MISSIO DEI (FOLLOWING JESUS INTO THE WORLD, PT. 1)

[To understand where I’m coming from in terms of Jesus, community and mission, please see my Blog ABOUT… respect to my followers who may not see these issues quite as I do, but let’s at least have an open mind and be prepared to think out of the box]

Top 3 Missio Dei Quotes & Sayings

Recently I’ve been writing on the inward journey into true worship, now it’s time to contemplate the outward journey into a lost world (Jesus certainly believed it was/is: cf. Lk. ch. 15). Worship and witness are inseparable! Consider with me the passage related by the evangelist Mark where Jesus was healing a demon-possessed man (1) who had ‘bowed low before him’ on the far side of Lake Galilee: “As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. But Jesus said, ‘No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.’ So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them” (Mk. 5:1-20, especially v. 18-20/NLT). Another very obvious link between worship and witness is found in Jesus’ ‘Great Commission’ (Mt. 28:16-20). In some ways worship and witness could be compared to believers’ breathing IN and breathing OUT – and these in balanced rhythm. Put another way, we could speak of spiritual input and spiritual output. It’s a case of balance, which is often an elusive target, for me at least!

My esteemed missiology professor, Dr. Ralph Christensen, had the habit of asking his students ‘Where is God??’ After some vague guesses on the part of his students, he would respond ‘God is going into the world!’ The celebrated South African missiologist, Dr. David Bosch, often affirmed that ‘Missiology is the Mother of Theology.’

Recently my wife and I attended a missions prayer-breakfast with Mike Burnard of Dialogos (2). With his blessing I list some of the details he shared…

A) On Displaced People (recall Jesus’ refugee experience in N. Africa: cf. Mt. 2:7-23, 8:18-22). [Have you, or people you know, had such an experience as is happening in Afghanistan right now? I’ve been stranded in foreign countries for a few days once or twice, and that was traumatic enough!]:

  • Approx. 82 million people around the world are displaced at this time, including 35 million children.
  • Most refugees are currently fleeing Syria in the Middle East, S. Sudan and Somalia in Africa, Myanmar in the Far East, and Venezuela in South America.
  • The tiny country of Lebanon, has hosted the most refugees per capita in the World: yes, they live in tents and humble conditions but at least they’re safe. Germany, under Angela Merkel, the daughter of a humble pastor with a heart for the needy, has taken in some 50,000 Syrian Muslim refugees and housed them. A spin-off is that Muslim converts are reviving ‘dead’ German congregations! (3)
  • Mike Burnard has pointed out that while fleeing, these dear folk are most open to receiving the Good News of Jesus. Mike also left us with this pearl of wisdom: treat people like refugees and they will remain refugees – treat them as those made in God’s image and they become the children of God!

B) On Afghanistan.

  • In many ways the hub of the Muslim world. Population: 39 million.
  • The average age is 26. Many of these young adults have only known war in their life-time.
  • We need to pray especially for women (hugely restricted), children and the aged.
  • The only non-Muslim country bordering Afghanistan is China, with whom trade is cherished. You may have heard of ‘The Back to Jerusalem Movement’ mentioned by TIME journalist David Aikman in his ‘Jesus In Beijing,’ referring to Chinese believers’ desire to take the Good News ‘back to Jerusalem’ via the Muslim countries of the Middle East. Mike mentioned a Chinese pastor visiting Afghanistan who was invited to explain the meaning of Christianity to a class of school children. Praise God!

C) On Covid.

  • The pandemic (4 million tragic deaths since March 2020: 38 million have now been vaccinated), among other things, has led to huge poverty and unemployment worldwide. What a ministry- opportunity for the Church in our day. In centuries past the saints were magnificent in serving plague-ridden societies, even when endangered themselves. Is. 6:8’s challenge is to one of obedience, ‘Here am I, send me!’ (Listen to the powerful song at the foot of the page)

D) On South Africa (Mike’s/my home country).

  • 20% of the population suffers daily hunger. 10-20 children die of malnutrition every day.
  • 33% are unemployed. In the Eastern Cape where I live it is nearer 40%!
  • Many opportunities for evangelizing the nations are right on our doorstep, with refugees from Zimbabwe, Somalia and the Far East coming to South Africa.

The task of mission is not only for some believers, e.g. evangelists, ‘career missionaries,’ etc, but for EVERY ONE of us wherever God has placed us (cf. Paul’s sermon in Athens and specifically Acts 17:24-28). You and I as worshipers of the living God are called and privileged to humbly and obediently follow Jesus into his world!

