Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mission in the Gospels - A Reflection - Chris Wright, Aria & Johnson and others

Below are some reflections and articles on mission, and a brief summary of the content of the articles. Great for a quick read if you are keen in exploring mission in the Gospels.

This blog is written by Lt. Jo Brookshaw

Chris Wright, “Whose World? Whose Mission?” http://www.neac.info/talks/211145cm.pdf (6/5/2009)

This article provides a good basic introduction to the biblical roots of mission. Wright describes Israel’s mission not to be ‘sent’, but in “being the agent of God’s blessing to the nations, a light to the nations”, I found this a succinct and inspiring example of mission for the people of God. Wright also emphasized the holistic nature of mission, that it should be broader than the popular view of ‘personal salvation’ in a spiritual sense – to encompass the fullness of God’s good news in ALL its ‘goodness’. I found it confusing in the discussion of mission as “cross-shaped”, which was not well-defined or expanded, just repeated! The article however, was redeemed in my perspective, by the following quote, “Bluntly, we need a holistic gospel because the world is in a holistic mess.” This provided a good foundation and impetus to delve deeper into what this holistic gospel actually looks like. I found no theological stumbling blocks, only stylistic and logical ones.

Mortimer Arias & Alan Johnson, “The “Great Commission” in Matthew” in The Great Commission, Nashville: Abingdon, 1992, 15-34.

Arias and Johnson reveal their hang-up right from the start in this article, namely - they really dislike Matthew 28:16-20 being referred to as the ‘great’ commission. I can see this is a valuable discussion – to understand that the mission of God is far broader than this often-used text, but this article is really beating us around the head with it. Getting past this issue, the other parts of the article are fairly helpful in that they explore the rest of Matthew for missional input, coming back to what the ‘last’ commission (Matt 28:16-20) actually means in light of the entire text. Making disciples was a large part of that answer (but could also be the victim of reductionism if you let it!). This article brings across a great point – that we should beware of ‘proof-texting’ our missional perspective.

Susan Smith, “Insights from Mark 1:1-15” http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/research/theology/ejournal/aejt_2/Susan_Smith.htm (18/11/2008)
Susan Smith delves into the missional aspects of Mark 1:1-15 providing an obviously Catholic perspective (including a bizarre reference to the Catholic Church as never having any rival in the “conversion of nations according to the divine commission”). She provides several significant insights that were helpful to me which I don’t have room to write about here, but I found particularly interesting Smith’s idea of ‘missional superiority’, describing the effects of cross-cultural mission where even if the ‘missioner’ is humble and lowly in serving an alien host culture, they are seen as having an inherent ‘superiority’ by virtue of the mission and culture the missioner represents. Smith’s treatment of Mark 1:1-15 as a significantly missional text for the church is interesting in that it is a text referring to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, not a later teaching or that ‘great’ final commission. She describes how controversial and potentially revolutionary the actions of John the Baptist and Jesus are in the world of second-temple Judaism.

Mortimer Arias & Alan Johnson, “The “Great Commission” in John” in The Great Commission, Nashville: Abingdon, 1992, 78-97.

Focusing on John 20:21 “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” Arias and Johnson discuss how John’s commission is often overlooked in favour of the synoptic commission texts. They highlight how Jesus’ commission in John is more incarnational in nature, requiring significant exploration (it basically invites the reader to re-read the gospel in a missional mindset), not as easy to preach on or use as a formula for mass-mission-motivating! Arias and Johnson seek to unpack the missional nature of the charge and hence, mission in the gospel of John. In their exploration of incarnational mission, they presented that any ‘sent community’ is already communicating an incarnational gospel, even in their inaction they are sending a clear message to world! This is has an urgent focus for the church today, yet entirely different from the motivation of the commissions in the synoptics to “Go” and “make disciples”.

Eric Wefald, “The Separate Gentile Mission in Mark,” in JSNT 60 (1995), 3-26.
I found Wefald particularly helpful in his perspective of the topographic and geopolitical emphasis in Mark. Wefald shares this emphasis as evidence of Jesus’ mission campaigns to the Gentiles – that these have a special significance separate to his mission to the Jewish people. Mark’s emphasis on places was something I have picked up in the past and to see it explored here has satisfied a long-held curiosity. I believe Wefald is right in this respect, the places in Mark are mentioned far too often for it to be coincidental.

Roelf Kuitse, “Holy Spirit: Source of Messianic Mission,” in The Transfiguration of Mission, Ontario:Herald Press, 1993, 106-129.
Kuitse speaks about how in a Trinitarian perspective, mission has been seen primarily as Christocentric (and Jesus as sent by the Father). The Holy Spirit is beginning to become part of the picture again in our consciousness (influenced by the rise of Pentecostalism). I think this renewed understanding emphasizes the continuity of God’s mission through Jesus. The Holy Spirit was present in Jesus’ ministry and in the disciples’ ministry and in the ministry of the early church and in my ministry today! (also prior to this in the ministry of the leaders, kings, prophets and God’s people in the Old Testament). So rather than “making carbon copies of ourselves, trying to mold other people after our way of thinking and behaving,” (to replicate disciples like ourselves), Kuitse suggests “The Spirit does not impose things on people; the Spirit creates the freedom to respond to the gospel in one’s own way, from within one’s own cultural context.” How liberating! This emphasizes that as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit we can be and act out God’s mission.

 Art McPhee, “The Missio Dei and the Transformation of the Church,’ in Vision (Fall 2001), 6-12.
McPhee’s discussion of church and mission challenges traditional and conventional thoughts and methods. He draws on the wisdom of missional thinkers with quotes such as, “if the mission is God’s, missions (plural) must derive from mission (singular),” – David Bosch and, “The church exists by mission as fire exists by burning” – Emil Brunner. Informed and inspired by these and biblical examples, McPhee fervently strives to infuse passion for church transformation in the reader. We are left not with dissatisfaction with the way things are, but with a hunger to discoer a renewed sense of mission and a new vision from God for the NOW context we are involved in. I’m challenged by this not to limit my perspective of mission, but engage in critical re-imagining of our mission in light of the mission of God as revealed by the word and by the Holy Spirit alive in us today.

This post is written by Lt. Jo Brookshaw.
For more posts on biblical texts click here.

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