Missio Dei: Journey of the Elect
IN581: Theology of Mission & Evangelism
University of Dubuque Theological Seminary
April 14, 2008
Missio Dei… a term that has been selfishly abused, a term that is robustly debated, a term that holds great hope. From Latin, missio Dei simply means “mission of God”. However, not so simple is Christianity’s responsibility – both as a corporate body and as individual believers – to discern how this term is to be lived out, to map out how to follow the mission of God. This paper shall strive to define the missio Dei as the journey embarked upon by the elect of the Triune God of Christianity, in which these believers seek to follow God’s movement for the purpose of its creation’s ultimate reconciliation to Him. Important factors in this definition are the elect, the Trinity, and the action of following. As each component plays a crucial role in the missio Dei, this paper will explain its thesis by giving special attention to these topics. Continue reading
Posted in Bible & Scripture, Seminary, Theology
Tagged Bible translation, Bono, God's Elect, Jonathan Bonk, Lamin Sanneh, Lesslie Newbigin, missio Dei, Pentecost, Righteous Rich, Stan Nussbaum, Trinity
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though hewas in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, hehumbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
My beautiful bride Anina and I are visiting my parents in Texas forthe holidays. We just got home from a nice happy Christmas Eveservice. Some carols, lots of candlelight, everyone standing at dramatic moments… you know, the usual. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s great that we celebrate Christ’s choice to come live as we do. It’s totally something only God could do… to choose to take a step down the “social ladder” of the universe. Not up. Down. How often do I choose to do that? So, have you ever heard that phrase, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery…”? It means if you really think something is cool, you copy it.
I guess what I wonder is, if this is the season where I really celebrate how cool Jesus is, what am I doing to copy Him? If I was going to take this Philippians passage and sum up what Jesus did, in one word, I’d say “give.” Jesus Christ gave. Thankfully, this season brings the perfect opportunity to give. (Semi-relevant confession: Anina and I opened our presents early.)
So it’s getting late into the evening on Christmas Eve, and you’ve probably gone out and finished all your shopping for gifts to give to family and friends.But take a moment tomorrow morning, and think about giving a little bit more. Is there a soup kitchen in your community? Is there a food bank? Is there a clothing donation center? Is there a womens’ shelter? Get creative and think of one more way to give before you go back to school or normal routines.
Because Jesus Christ gave to everyone…
Probably one of the cloudiest areas of my personal theology is “spirit” stuff. Spiritual warfare, Satan’s role on earth, God’s Spirit among us, etc. Money is well-discussed in the Bible, as well as leadership, and a whole range of other things that I feel pretty solid about, theologically speaking. I’m not ready to give my final answer when it comes to most of these spirit topics, but Jon Birch has hit really hit the nail on the head with how I’m feeling at the moment: (Sorry, my blog theme’s narrow post column necessitates the thumbnail… click to enlarge…)
In addition to his general blog, Jon maintains a cartoon blog full of sharp, dry humor. That’s where this cartoon came from. ASBO Jesus = Brit speak for ‘Anti Social Behavior Order’. Jon reminds me of Shane Claiborne: he clearly believes in a Jesus that doesn’t come along and just make everything peachy, but instead in a savior that messes your life up after you meet him! (I wish I was strong enough to follow this Jesus!) Nothing is safe or exempt from ASBO’s witty criticism, and Birch knows just how to poke at things… add ASBO to your RSS!
“Liberating Your Organization: Creating A Leadership-Friendly Culture”
- There are organizational systems that are conducive to ministry, and there are those that impede ministry.
- There are organizational systems that free leaders to lead, and there are those that obstruct leaders.
- “System” defined: Your organization’s approach to getting things done.
- Systems Create Behaviors
- Preaching doesn’t. Curriculum doesn’t. Talks don’t.
- Family vs. Student Ministry
- Marriage vs. Marriage Sermon Series
- Western vs. Middle Eastern
- The systems you inherit, adopt, or create will eventually what staff and volunteers do.
- Anytime you hear, “Well, our people won’t…” you’re listening to someone who doesn’t understand the influence of systems.
