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Is the Age of the Great Commission Over?

Auteur: EddieArthur
Date: 26.05.2010
Category: Partenariat

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L'original est en anglais

What’s my favourite Bible passage? Thirty years ago as a new Christian full of enthusiasm for what God had done in my life, it was Psalm 40. A few years later when, together with my wife and young children, I was living in an isolated African village, Joshua 1:9 “do not be terrified… for the LORD your God will be with you” became incredibly precious. These days as a trainer and equipper, I find Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 is what gets me out of bed in the mornings. Over the years, God has spoken to me in different ways as my situation changed. But it’s not just for me; He’s done the same for the Church as a whole.

In the early church, the drive for mission and expansion came from Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female”. If God had broken down religious, ethnic and cultural barriers then his people had to do the same thing and reach out into the world. In the age of discovery as European nations opened up trade routes to other parts of the world, the watchword was Luke 14:23 “compel them to come in”. History tells us that sometimes the compelling was far too compulsory!

For the last two hundred years or so, the Great Commission of Matthew 28 has been the driving force for the missionary movement (especially in the Protestant world). “GO! and make disciples…” echoes from pulpits and missionary books around the world and the term ‘Great Commission’ has come to be used as a sign of authentic Christian life. “I’m a Great Commission Christian”. But, has our situation moved on and is God saying something else to us at this point in our history?

When the modern missionary movement started, Matthew 28 was a radical, counter-cultural call to arms. For the most part, the church was self-absorbed and indifferent to the fate of people worldwide (“when God chooses to save the heathen, He will do so without your help or mine”). The call to Go and make disciples wasn’t popular; it meant changing the way things were done. And, of course, people had to go. There were very few Christians outside of Europe and the colonies and to travel long distances to reach people.

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Mots-clés: great commission

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PhContributeBy
Répondre Signaler 0 J'aime Je n'aime pas Jim_Harries (-3)
Kenya

Hi Eddie,

It is good to find your stuff up here at the Lausanne site. Just been listening to your video of ‘why not just teach everyone English’. Thanks.

I think this issue links in with ‘dependency’. Westerners have got used to finding it easy to get ‘converts’ in poor countries these days. They are not always so aware how many of their ‘converts’ are oriented to the money and prosperity of the West.

One thing Western mission has failed to do, is to ‘plant churches’ that are self supporting. Instead, too many of the Western mission efforts have left churches that continue to be dependent on the mother church. No wonder they get nervous if the mother starts to disown them …

Just some thoughts.

Jim


26.05.2010
PhContributeBy
Répondre Signaler 0 J'aime Je n'aime pas besoman (-2)
Nigéria
@ Jim_Harries:

Hi Eddie,


Thanks for your comments in which you suggested that some western missionaries planted dependent churches (paternalism) only to start to "disown" (I wish you had chosen different words) them. Again you talked about a kind of money orientation. It looks to me as if several issues are involved here.


First, I see an incarnation problem. You are stating (and I think you are right) that the Western missionaries failed to incarnate. Christ was so humanly Jewish that up to the present time the Church is having problems proving to the Jews that He is God. Some have brought a money gospel and started projects we cannot sustain only to abandon those projects and cry wolf in the name of dependence. One will not want to make an issue of the difference between poor and impoverished countries.


Secondly and more importantly, should these churches be simply disowned because they are doing what they had been taught to do? It seems to me as if the Western missionaries and their support base at home should think about transition. In Church-Mission relationship, there comes a time when the mission must be handed over. This should be part of the plan from the onset. As the mission grows to leadership development, the relationship should get to a hands-on stage, then a hand over/mentoring stage before a final disengagement. I recommend the relationship between SIM and ECWA in Nigeria. Someone like Mr Bill Foute may be a great resource in this crucial area of development. I have said before that the mission is not accomplished until the convert is actively obeying the last command whic is "go". What’s your opinion?


27.05.2010
PhContributeBy
Répondre Signaler 0 J'aime Je n'aime pas besoman (-2)
Nigéria
@ besoman:

Sorry, I was responding to Jim, not eddie.


27.05.2010
PhContributeBy
Répondre Signaler 0 J'aime Je n'aime pas Jim_Harries (-3)
Kenya
@ besoman:

Hi Mbah,


Thanks for your comments. I was also thinking that my use of ‘disown’ may not have been the best term. But yet, in another sense perhaps it was / is. That is, from experience in Kenya, the local church at times calls on ‘mother churches’ from the West to live up to their responsibilities as if they ‘own’ the African church, then the ‘owner’ is of course responsible for any ‘maintenance’ needed.


I think there are many issues here involved, some of which you very helpfully touch on. ‘Handing over’ has proved notoriously difficult, often (it seems) because that which is to be ‘handed over’ runs in a way that is very difficult for nationals to sustain. I agree that until the planted church is ‘going’, handing over is kind of, incomplete. Nowadays what some are trying to do, is to use resources from Western nations to encourage or enable such ‘going’. I guess such is a ‘mixed bag’ in terms of its true effectiveness.


