What is the Mission of Christ and the Mission of the Church? There has been much debate in the emerging/missional church conversation about the true nature of Christ's mission, and the mission of the church as we seek to be the community of the Kingdom of God.
Is this mission primarily...
to rescue people from eternal destiny danger by proclaiming a salvation of individual souls available to all through Christ? or
to embody and work for justice and peace for all people? I
Is it even more far reaching than either of these things? Historically, many churches, especially of the evangelical variety, strongly emphasized "mission" at least in part, as working for the salvation of individual souls from eternal destiny danger. This has lead to many further debates about who is really "saved" and opens the door for questions like these: "Are you an exclusivist, inclusivist, pluralist or universalist?" And perhaps more importantly, "is God one (or none) of these?" For more on these terms, See Jason's excellent short post here. Our answer to these questions will have a tremendous amount of influence over how we participate in the activity known as "Evangelism." cont
What is the Good News all About? The word "evangel" meaning literally "good news" is certainly wide in its scope. It seems that this "good news" according to Jesus, has spiritual, as well as, social, and even political connonatations. I think many Christians are re-examining the scope, meaning and emphasis of this "Gospel of the Kingdom" that Jesus and his followers preached. Along with this wrestling, it seems many have called into question long held notions about the role or necessity of traditional evangelism.
Is Evangelism Necessary? In order to help us think about this question, I would like to tell a short story and ask you to consider a few questions with me. While celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary in Hawaii last year, my wife Kristin and I helped keep a couple from drowning at Hanauma Bay. It was surreal. The glare of the very early morning sunshine (we were still on California time) prevented anyone on the beach from noticing a young couple of snorkelers in trouble in a pocket of deeper water. To cries of "help!" and "drowning!" my wife and I responded by swimming toward this couple as quickly as we could. When we got closer, we found a woman face down in the water and her husband, by this time, totally exhausted, who was desperately trying, in vain, to keep her head above the water. Both had abandoned their snorkeling gear which was laying on the sandy bottom about 15 feet below them. My wife quickly turned the woman over on her back and lifted her face, now blue from the loss of oxygen, out of the water while her husband clung desperately to me. Someone high on the cliff above had heard their cries as well and had called the lifeguard station on the beach below. We began to move them toward a more shallow portion of the reef and were eventually met by a lifeguard who had paddled out on a surfboard. With difficulty, Kristin and I helped the Lifeguard place this woman and her husband on the board for a ride back to the beach. The woman was taken immediatly to a hospital by ambulance and we were later told she was alright.
Someone asked me after this experience if I believed that this woman would have drowned had Kristin and I not responded to the need and helped participate (along with many others) in this rescue operation. My honest answer was "I don't know."
Would the lifeguard have gotten there in time? Would someone else have responded? Could the husband have drowned as well as his wife without our help?
The bottom line is: We will never know. Regardless, we both spent the rest of the day filled with joy over the fact that we had been able to help participate in this life saving endeavor. Our being at that place at that time suddenly turned into more than an anniversary celebration or a vacation. We had found that in one moment, our lives had been immersed in a compelling sense of mission that extended far beyond ourselves. I'd like to offer a few questions for your consideration and discussion based on my aforementioned "baywatch hawaii" experience applied to the concept of Evangelism:
1. Is there a need for a rescue mission?Is there an eternal destiny danger equivalent to "drowning;" a condition from which all individual humans need to "saved?" A. Yes B. No C. Other
2. (If yes above) Is it possible for the rescue mission to "fail" if we are not involved?(Some possible responses:) A. Yes, if I don't do my part people will drown B. The Lifeguard Jesus doesn't need my help bringing people to him. He gets to everyone regardless of what I do. C. Some will be "saved" and some won't, but what I do or don't do wont affect the outcome. D. I'm not sure how this all works, but I think my involvement matters and I really want to participate as meaningfully as I can in this rescue operation! E. (Other?)
3. How would having the opportunity to help "rescue" someone affect how you feel about your "Hawiian Vacation?" (Some possible responses) A. "Stupid beginners, let them drown, its one less idiot in the bay. I'm trying to enjoy my vacation here." B. "Uh, I'd like to help but I don't feel qualified, I'll leave it to the professionals, after all, it might not be safe" C. "That vacation would have been great if I hadn't exhausted myself helping those people" D. "I got to enjoy God's creation AND help save a life, what amazing honor, this was the best vacation ever!"
4. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate this Is this analogy? 10 = super helpful, 1 = Lame and waaaayyyy too oversimplified...
How would you answer this questions?