have faith in Jesus Christ.’ Does Paul argue that righteousness comes through our faith in Jesus Christ or through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ?This issue has long been noted—before the so-called New Perspective on Paul.The issue arises, first, because the syntax of the Greek could go either way: pistis Christou (or variations of this) could mean (1) faith in Christ (translating the Genitive as Objective) or (2) faith of Christ/faithfulness of Christ (translating the Genitive as Subjective). Since the issue will not be decided by Greek…

The Need for Church 'Leaders'?

The following conversation was heard somewhere in central Florida on a rainy afternoon under an awning at a soda fountain. Mickey: So, as I understand it, you think the Church needs leaders? Donald: Yes. Mickey: And you think that what we need to do is train more leaders for the Church? Donald: Yes. Mickey: Is a teacher of the Scriptures a leader?Let us say, a Bible professor? Donald: Yes. Mickey: Is this Bible professor a leader because he has been taught how to lead or because he has been taught the Bible and can now teach the Bible to others? Donald: Because he has been taught the Bible. Mickey: Then, being a leader is irrelevant to the Bible professor.He does not need leadership training.He does not need to know how to run a business or corporation.He does not need to know how to be the president of a country.He simply needs to know his Bible and how to teach it. Donald: Why, yes, I suppose so! Mickey: Is a pastor a leader? Donald: Oh, yes. Mickey: Is he a leader because he has been taught how…

Is Diversity a Christian Virtue?

It is no surprise that many Western Christians have hopped onto the ‘diversity train’; it is yet another example of Christians being shaped by culture rather than shaping culture.The morality of tolerance of Postmodernity has morphed into the morality of diversity, multiculturalism, and inclusion in Western Tribalism.
The meaning of the terms ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’, of course, goes further for the culture than it does for culture-laden, Western Christians.The culture enshrines the diversity of non-binary identity, homosexuality, and transgenderism.It celebrates the inclusion of non-Christian religions if they undermine Christianity, and then it celebrates secularism over against any religion.Intersectionality crowns individuals with the greatest number of minority identities.Western woke culture opposes borders, loathes its own history, assumes that the ‘other’ is better, and it believes that any love of one’s own way of life is some sort of fascist nationalism.It pursues multicul…

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…

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 …