My own limited experience takes me in a slightly different direction from the conventional one. Let’s say, the ‘conventional approach’ is for those from outside to Africa to set something up, and then in due course try to hand it over. Various things tend to lack – such as finance, ‘political will’ (some call it), perhaps an individualist approach to life (the ability for the manager not to get embroiled in local politics, with a small p), linguistic ability (including ‘pragmatic’) etc. I propose that a ‘new’ approach be that the ‘missionary’ minimise dependence on these things in the first place. The way to do so, is not to engage foreign languages or resources in one’s ministry in the first place. Then what one ‘builds’ almost has to be ‘handover-able’.


28.05.2010
PhContributeBy
Répondre Signaler 0 J'aime Je n'aime pas EddieArthur (0)  
Royaume-Uni

Dear Friend,

Amen, to your comments! Thank you in particular for pointing out that I was writing from a Euro-American perspective. That is very true and I should have mentioned this in the article itself.

I certainly would not wish to imply that the age of mission is over. However, I strongly believe that Western missionaries (people like myself) do need to change their focus and moving away from continually thinking about ’doing’, to thinking about ’being’ might help us to do this.


26.05.2010
PhContributeBy
Répondre Signaler 0 J'aime Je n'aime pas besoman (-2)
Nigéria
@ EddieArthur:

Thanks Eddie. You said Amen, so when are you returning? He laughs! I quite agree with you on the change of focus, mind-set and of course preparation etc. But it seems to me that the change should be towards a more strategically focus ’doing’ without diminishing the ’being’. There can be no ’doing’ without the ’being’. My position is that the ’doing’ has not reached a hand over stage without which syncretism will result (as you can already see). Use the Nigeria CMS, CSM and other English Mission example. These Missions abandoned their work (disowned according to our friend Jim above). It is taking nearly fifty years for the churches they abandoned to stumblingly stand on their own. Compare this with the work of SIM in ECWA and you’ll understand what I mean. thanks again for starting this promising discussion so some of us who cannot afford to come to South Africa can be part of it. 


27.05.2010
PhContributeBy
Répondre Signaler 0 J'aime Je n'aime pas besoman (-2)
Nigéria

Dearly beloved,

Thanks for starting this conversation and I hope the outcome will be enriching as others share their opinion on this all important issue revolving around re-defining the mission of the Church. You did a great job in recapturing the history of Christian missions from a EuroAmerican perspective and pointing to the all important need for a redifinition. However, it seems to me that we may not be quite in agreement especially when you think and suggest that the Age of the Great Commission Over.

If we are agreed that Christ sends us as God sent Him, and I think we agree, then a good place to start, as many are already doing may be to recapture the mission of the father. God made or re-made the earth and decided; "Let us make man in our own image, in our own likeness and let them rule..." So He made a full grown man and a full grown woman and gave them the commission to fill and dominate the earth. He starts them off in a garden that has gold under it and commands them to work it.

If, as the Bible suggests and Elison had captured in His work, Christ will physically rule (and those who had been made to look like Him with Him) from a city that has streets of Gold, which needs no light and which gates are never shut because the glory of the Lord gives it light, can you say that we are done? It is Elison’s opinion (and I agree with him) that the difference between the garden and the city is that of natural development - the gold of the garden was mined to tar the streets of the city. Can we be said to have subdued the earth or do we have dominion over God’s creation?

May be I have gone too far! Christian discipleship is to continue "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" and the Christ we know, in whom the ’fulness of the godhead bodily’ is found, is a full grown man; don’t you think bro., that God may be expecting us, through discipleship, to return to the creative image in Christ and begin the process of having Dominion? And are we done? Are we even in a position to start?

Let’s look at it from another angle. The great commission demands that we go "into" (Mk 16:15) all the world as opposed to go to. It takes hours today as you captured (if you have the funds) to go to anywhere in the world but it is even more difficult now to cross the last eighteen inches from your position before your respondent "into" him to share the gospel in reciever-comprehensible terms. You shared about a man who is just beginning to understand that missionaries are Christians. Do you really think we are done with his culture?

Finally (for now), The commission requires that we TEACH THEM TO OBEY EVERYTHING ... and there is no way we can be done with that until we teach them to obey (observe) the last command which is the "go". Are the converts you were used to bring to the Lord in Africa and everywhere else observing everything that Christ commanded including the "go"? If they are not, please accept my invitation to return and complete your work. Without looking at the number of unreached peoples (those who cannot hear the gospel without outside influence), I strongly believe that there is yet a great need for the proffessional expertriate missionary. Spirit filled, yes but we are far from done.


26.05.2010

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