Last week, in our class discussion, we explored how the recovery of missio Dei (the mission of God) might be tied to church renewal. One of the key articles for this discussion was titled “Recasting Theology of Mission: Impulses from the Non-Western World,” by Wilbert Shenk. If you can find the article, I encourage you to read it. I’m not sure about the copyright implications of posting it here though, so you’re on your own, unfortunately.
Shenk’s first mention of missio Dei is an assertion about its central role as the foundation for the theological concerns of the New Testament church. As I read this sentence, I could not shake from my mind the Acts 6 story of the apostles delegating food-distribution duties to other believers “full of the Spirit and wisdom.” On the face of it, this story could be improperly read as an example of the apostles’ humanity, an unfortunate record of an arrogant refusal to “get their hands dirty.” But what if the apostles teach us to each fully embrace our unique gifts in the service of the message of Jesus Christ? Contrary to the easy misinterpretation, this story is about nothing less than rolling up one’s sleeves and engaging the world in Christ’s name. For the apostles, spending even an hour doing something other than preaching and teaching was a disservice to the movement. Likewise, they expected the differently gifted believers to step forward and serve the common cause by organizing food distribution. The western response to this situation might have been, “Well, go find some more believers to sell some land and we’ll hire someone to make it happen. And let’s not repeat the Ananias incident this time…” Preposterous! The apostles refused to simply “write a check” to solve a problem.
It is when we as individual Christians reclaim our own potential to contribute to the mission of God in a hands-on way that we will see renewal in the western church.
- Is missio Dei a piece of flawed terminology? In other words, does it employ an elitist linguistic device (namely Latin) to describe a term focused on egalitarian involvement in invoking the Kingdom of God?
- Does the western church excessively write checks to solve problems? Or does it have its sleeves sufficiently rolled up?
- How does the apostles’ delegation story strike you at first glance? At second glance? After detailed exploration?
P.S. – I’m beginning to understand why my seminarian friend Shedden blogs so much when his classes are in session.