Dan McVey is Missions Coordinator for Africa at the College For Bibilical Studies at Abilene Christian University, in Abilene, TX. He is also a Board Member for Arewa Aid. This is an important essay that calls us to different approaches to missions and our own mission. Hope you enjoy!
Since its birth 2000 years ago, the Way of Jesus Christ has always been a flexible faith, emphasizing allegiance to Jesus Christ as its single most defining characteristic, capable of entering any culture, transforming it and moving in missionary waves to cultures and societies beyond. Christianity always has had shifting centers of influence in its history of expansion. From the Jewish temple and synagogues to the Greek temples and markets, and from the Roman legions and bishops to the Germanic monks and reformers, the Kingdom of Christ has seen gradual shifts in its centers of dynamism, theology and impetus for growth. Another such shift is happening right before our eyes. In shades and hues and now in brilliant flashes of light, the Kingdom of our Lord is expanding into new territories, and our theologies and vocabularies will reflect these changes in years to come.
What we are experiencing has been termed a “New Reformation,” the “Third Church” (Orthodox as the first, Roman Catholic/Protestant as the second, and this emerging World Kingdom as the third), and the “Renewal of Christianity as a Non-western Religion.” We are seeing a changing world, a growing Kingdom and changing expressions of missions. Where is the “mission field?” The word “missionary” has lost most of its traditional meaning (a westerner who travels to foreign fields of service), and is being redefined as cross-cultural servants from anywhere to anywhere under the guidance of the Spirit of God. Migration of believers, vocational missions, and creative access to unreached people are some of the most significant movements in church planting and evangelism.
In this changing world of Kingdom Times, we need new paradigms through which we view the opportunities and calls of God to serve in his world. Questions for the future include: 1) what is our role? 2) what message do we have? 3) what does partnership with God look like in this rapidly changing time? 4) what are our goals in missions? 5) how do we participate in God’s work in reaching the unreached portions of the world? and 6) how is the Spirit of God preparing the coming generations for their roles in these momentous times?
- We cannot continue to “do missions” as we have for the past 20 years. These are different times with different needs and we are different people with the unchanging message of Jesus.
- “The church that lives comfortably in the post-Christendom West is unable to respond to the pain and spiritual need of postmodern generations” (Samuel Escobar). We must reflect on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in sincere/authentic expression of faith in growing communities of faith within our own culture. Furthermore, we must cast long vision into the future of what our own churches are going to look like and how they will function in the coming generational, revolutionary shift of religious expression in North America.
God is raising the bar for those who are called to participate in these Kingdom Times. Fresh looks at simple lifestyle approaches, partnership with emerging churches, and laying aside our fixation on personal safety so that we may target the truly unreached places of the world-these are some of the issues we must address if we wish to be strategic co-workers with God. These are exciting times. These are testing times. Church history abounds with examples of fellowships and movements that were marginalized through political compromise, and submission to overwhelming cultural influences and apathetic disconnection from the needs of the world. Our roles, needs and abilities may see change, but the Kingdom marches on. Some day, as a matter of routine rather than the exception, we will be studying Chinese and African theologians, singing African and Polynesian hymns, and imitating Indian and Korean disciplines of faith. And it will be just fine. We are getting closer to the vision of Revelation 7.9-10 all the time, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'”