Saturday, October 31, 2009

Misso Dei - "Mission of God"

Basilica Di S. Vitale - Byzantine Mosaic Ravenna, Italy circa 548

"As the Father has sent me, so I send you." John 20:21

Missional reorientation - the biblical message of mission is radical, and much more transforming that we have traditionally allowed it to be.....the church of Jesus Christ is not the purpose or goal of the gospel, but rather its instrument and witness.

Ecclesiocentric approach of functional Christendom - has made missions only one more of the many programs of the church and this church centered approach is alive and well in North American congregations - collecting funds and sending them off to genuine mission enterprises elsewhere - rather than viewing the entire congregational budget as an exercise in mission.

Reorientation of theology - has been necessary to help us see that the church is God's instrument for God's mission and the definition of "church" itself continues to present challenges as new faith communities form to prophetically challenge the dominant cultural dynamics and accept their vocation to proclaim the hope, the message and the demonstration of the inbreaking reign (Kingdom) of God in Jesus Christ.

Fundamental affirmations of this missional hermeneutic include:
  • a missional ecclesiology that is biblical where scripture functions authoritatively
  • a missional ecclesiology that is historical - is part of our catholicity (global universality) as we are guided by the church in all its cultural expressions, including those that precede us and those that are contemporary with us
  • A missional eccelsiology is contextual - there is only one way to be church and that is incarnationally, within a specific setting as the gospel is translated into surrounding culture
  • A missional ecclesiololgy is eschatological - the church and its doctrine is not static, but developmental and dynamic, moving toward God's promised consummation of all things
  • A missional ecclesiology can be practiced - and translated into action as the function of all theology is to equip the church for its calling to - "make disciples of all nations..."
Body of Christ - no accident that the church is called the "body of Christ" as it continues as an incarnate expression of the life of God...and no less than for Jesus, this necessitates that the church always takes particular form, shaped according to the context in which it lives....leaving the church never finished, settled or permanent incarnation...its vocation is to live faithfully, to the gospel in a fully contextual manner

Missional faith community - finds expression in a number of different organizational arrangements.....formations of particular communities began in Jerusalem, Samaria, Antioch, Asia Minor, Greece and homes, assemblies in rented halls, riversides or synagogues... with the ecclesial practices beginning immediately, and the structures for continuing Christian witness emerging, borrowing from the cultural context for regular meetings for worship, instruction, and mutual encouragement highlighted by diverse patterns of celebration.

Diverse structural forms - existed as these faith communities each embodied an expression of the one people of God formed by the Holy Spirit to be witness to Jesus Christ...and the structure of connectedness was likewise diverse but present in their common vocational calling.
The challenge is to enable the missional community to function faithfully in its specific cultural context with the structures incarnating the message in its setting.... "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35

Reign of God - the church is the sign, foretaste, instrument, and agent of God's inbreaking Kingdom and the goal is to organize the church in ways that will enable it to "represent God's reign as its community, its servant, and its messenger." The church finds itself living out the tension between what God has already done and what God has promised to do...with a continual need for confession, renewal, and change.....a continual conversion of the church.

Apostolic instruction - church's task in every culture is to find the visible structural form that is worthy of its calling to be the witness to Christ in that particular place...a faithful response to the gospel, appropriation of the Spirit's empowering gifts for continuing ministry, and the dynamic translation of the gospel into the structure and functions of the community.

Basic form of particular community - is a gathering company of followers of Jesus called by God's Spirit and joined together as God's people in a particular place where this happens concretely in the joining together to worship, to grapple with the Scripture, to be instructed in the faith, to love each other, and to practice the rule of Christ corporately and individually.

Challenge - is to become a missional community, with continual reform and transformation and the resources of the Holy Spirit to guide ongoing structural innovation and to practice radical hospitality that welcomes into the centered community people who are at all stages of response to the gospel...not establishing levels of spiritual status or a spiritual elite.

Overarching sense - of church life is that of a pilgrim people, a movement toward God's promised fulfillment....and the community itself is continually being converted as it follows Christ. Membership can't be defined in terms of achievement, or completion, or having arrived...there is ongoing growth, and a covenanting process.

Calling at Pentecost - what Peter calls a "race, priesthood, nation, and people" (1 Peter 2:9-10), a worldwide multicultural fellowship of witness....a universal community of communities with the particular community in essence, an expression of the church catholic....a common bond, a relationship that is part and parcel of their vocation and their faithfulness.

Reformation - supplemented the "classic marks of the church" from Nicea in the 4th century, with its definition of the "true church" in terms of basic functions: where the Word is preached, the sacraments administered, and Christian discipline as adverbs rather than adjectives...the church's missional ministry is unifying, sanctifying, reconciling and proclaiming, with a focus on the dynamic work of God's Spirit in and through the church, rather than dwelling on abstract concepts defining the church.

Sent church - can't let the need to maintain itself organizationally eclipse the mission for which it is called and equipped - faithfulness to the original apostolic authority which means reconciling, sanctifying, and unifying ways it demonstrates the love of God through the rule of Christ.... further the catholicity, holiness, and unity of the church are rooted in and formed by its apostolicity.....these marks express the sent-ness of the church; they describe what this sent community does and how it does it.

Missional community - is catholic when its way of serving Christ is appropriate to the gospel, while modestly recognizing that it is not the only way to be a Christian community...its way of being contributes to the reconciling of the entire church by focusing on the center of the gospel: the person and work of Christ, the hope of the gospel, the promised inbreaking of God's rule already begun in the apostolic mission. God's Spirit (the Sanctifier) works through the community's witness to heal the broken creation, to extend the salvation that Jesus accomplished on the cross.

Holiness demonstrated - in the ways that it practices forgiveness, fostering healing and reconciliation, makes peace, loves righteousness, and walks in Jesus' footsteps...translated into concrete service to the poor, the marginalized, and those subject to injustice....the community makes holy as it lives out the gospel in all its organizational processes, internally and externally.

Servus servorum Christi - missional thrust of the covenant means that we understand ourselves as servants of our companions in the centered congregation....Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is the model of ministry for the covenant community....redefine oneself within the community as a "servant of the servants of Christ"

Missional ecclesiology - must clearly identify and resist all attempts to equip the church merely for its maintenance and must reject every proposal to restore the trappings and privileges of Christendom

Gospel of the inbreaking reign of God - must be upheld as the sole criterion of the particular and connecting structures of the church....that gospel requires of the church that it be open to surprise, to testing, to suffering, as well as to the blessing of joy and peace....

Highlighted from Missional Church - A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America edited by Darrell L. Guder

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