- Components of a System:
- Expectations (rules)
- Rewards (or lack of)
- Consequences (or lack of)
- Communication (content and style)
- Behavior (of those in charge)
- Systems have a greater impact on organizational behavior than do mission statements.
- This principle explains why it’s so hard to transition an organization.
- If a leader casts a vision and never addresses old systems, nothing changes.
- “What’s happening down the hall trumps what’s hanging on the wall.”
- People in your organization are only doing what you’ve led and rewarded them to do.
- Ask, “What are the expectations in our organization? What’s rewarded? (Because that’s what will be repeated.) What brings consequences?
- The New Testament does not present us with a comprehensive system or model.
- In the NT we discover what the early church did. The NT does not lay out a comprehensive plan instruction church leaders what to do.
- Think about it: They had a direct WWJD link, something that we don’t have. They had apostles. We don’t. We have the great opportunity to create the system that carries out the Great Commission.
- Always differetiate between what is prescriptive and what is descriptive.
- We can’t be a 1st Century church because we don’t live in the 1st Century!
- The Old and New Testaments do offer some principles that should be integrated into our systems.
- Delegation : Acts 6 / Exodus 18
- Accountability: Acts 15
- Authority : Romans 13
- Interdependence : Paul’s discussion of spritual gifts
- Point Leadership : Modeled in OT and NT
- Seeking Counsel : Proverbs / Acts 15
- Something not on the list is Congregational Rule. Some examples of its outcome: Golden Calves, Brothers Thrown into Pits, Following Kings not Prophets
- System Imperatives
- Your system should allow you to involve and hire the best person for the job.
- Your system should provide you with the flexibility to get the right people to the table.
- i.e. position of Youth Director does not automatically influence decisions regardless of inept person in position.
- Your system should allow you to make complex decisions within the context of a small group of empowered individuals.
- Simply cannot communicate complex decisions to large groups of people effectively.
- Your system should ensure that only one person answers to “They”
- “We have different gifts, according to the grave given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently.” Romans 12:6-8
- You create a system where leaders are free to lead, and guess who will flock… leaders!
- Congregations led by the “We/They” tend to end up with system dysfunctions.
- The current system you’re gonna take all your notes back to has the potential to crush everything you’ll bring back. So, learning as leaders to deal with the nuts and bolts is absolutely necessary.
- Before God created man, He created systems (solar, ecological, etc.)
- But even in man, the human body is the most sophisticated system in existence.
- Because the body is a system, it’s a meaningful experience to go to the doctor, a medical systems expert. This is why you don’t just pray when you get sick.
- If you don’t approach problem solving systematically, you’ll spend the rest of your career blaming, firing, and being critical of people, and never getting anywhere.
- List 3 behaviors that you wish characterize your organization (apply on many levels: church, youth ministry, staff).
- List one thing you’re systematically doing to encourage each of those behaviors.
- List the things you’re doing (maybe inadvertently) to encourage the opposite behavior.
Posted in Bible & Scripture, Culture, Ministry
Tagged Andy Stanley, Body of Christ, Catalyst 2007, Catalyst Conference, Church Models, Committees, Gifts, Leadership, Red tape, Systems
“Solomon was wrong.”
- It’s not a popular idea to deny the Teacher’s revered sayings, but it just won’t go away.
- Eccl. 1:9-10 What has been will be again… there is nothing new under the sun.
- An oft-quoted, a prevailing thought in the leadership frameworks in Christianity
- We’ve rarely stopped to question what he said here, but we disagree with him in other places
- Jesus said burden is light, but Solomon said it was heavy
- Places in Ecclesiastes where we know Solomon was wrong. Not the best to build your worldview around a guy who says it’s all meaningless
- When you’re having your worst day, don’t write to other people on how to live.
- Solomon says it’s all a circle. What is coming is simply what has been in the past. Why is it that we’re so quick to embrace this?
- It’s in our language. Worship band leader: “Let’s make history!” So, it’s ok for us Christians to make history (literally what has past). Or a magazine that says “Let’s change history!” …
- But what would the typical Christian response be if Erwin says “Let’s change the future!”?
- We don’t understand what our role in time is. We’re so careful not to infringe on God’s sovereign space, we sit apathetically by waiting to respond to it.
