Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Theology of Missions: Part 6 - Conclusion

        For the missionary, it should be comforting to know that the Bible itself is a missional book. A missional reading of the Bible is, therefore, necessary to understand God’s plan for Israel and the world. The hard work and years invested on the mission field will not have been in vain. As leaders in local churches, it is critically important to understand mission theology and that God is mission-oriented. 
        If God is mission-oriented, then the church should be as well. It is up to the leadership in local churches large and small to bring this understanding to our congregations. Through this understanding, the laity in our pews will not only appreciate the efforts of those on the mission field but are far more likely to enthusiastically support with their time and treasure.
        How can the people of the world believe in the living God unless they have heard about him? And how will they hear about Him unless someone goes to where they are and tells them about the living God (Rom. 10:14)? It is through the contemporary church joining hands with those who went before us in continuing the efforts to reach the world for Christ.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Theology of Missions: Part 5 - Two Key Motifs

Mission Theology: Two Key Motifs
        A motif is a recurring element in a story that has significance. For our purposes here, motif is defined as a recurring idea that reinforces central biblical themes.[1] As specifically related to mission, there are a number of such themes that are easily identifiable. Here a brief discussion of two such motifs follows.
Motif One: Jesus
        Simply put, the Christian faith is not centered on prophets or clever sayings or the writings of wise people of old. The Christian faith is centered on the unique person Jesus Christ. Jesus embodies truth and is ultimate truth disclosed by God.[2] Jesus is central to Christianity and to the missional focus that is part and parcel to our faith.[3] When Christians want to better understand mission in His name, we turn to Jesus. It is Jesus who calls people to Himself and then sends them out to make disciples (evangelism), commands His people to obey all that He taught during his earthly ministry (discipleship), and inspires His people to keep their focus on God while living lives that bring honor and glory to Him (salt and light).[4]
Motif Two: The Return of Jesus
        The second coming of Jesus should have a tremendous impact on the way God’s people practice mission and think about missionary theology. The catastrophic events described in Scripture that will occur in the end times should drive the behavior of the church as it relates to the reaching out to the lost in the present. This has been true throughout history and will remain so until Christ returns. The fact that there are people who will spend an eternity separated from Christ should inspire evangelism which is God’s response to the fact that there are people who are separated from Christ.[5] Further, the certainty of the return of Christ should provide Christians with the motivation necessary to continue steadfastly in discipleship efforts. Finally, the return of Christ should enable Christians to persevere as salt and light in a dark, lost world remembering that after the old world has passed away, there is a new world to come.[6]

[1]  Moreau, A. Scott, R. Corwin Gary, and Gary B. McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004)  79.
[2] Winter, Ralph D., and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader (4th ed.). (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1981, 1992, 1999, 2009), 184.
[3] Moreau, Gary, and McGee. (2004), 79.
[4] Ibid, 81-82.
[5] Ibid, 85.
[6] Ibid.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Theology of Missions: Part 4 - Mission Theology and Other Aspects of Theology

Mission Theology and Other Aspects of Theology
        Through the centuries, Christians have done a good job in their messianic reading the Scriptures but have done a very poor job of our missional reading of them.[1] When Christians read the Old Testament messianically, we can easily see the Christological and eschatological fulfillment of the text in the person of Jesus Christ. However, in the quest to note the fulfillment of certain Old Testament prophesies, Christians fail to go any deeper in our study because we have failed to properly understand the missional importance of the Messiah.[2] A missional reading of Scripture, therefore, is necessary to understanding God’s mission for Israel for the blessing of all nations.
        A simple definition of Christology is the study of the person and work of Jesus Christ.[3] The Apostle Peter first noted that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah (Matt. 16:16; Mark 8:29) which is at the heart of Christianity. However, it was John who begins his gospel with the preexistent Logos who was with God and was God (John 1:1-2). Using the Old Testament concept of Logos (Word) and wisdom, John identifies Jesus as the agent of creation (John 1:1-3; cp. Gen. 1:1; Ps. 33:6-9), the agent of revelation (John 1:4; cp. Gen. 12:1; 15:1; Isa. 9:8; Jer. 1:4; Ezek. 33:7; Amos 3:1), eternal (John 1:1-2; cp. Ps. 119:89), and the great agent of redemption (John 1:12; cp. Ps. 107:20).[4]

        To say the Bible is all about Jesus Christ should not inspire Christians to find Jesus in every single passage in the Old Testament through some creative reading of the text. Most scholars would agree that this would simply be poor biblical hermeneutics. What this should stir Christians to understand is that the person and work of Jesus Christ is the hermeneutical key to the text of both Testaments.[5] Simply put, Christ provides the lens through which the whole Bible should be read.

