Thursday, June 01, 2006

J&C 4: It Starts with the House of God

Missionary activity often takes its impetus from the Gentile mission detailed in Acts, a much easier starting point for explanation than Jesus’ own conduct with the Gentiles. He didn’t deliberately seek them out, and instructed his disciples to confine themselves to the lost sheep of Israel (17). The post-resurrection commissioning of Matthew 28:18-20 sanctions a universal impulse, and I can envision the resurrection as the verification and accomplishment of Jesus’ programme of gathering God’s people, to be propelled outwards as a salvific community. Jesus’ focus on Israel didn’t indicate a retreat, nor a lack of universal spectrum, but was the presupposition for the universalized mission which would come after him (137).

I’m also inclined to think that there’s also a valuable precedent here for our own communities, particularly churches in transition. Renewal begins within the people of God, and it’s crucial that we rediscover our identity before moving outwards, particularly when we’re in flux. I tend to be a go-getter, always looking for the church on the move, and pushing continuously in that direction, so I don’t instantly think in this fashion, yet the value of concentration for a season on a community’s quality of life (with the intent of synchronizing our proclamation, activity, and relational rhythms) makes a lot of sense to me.

Love Lohfink’s words on 138:

Christian efforts to transform the world…[do] not correspond to the New Testament unless [they] have [their] basis in the people of God. The world can be changed only when the people of God itself changes. It is not possible to liberate others unless freedom radiates within one’s own group. It is not possible to preach social repentance to others unless one lives in a community which takes seriously the new society of the reign of God.

3 comments:

Scott J. Pearson said...

I'm just reading during a work break. At the risk of sounding deterministic, doesn't renewal begin not with the house of God but with God himself? Isn't the goal of Christian renewal not the pastorate/leadership flogging the church into revival but equally seeking after God together? As a pastor, one has to be communal, but is it necessary to preach that same doctrine to the people? Can't the people have their individual consciences seek after God for themselves?

work said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
work said...

(After catching a typo in my first draft)

Scott,
Got me on the first one; the activity of the spirit of God, moving ahead of us, is the prime factor that I'd skipped over. We live in response to God's initiative; without that, whatever we do is futile striving.

As for the questions which follow, my church experience has not been that of leadership flogging the church into revival, so I can't really speak of it with much conviction; I'm sure it happens, and that i've been in contexts where it's gone on, but it hasn't been my dominant reality, particularly over the past three years. My world has been that of individuals in a church going in many different directions, with dreams and desires for ministries that they can run, but not really operating as a community. (ie: we're so focused on our specialized ministries and outreaches that we neglect the very real needs within our own church, and serve the poor outside while neglecting the needy within. Major credibility problem.)

When it comes to disjointed churches, granted, God can and does bless scattershot activity, but pragmatically speaking, the potential for sustainable impact is minimal if that energy isn't harnessed in a focused direction, in line with a community's calling and particular identity.

That's where I see the role of leadership, specifically when it comes to missionary activity: bringing the already-energized faith-community together to move in the direction that God seems to be guiding the church, and which is coherent with who the people of God understand themselves to be.

I really believe that the whole of a community, not just the pastor, has to be communal, and that not preaching as much is dangerously close to the clergy/laity divide, which has, IMO, crippled the church. Certainly people can seek after God in private, but our identities are forged in relationship and community, and teaching focused primarily upon the individual neglects that. Particularly in our society, where individualism (and consumerism) are so ingrained, the communal aspects need be emphasized in counter-balance if the pendulum's going to swing anywhere close to the center (individual within community).

That said, I do appreciate your reading and interaction with these thoughts, as well as in years past. It hit me this weekend that if not for meeting you when i did, I likely wouldn't have walked the road I've walked, particularly when it comes to thinking through the faith and arriving where I have at this point. Thank you, Scott; I'm grateful for the role you've played in my life, and it's been for the better, in part due to your friendship.

I do welcome further interaction/dialogue about this stuff, even if i'm a bit slow to respond and initiate. Thoughts?