- But Hitler’s and Stalin’s create history when we wont.
- Maybe it’s time that we recognize that if only the most evil feel free to create the future, there’s something wrong with our understanding of our role in the future to come.
- The way we’ve been taught is, “If it was evil, it was us, but if it was good, it was definitely God.”
- But we weren’t created to live in neutral. If all our actions produce evil, then we should only sit by and react to stuff.
- Isaiah 43:18-19 “Stop thinking about the past!” (contrast “Do not forget….”) “Now I’m doing a new thing, but will you even be aware of it?”
- If only God had read Ecclesiastes, He would have got it right.
- God: “Stop living in the past and get engaged in the future I want you to be a part of.”
- We have to begin to rethink our relationship to history. We can’t change history, and to make history means that we’re doing something that really matters.
- But to create the future means that we’re pursuing where God is going into the future.
- Part of our dilemma is we’ve stopped being honest about the meaning of life.
- We enter into relationship with Christ, God sets us free. Now we’re free in Jesus to create and do good works in him
- When we’re only preaching to Christians, are we communicating at the deepest level of humanity?
- Erwin: “When I sing Christian songs, I have a hard time with some of them, where I want them to be true.”
- Never been a moment where God was really all I wanted. “God you are all I want, but I could really use a cappuccino.”
- Exhale if Jesus is all you need … Nice, isn’t it? … Now feel free to inhale when you realize you need oxygen too.
- Adam had a need for human companionship that he was previously unaware of. Adam’s naming all the animals, then God puts him to sleep to create Eve. Putting Adam through a learning experience. 2 gazelles, 2 gophers, 2 rabbits. “Get the theme here, Adam? No? Just go to sleep, I’ll fix it…”
- God understood Adam’s need far more than Adam understood his own, and God had joy in meeting those needs.
- All of creation is a testament to how much pleasure God finds in meeting our needs.
- A man on TV with healing oil, selling oil that had cured lady’s dog from cancer.
- What has gone wrong? Somebody has to be sincere. Somewhere. I have to believe that. Maybe the old lady that sent in her welfare check to buy the oil for her dog… maybe the dog is the only sincere one?
- “Somewhere down the line someone figured out that Christians are incapable of discerning what is authentic and what is inauthentic.”
- “How is it possible we’ve lost our capacity to connect to what it real?”
- Every person without God who watches that show has to know that it is not real. But why do we fall for it?
- At one point the memories I had became less trustworthy than the stories I had been told. I had disconnected myself from reality. My soul was sick. The human spirit cannot live in falsehood. We’re designed to live in truth. Our souls long for the real, the authentic.
- What is the future of the church?
Both read the Bible by day and night; but you read black where I read white.
A long time ago Matt and I started a joint-blogging project (March 31 was the launch… wow). It was a discussion of a 9-part article, “Learning to Read the Bible Again.” We devoted a post to each of the theses in the article, and tried to pull in some outside voices with whom to compare notes. Well I’ve finally reached the end of the project, Matt finished Thesis 9 a while back. Anyway, it’s high time I jot some of my own thoughts down on the last thesis. Without further ado…
9. We live in the tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of the kingdom of God; consequently, scripture calls the church to ongoing discernment, to continually fresh re-readings of the text in light of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in the world.
Because the narrative of scripture is open to a future that God will give, and because our vision is limited by creaturely finitude and distorted by sinfulness, we lack the perspective of the finished drama as we seek to live faithfully in the present. Yet we trust that the story is moving to a final consummation in which God will overcome death and wipe away every tear from our eyes. Knowing that we do not see ourselves and our world from God’s point of view, we are grateful for the gifts of scripture and community and for the possibilities of mutual correction in love that they offer. We are also grateful for scripture’s promise that the Spirit of God will lead us into truth, which gives us hope that our speech and practice might yet be a faithful witness to the righteous and merciful God who is made known to us in Jesus Christ.
If the story has not yet reached its conclusion, does this have implications for understanding the relationship between scripture’s identification of God and the claims made by other religious traditions? How are our fresh rereadings to be distinguished from interpretations of scripture that purport to separate the “kernel” of the gospel from the “husk” of cultural accretions? To what standards of accountability are we called in order to keep our rereadings faithful to the God of Jesus Christ?
