26 February 2006

The Continuing Conversion of the Church (1)

The first chapter of CCotC is entitled "Mission and Evangelism: the Emergence of the Theological Challenge". In it, Guder recounts:
  • The rise of optimism in the modern age. The wonders of science, technology, democracy, Western culture, and the Christian social gospel, and the progress and spread of all of these, would surely (it seemed) save us from all ills.
  • The gradual disestablishment of Christianity as the "official" religion of Western societies (aka the end of "Christendom"), accompanied by the adaptation of Christian theology to harmonize it with modern rationalism. This lead directly to the polarization of Christian thought into "fundamentalist" and "liberal" extremes.
  • The creation of the categories of "mission" and "evangelism" as programs of the church as Western culture encountered other cultures and sought to bring them the Gospel - along with Western culture itself.
  • The emergence of "mission", as in the missio Dei or "mission of God", as a major topic of theological inquiry, after the terrible atrocities of the 20th century ushered in the failure of modern optimism and the dawn of the postmodern era. If Christian "mission" was not merely the export of glorious Western Christian culture, what was God's mission?
  • The growing awareness of "evangelism" as being, biblically, at the heart of mission, and also at the heart of Christian discipleship itself.
Toward the end of this first chapter, Guder gets to the heart of where he's going with his book (p. 26):
If the Christian community is to carry out its mission of gospel witness, then its evangelization will be directed both to itself as well as to the world into which it is sent. We need to free our language and our thinking from the idea that evangelistic ministry is only directed to nonbelievers. The New Testament is...addressed to believers from beginning to end, and it evangelizes at every turning. Evangelizing churches are churches that are being evangelized. For the sake of its evangelistic vocation, the continuing conversion of the church is essential.
So where does Guder go from here? Tune in next time....


Matthew Celestine said...

Sounds rather interesting.

Cori said...

Hi Michael. I followed you through from P3T3RK3Y5's blog ... I really like what you write. As I commented on P3T3RK3Y5's blog, I visited Emergent No for the first time yesterday and was amazed to read how threatened some of the mainstream church is by the emergent movement and one thing specifically mentioned in the very long article posted there is a critique of 'the conversion of the church vs the conversion of the sinner'. But I so agree with you/Guder that most of what was written about in the NT seemed directed within the church (especially all the letters), and so much Jesus seemed to hate went about the church leaders, the Pharisees, and not those outside the church at all. We're so used to being moralistic and self righteous that I think we've forgotten how to actually be salt and light! Anyway, thanks for a great blog.

Mike Croghan said...

Thanks, Cori! So you're from South Africa? I was at the Gospel and Our Culture Network consultation in Minnesota last October, and there was a big contingent from South African churches there - they were about the only ones not from North America. I got the impression that a lot of the churches in South Africa are really running with the Missional Church ideas. I'm going to start keeping an eye on your blog - great to "meet" you! :-)