Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mission and missionary

We can either use the term 'missionary' loosely, acknowledging everyone who tell stories about Jesus in some way to someone at some place is in a way a missionary and doing mission work; or we can restrict the word for a particular and specific career or activity which involves much more than just telling people about Jesus.

If one chose the latter, more restrictive definition, then one has to see that Christians are called to be missional but not all are called to be missionary.

If by telling stories about Jesus is being missionary, then it defeats the meaning of the term and blurs those individuals whose vocation and appointment is to serve as full-time and lifetime missionaries, being provided to serve in frontier mission, reaching out to the unreached people. But in any case, these ambiguities are not fatal ones.

On a different note, if ‘mission’ is God’s will, desire and action to call his people out and to establish his rule in the world*, then there are two points I want to make. First, that means missionary work necessarily and hence always entails social, economic, and political changes in the communities the missionaries are working in. But what I have observed in the Tanjung Balai’s church as well as other churches (in Myammar, Thailand, and Malaysia), missionary work is started and confined only to the telling of stories about Jesus and nothing more than that. No tangible changes in the community or the wider society. No talk about bringing God’s social, economic, and political rule into the community.

Secondly I wonder why does the study on ‘mission’ and ‘evangelism’ in missionary schools, seminaries, and theological colleges only emphasize on teaching or equipping missionaries to tell stories about Jesus and stuck at that one part of God’s mission while neglecting the big chunk of equipping individuals to establish God’s rule in the world? Or, the Christian communities in this part of the world do not really think that God’s mission encompasses much more than just telling of Jesus’ story? Or, are we too paralyzed by, and still have not recovered from, post-Christendom and post-colonialism effect?

*See articles number 1 until 35 in the standard mission textbook Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, (USA: William Carey Library, 2009), 3-206. This whole section lays out the entire blueprint to ground the origin and the meaning of ‘mission’.

When I wrote this for my report for Mission & Evangelism module, I have in mind Herman Dooyeweerd and Abraham Kuyper.

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