I chuckle when I imagine the disciples eagerly asking, naively and expectantly asking, “So, like, next week… that’s when you’re gonna restore the Kingdom… right, Rabbi?” (Acts 1:6) But we do the same thing, don’t we? We just leave it up to God to bring the Kingdom here, and we’re pretty sure it’ll be any day now. Hope is great, but by no means should it devolve into lazy expectancy. And that’s why it’s so important to begin the discussion of our last thesis with the “tension between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ of the kingdom of God.” Like millions of believers who have preceded us, we still have a lot of work to do. Roll up your sleeves, open your Bible, and share with your brothers and sisters what you find.
Posted in Anything 2.0, Bible & Scripture, Community, Culture, History, Kingdom on Earth, People I Read, Quotable, Theology
Tagged Bride of Christ, God's Big Story, God's Purposes, Human Limitation, Narrative Theology, Tension, Trampoline Theology
8. Christians need to read the Bible in dialogue with diverse others outside the church.
There is a special need for Christians to read scripture in respectful conversation with Jews who also serve the one God and read the same texts that we call the Old Testament within a different hermeneutical framework. There are also diverse others to whom we need to listen and from whom we need to learn. This includes critics who charge us with ideological captivity rather than fidelity to God.
How do we pursue the tasks of learning (again) to read scripture faithfully in the church while also being in dialogue with those outside? How should we understand and engage people who find themselves, in some sense, simultaneously inside and outside a fragmented church?
I dig learning about our Jewish roots. For example, a lot of the stuff about ancient Judaism that Rob Bell points out (in reading Velvet Elvis and watching Noomas) really illuminates and complements my journey to discover how I relate to God. I can imagine that there are Christianizers out there who think we have no business trading stories or comparing theology with modern Jews (whether Hasidic or Messianic or whatever…). All they ever need to know was handed down in their canonized text book at Bible college, right? Yeah, well I’d like to watch them learn about the profound significance of something as minor as the dust from a rabbi’s feet, and then listen to them tell me that their faith journey can in no way be enriched by that tradition. Feel free to tell me Judaism has nothing to offer when you (and your actions) can also honestly say scripture is a daily treat of honey on your tongue.
The pomo religious forecast doesn’t leave much room for old-school romanticism, and that’s ok, but I do not doubt that the profound spirituality and vivid imagery of Judaism will play a major role in our ability to seek our Creator in the uncreative, sequels-are-best, passionless, technocratic, just-recycle-what-already-works, overly satiated days that lie ahead. Jewish tradition holds a lot of potential for helping us reclaim our intended role as mini-creators. Long story short: I really appreciate what Judaism brings to the table. I’d jump at the opportunity to sit down with a devout (or even a non-practicing but well-versed) Jew and compare notes on our interpretation of scripture.
Now for the “diverse others” part… If anything, sitting down with people outside our faith communities will be a great wake-up call. Go ask a recently DUI-convicted celebrity how the “Christian community” has responded to their downfall. I seriously doubt you’d hear how about how well we’re doing at carrying out the “restoration” outlined in Galatians 3 (literally from Greek, the imagery is of a doctor tenderly re-setting a broken bone). Or, let’s look at an example of economic hermeneutics… Go find a homeless person in the vicinity of Osteen’s Lakewood Church (where Jesus sure beats Meryl Lynch at managing your portfolio) and ask them what they think about the “true religion” set forth in James’ letter. I wish I was in better dialogue with diverse others. I’m not looking for a guilt trip, but I am curious about how those outside my sheltered world of being a professional Christ-follower perceive my efforts. My life is surprisingly and disappointingly conflict/tension-free when it comes to hermeneutical dialogue. It’d also be interesting to see what they think of “our” efforts in general.
- How do we pursue the tasks of learning (again) to read scripture faithfully in the church while also being in dialogue with those outside? Be honest with everyone around you about where you’re at with your faith. If you’re hung up on how the heck God decided to rig Circumstance X like he did, share it with your bank teller when they ask how you’re doing. Sure, you’ll come off as crazy, compared to the norm, but people will begin to see that there are real honest Christ-followers out there for whom the crux of their faith is exploring how they can grow closer to God (not pointing out how far off others are from God). Bringing about such a perception will be fertile soil for profound and productive future dialogues about our unique hermeneutic.
