19 March 2006

The Continuing Conversion of the Church (3)

Chapter three of CCotC is entitled "Mission as Witness". In it, Darrell Guder argues that the essential character of the mission of the followers of Jesus is to be his witnesses. To begin to explain what this means, I think I need to quote the first paragraph of this chapter in full.
What makes the gospel truly good news is the fact that the Jesus events are the outcome of God's loving decision to heal the broken creation. We have described this as God's mission. To demonstrate divine love, God brought about salvation for all creation in the death of Jesus on the cross. That joyful message is now to be made known to all the world. That is how God's mission now continues. The center or core of the missio Dei is evangelization: the communication of the gospel. Carrying the good news across all borders and into all the world is an essential part of the kingdom message which Jesus brought and embodied. Jesus Christ intended the mission of the apostolic faith community as the necessary consequence of God's redemptive work for all creation, which was accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection. "A clear line of connection can be drawn between the sending of Jesus and the sending of his disciples: as Jesus reflects in his actions the goodness and righteousness of his Father, who send him into the world, so his disciples become witnesses and the image of Christ to those to whom Jesus sent them.
  • The New Testament is fundamentally a missionary document; it does not "explicitly command the church to do mission - it assumes that mission is what these communities are all about. Although the Great Commission in Matthew 28, along with the other post-resurrection statements of Jesus in the Gospels and Acts, present Jesus explicitly sending his followers, these are an affirmation and validation of what these disciples were already doing, since the beginning of the church.
  • "The early Christian communities understood themselves to be witnesses to what God has done. The earliest evangelization was that done by eyewitnesses...." "It is fundamental to the goodness of the 'joyful message' that it can be witnessed, experienced, reported on,and passed on so that others might join in the experience." "The New Testament cluster of terms based on the root for 'witness' (martyr-), in a broad diversity of forms and nuances, defines comprehensively the missional calling of the church in the New Testament."
  • The language of witness - of being witnesses, rendering the testimony of a witness, and giving/bearing/living out witness - permeates the New Testament, especially the letters of Paul, the Gospel of John, and the book of Acts.
  • "The essence of witness...is the gracious action of God that produces such witnesses and their testimony." This commission as witnesses "comes from outside ourselves and is, in fact, a constant surprise for us. It is the result of God's initiation of God's mission."
  • Witness is theocentric, Christocentric, and pneumatological. Witness is to God's saving activity in Christ's incarnation, death, and resurrection, and is enabled and empowered by the Spirit.
  • Witness is historical, "based on unique and particular events that have universal importance as history continues."
  • Witness is eschatological. "The missionary message is that the kingdom of God is near, breaking in, present and active in Jesus Christ, and yet to come in all its fullness."
  • Witness is ecclesiological. "God's people are called and equipped for witness as particular communities whose lives and actions are a continuing demonstration of their message.
  • Witness is multicultural and ecumenical. "Witness is spread throughout the world as the mission community translates the Gospel into every culture."
OK! Having established the centrality of mission and evangelism in Chapter One, the surprising expression of God's mission as Good News in Chapter Two, and the fundamental identity of Jesus' followers as those who are, do, and say his witness in Chapter Three, we move beyond foundations into Part Two of the book: "Challenges". And the challenges flow right out of the last bullet-point above: the absolutely necessary process of translation required as these witnesses spread the Gospel and translate it for each new culture. How does this cause challenges? Find out next time....


Cori said...

Really enjoying Gruder, thanks. Just saw that you've linked me on this blog: I'm not really an 'emerging leader' or any kind of leader at all. In fact, I'm rather obscure on the emergent scene in SA - just starting to get acquainted with it. You may want to change that. But thanks for linking me :-)

Mike Croghan said...

Not a leader? That's not the impression I get from here:


and here:


In fact, the first sentence on the Emergent Africa page states categorically that Emergent Africa is a conversation among leaders. You're engaging (quite notably) in the conversation, ergo you're a leader in my book. :-) I think I'll leave the link as is.

(Perhaps your leadership is emerging just like the church you're a part of!)

Cori said...

Thanks :-)