        The same is true of the mission theology of the Bible. A missional reading of Scripture does not mean there is something relevant to missions in every verse we read. There is a deeper, missional meaning of the Bible. The Bible is rightly seen in its entirety that begins with the very existence of the Bible itself as a revelation of God and the story about who God is, who His people are, the whole world and the future. In short, the Bible is missional in nature and should be read as such.

        The biblical doctrine of last things, eschatology focuses on the return of Jesus Christ at the end of the age, the coming judgments, the kingdom of God, the nature of the glorified body, and the eternal destiny of mankind.[6] Eschatological material abounds throughout the Old Testament. This is especially so if one considers all of the messianic prophesies to be eschatological in nature. Isa. 9:6-7; Dan. 9:25; Ez. 36 – 48; and Zech. 13:1 are but a few passages of Scripture in the Old Testament that are clearly eschatological.

        In the New Testament, Jesus personally tells of the end times. The Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24 – 25) and a discourse known as the Little Apocalypse in Mark 13 capture a great deal of what Christ had to say about the devastation and upheavals to come in the end times.[7] Additionally, the Apostle Paul touched on eschatological issues such as the glorified bodies the saints will receive (1 Cor. 15) God’s program with the Jewish people in the last days (Rom. 9 – 11). Then there is the book of Revelation which is eschatological from almost the beginning of the book.[8]

        As with Christology, the fact that eschatological themes abound throughout both the Old and New Testaments does not mean that every passage of Scripture has an end times meaning waiting to be discovered by the reader. Rather, the missional nature of the Bible and the fact that human history is unfolding in a way that will conclude with the end times should inspire Christians to take up the missions challenge and go to the farthest reaches of the world to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. The purpose of these eschatological texts is to provide the church with hope as we continue missional efforts until the second coming of Jesus (Titus 2:13).[9]

[1] Wright, Christopher J. H. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 30-31.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Elwell, Walter A., and Phillip Wesley Comfort. Tyndale Bible Dictionary. (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 266.
[4] Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, and Archie England et al. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 285.
[5] Wright. (2006), 31-32.
[6] Brand, Draper, and English et al. (2003), 503.
[7] Ibid, 504-05.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid, 505-06.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Theology of Missions: Part 3 - The Nature of God and Mission

The Nature of God and Mission
        What has been demonstrated thus far is the fact that God works through people to accomplish His purposes. This is accomplished though the sending of His people. It is from this sending that we get the Latin term misseo Dei which means “the sending God”.[1] The central idea here is that God is the one who initiates and sustains mission. This term refutes the idea that the church is the center of mission and is, at best, God’s partner in accomplishing His goals.[2]

        As those being sent into the world to proclaim the gospel, the irreplaceable task of the church is to share the gospel and persuade all the people of the world to become disciples of Jesus Christ.[3] These new disciples ought to be reflecting in their lives, speech, and service the dimensions of the Kingdom of God which was proclaimed to them. As previously discussed, the second coming of is related to this missions effort.[4]

[1] Moreau. (2000), 631.
[2] Moreau, Gary, and McGee. (2004), 17.
[3] Glasser, Arthur F., with Charles E. Van Engen, Dean S. Gilliland, and Shawn B. Redford. Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God's Mission in the Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 26.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Theology of Missions: Part 2 - Scriptures Related to Missions

Scriptures Related to Missions
From beginning to end, the Bible is a missionary book telling the story of God reaching into human history to reconcile a fallen people to Him.[1] This amazing collection of inspired writings has much to say about all facets of human living, worship, and telling others about the Author. The Scriptures that relate to and support missions are many. Here two of the key passages from both the Old and New Testaments are identified.
Old Testament
        The Lord had determined to reach out to a rebellious people through the covenant with Abraham. In Genesis 12:1-3 God sends Abraham to a land that would be shown to him and that through him God would bless all of the peoples on earth. God makes three promises of blessing to Abraham. The first is tied to the land to which God calls Abraham where he will be made into a great nation. The second promise is to make Abraham’s name great. The third promise is that God will bless all of the people of the world through Abraham.[2] It is through this series of promises that the Lord expresses concern for His creation which includes everyone and not simply a select group. Salvation of all people has always been the desire of our Lord.

