As previously mentioned I spent the early part of the week at a conference for leaders of ‘larger’ Baptist Churches. Credit for stirring most of the thoughts of mission and discipleship should really go to Neil Hudson , Project Director at LICC. Anyway having posted some thoughts about discipleship here are a few about mission.
Mission is an over used word. If everything is missional then the concept becomes so vague it is evacuated of meaning. Yet it is important that we see things in the light of two significant theological truths. First, that in God’s love, there is a reaching out to the other, a desire to include and to embrace. This is grounded in the character and nature of God, seen in God’s decision to create the universe (and humanity in particular) and relate to it. Second, that in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself. And as the people of God we have a role as ambassadors for Christ. The impact of these twin themes is our call to cooperate in the mission of God and to recognise that the scope of this mission is not simply in encouraging individuals to be reconciled but the whole of creation. (There is a distinction to be drawn between the mission of God and a missionary God but we will leave that for another day).
In talking about enabling confident disciples we need to think what sort of confidence we have in mind. Confidence comes from three things. First, an understanding of God and an ability to both know God and articulate truth about God. Second, an understanding of the world as seen in an ability to critique culture. Third, an understanding of ourselves and the ability to see these three things in relationship. Therefore if we are to help members of the church to be engaged in mission we need to help them with all three areas. Traditionally we have recognised the first as a primary focus in preaching and teaching. We have, perhaps, been more reticent to engage in the second beyond the recognition that preaching needs to contain elements which enable hearers to apply what is heard to their lives. The third element is often only touched on in terms of personal spirituality. Yet it is perhaps the lack of focus in this area which has starved people of the ability to recognise their standing in Christ and to develop tools which enable them to witness effectively.
The thing which links all these elements together is the work of Irenaeus with his imagery of the Son and Spirit as the two hands of God and his doctrine of recapitulation. Taken together they enable us to balance holiness and mission within an understanding of eschatology and redemption. Grasp these things and translate them into language which can be understood by everyone in the church and we will be well on the way to encouraging missionary discipleship.