NB. Part 2 considers a ‘must ask:’ what kind of Church is able to complete Christ’s Great Commission in these problematic and unparalleled days? What kind of Church can journey, with God, into his world?? Many are convinced that the traditional, institutional Church as we know her, can never get the job done. So many exciting things have happened since I researched this subject for a Master’s a decade ago. E.g. in Mongolia they’re now talking of establishing heavenly families – I like that immensely, because it all started with God’s divine family (the Trinity) and his first family on earth. Once more we need ‘new wine-skins’ (Mt. 9:16-17) for the application of ancient truth, a mixture of something very new and something very old. A few weeks ago the media reported that, because of global shipping problems, there has been a shortage of glass bottles, which in turn has affected the wine industry worldwide and in South Africa: hence wine has been sitting in barrels for longer, leading to it tasting ‘like a sawmill!’ (not that I would know the difference, lol). Join me for Part 2 soon…

FOOTNOTES:

(1) In my pastoral ministry of close on 50 years, I’ve been confronted with the demonic many times. My experience is not unique but is shared by thousands working on the front-line, especially in Africa, South America and the Far East. E.g. Dr. Michael Cassidy (Cambridge and Fuller graduate), head of African Enterprise for so many years, relates many occasions where he and his team were confronted with ‘evil supernaturalism’ during their evangelistic visits to the major cities of Africa. Certainly Jesus, his disciples and the people of the 1st century AD weren’t unintelligent and naive nincompoops (consider Luke, Paul, etc) as so many ‘clever’ modern/post-modern existentialist scholars would have us believe. Surely it is sheer arrogance on our part to put Jesus of Nazareth and his early followers in some kind of ‘primitive/mythical’ box. He interprets us, not we him! (Prof. Thomas Oden, describing his journey from Bultmann’s ‘demythologization’ of the NT to Christian orthodoxy).

(2) Cf. diaLOGOS at http://www.dialogos.co.za

(3) Here’s another encouragement for those pursuing the organic way. Marcus Rose of Joel News states that 1,000 new house churches have been planted in Germany (of all places) over the past 20 years. Where there’s life, there’s hope. Especially when/where Jesus is around!

(4) For starters, see Howard Snyder’s excellent ‘Radical Renewal: The Problem Of Wineskins Today.’

8 thoughts on “MISSIO DEI (FOLLOWING JESUS INTO THE WORLD, PT. 1)

  1. Great post Erroll. I like the point about the balance and believe that out from a genuine inner relationship with the Lord will flow the genuine outer life. I’m very much looking forward to part 2 as you answer such a great question about what kind of church. Thanks too for that absolutely beautiful song 🎶

  2. Thanks for your confirmation, Donna. And yes, every time I listen to that song I am deeply moved. We have indeed heard God speaking in the night, and his love constrains us to obey (2 Cor. 5:14-15). Cordial greetings!

  3. Thanks Tobie. Miss you, Revien and Bloem family very much also – please greet them on Mel’s and my behalf.

    The Lord be with you in your VITAL school ministry as you follow Jesus into the world!

  4. Thanks Erroll sharing of the need around the world. Not only them, but the undocumented in SA is a tremendous challenge. What a privilege it is to serve them where opportunities exist. And that brings to mind an exhortation by a lady serving at Hands at Work about the poor. I was with a group of boisterous pastors from mostly Francophone Africa. But when this lady started talking about the poor, foreigners, aliens – you could hear a pin drop. Perhaps the Body of Christ needs to consider once again such passages to strike a balance amidst much talk of “God bless me”.

    • Thanks Dean, I know you have a truly missional heart from our sharing over coffee’s, etc. The example of the lady with a heart for the poor and aliens is just too beautiful. God save us from ‘boisterous’ pastors and leaders. In a future blog I hope to relate the story of a quiet elderly lady in N.W. China – what a challenge she was to me personally!
      Bless you and Cheryl in your developing walk with the Lord.

  5. Thanks for this, Erroll, a very vital emphasis. I can’t recall where I read that the danger with churches is that they can become ghettos– closed in on themselves. Like the Dead Sea, which someone else has used to illustrate the same danger. That sea has inflow, but no outflow. It’s good to hear of the “1,000 new house churches” planted in Germany, but think house churches face the same danger as institutional churches in this respect. Perhaps even more so, because they are not out there in public.

  6. ‘House churches’ indeed face the same dangers as institutional churches, agreed Allan. It all depends one’s definition of a ‘house church.’ In Britain, e.g., the house church movement started so well but ended up with ‘ruling elders’ who even told members whom they should marry! Enough said.

    Where the functional head is Jesus Christ himself, and members faithfully exercise the priesthood of believers, charlatans are soon exposed, in fact they give themselves away, even if over a period of time. That has been my experience, anyway. I.o.w. in a healthy house church, because it is smaller, it is almost impossible to ‘hide’… I openly invite our members to keep me accountable as their facilitator/leader, especially as regard to character and teaching and lifestyle. We’ve made mistakes over the past 14 years and no doubt still have much to learn.

    Another safeguard is gathering with fraternals in one’s city. In our local suburban fraternal we keep a very compassionate but discerning eye on one another. The missionaries in our group also keep us on our toes!

    As regards to inflow and outflow, the house church can miss it absolutely. We try to overcome this by regular missions input, attending courses on a regular basis. As an example, in our groups we plan to work through the ‘Interface’ manual provided by ‘Simply Mobilizing’ over the next 6 Sunday mornings or so.

    Of course, this is just my personal and humble ‘take’ on the issues you’ve raised.

    Thank you for your gracious and wise comments as always. Much appreciated!

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