        That all nations would share in the salvation to come is remarkable especially when one considers the Jewish view of the gentiles in antiquity. Yet it is clear that this is exactly what the Lord planned all along as evidenced in Psalm 47:9.[3] Of course, God reigns over all of creation and sits on His throne but the claim that the princes of the peoples will gather and worship at God’s throne just as the people of Abraham do is amazing. God’s exclusive use of the nation of Israel to accomplish His universal goal of blessing the nations is on full display in these verses.
New Testament
        The need for salvation and that God has a plan to accomplish this has been briefly established with the selection of the Old Testament passages previously mentioned. Now our attention is turned towards two key passages in the New Testament where it is appropriate to begin with the example set by Jesus.[4] In Matthew 9:35-36, Jesus looks upon the people in need of salvation and had compassion on them. He sees us as sheep without a shepherd, helpless and being harassed.[5] It is this example that should be one of the primary motivators for missions in our churches today. Like Christ, when we look out across the world and even parts of our own nation, the helplessness we see and the tremendous need ought to move Christians to compassionately reach out to them, address their physical needs, and share the good news of Christ with them. As love is one of the workings of the Holy Spirit in us, it should be expected that Christians will be motivated to mission by this compassion.[6]

        We are also assured that our missions activity is not in vain. In Matthew 24:14 Jesus tells us that the gospel will be proclaimed as a testimony to all of the nations. There can be no mistake as to the meaning of this passage. The gospel will be proclaimed throughout the entire world before the Lord returns. As this is the case, the church should confidently prepared individuals and resources for mission with the understanding that we are instruments in fulfilling God’s plan for the nations of the world.[7] This verse is of particular importance as it marks the move from the ministry of Jesus to the post-resurrection ministry of His disciples.[8] As in the Old Testament, the universal nature of God’s plan is evident.

[1] Ott, Craig, Stephen J. Strauss, and with Timothy C. Tennent. Encountering Theology of Mission: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 3.
[2] Moreau, Gary, and McGee. (2004), 31.
[3] Moreau, A. Scott, ed. Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 707-08.
[4] Peters, George W. A Biblical Theology of Missions. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1972), 132.
[5] Ott, Strauss, with Tennent. (2010), 177.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid, 186.
[8] Tennent, Timothy C. Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010), 136.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy 4th of July America!

Happy 4th of July! May this day be a day of family and friends while remembering the reason we celebrate and give thanks to those who make it possible. God bless America!

Monday, July 02, 2012

A Whole New Look

I have been toying around with refreshing the blog for quite some time but have been reluctant to do so.  Though my site generally looks pretty good (at least in my opinion), I was unable to use some of the news tools available on this platform unless I upgraded.  Well, I have taken the plunge and been working on the layout and am preparing some additional content.  

Of course, your feedback is always appreciated!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

MUST Ministries Cherokee Campaign

Please consider supporting MUST Ministries as they serve our neighbors in need in Cherokee County!

Theology of Missions: Part 1 - Introduction

**This series began as an assignment for a class at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary**
The notion of sending missionaries out to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ is as old as Christianity itself. In fact, Christ personally sent seventy-two people two by two ahead of him to prepare the way for His arrival (Luke 10:1 ESV).[1] And so it is in our modern times, missionaries are sent to neighboring communities and to the farthest reaches of our world to share the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Churches and mission organizations alike seek to live out the Great Commission to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:16-20).
Missions is the work of the church and other agencies to reach people with the gospel by crossing the cultural boundaries that separate us while mission refers to everything the church does to point towards the Kingdom of God.[2] Many see the Bible as being filled with the idea of mission throughout all sixty-six books, the author included. Regrettably, an assignment of this nature does not lend itself to fully exploring mission in such detail.
Out of necessity, this limited monograph will briefly explore the Scriptures from the Old Testament and the New Testament that relate to and support the idea of missions and missio Dei, mission of God. Next, the nature of God as related to mission is discussed. From there, mission theology is discussed and related to Christology and Eschatology will be briefly treated followed by a closer review of the two key motifs of mission, Jesus Christ and His promised return. Finally, the conclusion will offer the author’s view of mission and remind the reader how Christ is evident throughout both the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures and especially in mission theology.

[1] Crossway Bibles. The ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1975. Some manuscripts are translated as Jesus having sent seventy. Whether the translation is rendered seventy or seventy-two, there is no doctrinal issue at stake.
[2] Moreau, A. Scott, R. Corwin Gary, and Gary B. McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 17.