- How should we understand and engage people who find themselves, in some sense, simultaneously inside and outside a fragmented church? Just like your pastor or bank teller. Their perception of their relation to church is just one part of how their view of church and culture combines with their larger hermeneutic. (Forgive me if that sounds like the easy way out.)
Matt’s post here.
Posted in Bible & Scripture, Community, Culture, Life, People I Read, Technology, Theology
Tagged Cultural Engagement, Honest Dialogue, Judaism, Living Faith, Ministry of Reconciliation, Nooma, Theological Isolationism, Velvet Elvis
7. The saints of the church provide guidance in how to interpret and perform scripture.
From the earliest communities of the church, through whose scriptural interpretation we received the Christian Bible, to the present communities of biblical interpreters, generations of Christians have received this book as a gift from God and sought to order their lives according to the witness of scripture. This chain of interpreters, the communion of the saints, includes not only those officially designated as saints by the churches but also the great cloud of witnesses acknowledged by believers in diverse times and places, including many of the church’s loyal critics. This communion informs our reading of scripture. We learn from the saints the centrality of interpretive virtues for shaping wise readers. Prominent among these virtues are receptivity, humility, truthfulness, courage, charity, humor and imagination. Guidance in the interpretation of scripture may be found not only in the writings of the saints but also in the exemplary patterns of their lives. True authority is grounded in holiness; faithful interpretation of scripture requires its faithful performance.
How much of a gap can be endured between one’s right interpretation of scripture and one’s failure in performance (e.g., churches that practice racial exclusion or unjust divisions between rich and poor)? How do we understand what goes wrong when the Bible is used as an instrument of oppression and division?
I think each thesis just keeps getting better and better. After the halfway point in this progression of theses, there’s a growing emphasis on community. A key element is one that brings in a sort of checks-and-balances notion, one that safeguards against agenda-driven rogues completely writing the standard for everyone else. Recently I’ve felt frustrated with the damn tyranny of the minority that’s going on in my country and in my denomination… Sometimes I’m tempted to be bitter and assert that the current norm for how our lives are ordered runs counter to the actions of the great cloud of witnesses before us. But surely T7 is good for more than enabling me to point out how it seems that the prevailing interpretation and the actions emanating from it disregard the interpretation and action of the saints before us. Of course, it would be wrong to say that the saints’ interpretation and action must not change with the times, as well.
Anyway, the great balancing part about T7 is its suggestion of the virtues of “receptivity, humility, truthfulness, courage, charity, humor and imagination.” I’m entitled to my opinion on what kind of job we’re doing with interpretation and action that stays faithful to that of the saints before us, but if that’s where I stop –if all I do is form my critique– and then move on to write about T8 or something else, I’ve failed. No matter what I think about the current state of things, I’m supposed to engage that critique (positive or negative) with those virtues. I’m supposed to engage those around me with those virtues. I’m supposed to engage my own interpretation with those virtues. And really, my own interpretation must be lived out by me (“faithful interpretation of scripture requires its faithful performance”), and I can hold only myself to that interpretation. For everyone else, that’s where the receptivity… and humility… and truthfulness… and courage… and charity… and humor… and imagination comes in.
- How much of a gap can be endured between one’s right interpretation of scripture and one’s failure in performance (e.g., churches that practice racial exclusion or unjust divisions between rich and poor)? I’m hesitant to draw a line for where you have to declare a person or a church officially heretical or hypocritical; it’s a losing battle because we’re all suckers for legalism. I do think that when you see this mismatch going on, it definitely needs to be discussed, and it’s all the more important to make sure you’re doing your part to kick into high gear the exercise of those above-mentioned virtues.
- How do we understand what goes wrong when the Bible is used as an instrument of oppression and division? What’s gone wrong is that too many people fail to practice T7’s virtues. Things should never get to the point where the majority of those engaged in the interpretation of scripture (or those with the most influence) are seeking to accomplish things that run completely opposite to the spirit of the lives and practices of the cloud of witnesses.
Matt’s post here.