Sunday, April 29, 2012

Missional Studies: Cultural Investment

Investment in the daily life of the community. – It’s not enough to be involved and work with people, a missionary (and anyone invested in community really) must be willing to interact on a personal level. In most cultures this is centered on mealtime, but it can play out in a variety of situations and venues. Intentional use of coffee shops, tea houses, and markets will greatly increase the opportunity to be a part of the culture and not simply an outside agent implanted in the culture.

Investment in developing relationships. – People matter. Individual relationships not only help us grow in our understanding of the world around us, they also give us insight into avenues to offer Christ  as well as illuminate the gospel within us. Growing closer to people in their lives, in their businesses, and in their own spiritual experiences isn’t just an exercise in evangelism it’s a direct pattern emulating Jesus’ ministry.

Open and Honest lifestyles and interactions. – To show others what Christianity is all about we must be committed to the truth, not only when it agrees with us but also when it chastises and rebukes us. (Daniel 9:6) This life is meant to be lived outward toward God for the sake of others. To live this way our conversations and actions must be open to ridicule and in the open not hidden or separated from inspection.

Investment in adaptation and growing with others. – A missionary needs to be flexible. Political climates, cultural norms, and levels of devotion cannot be predicted; therefore reaction and adaptability can be integral to the evangelistic efforts in any region or group. Assessment of the culture requires the integration of all these separate principles. Community, relationships, openness and sacrifice play into the fluidity of any response to culture. Growing with others involves separating from the pride of “having the truth” and being willing to grow in the context of the people surrounding you. (anti-pride?) A large hindrance to progress in relationships between where people live and where revelation of Christ can bring them is our inability to grow with them. Condescension and self-righteousness is hard to find internally but easily pointed out from the outside. Being willing to simply “be” with people instead of constantly teaching or presenting is vital to integrating into the surroundings.

An embrace of humility and sacrifice. – Finally, a commitment to engage and redeem those far from God is ultimately a commitment to the cross. The Cross in this instance isn’t a symbol of hope or religion but a literal symbol of the level of sacrifice we are called to. If we share in his suffering we will also share in his comfort. (Rom. 8:17) The life of people exposing their beliefs in such a raw and dependant way invites a high level of ridicule and sacrifice. This embrace is beneficial in two ways: (1) it portrays a realistic and honest picture of the Christian life presented in the New Testament so that converts are not tempted into a Christless Gospel full of blessing and far from any obligation or the clear call of Jesus to abandon this life and embrace the life offered by God, and (2) it prepares the way for others who follow into the work of evangelism, so hopefully they won’t have to be distracted by the weight of sacrifice and can focus more on the actual work of pouring into ministry and others.

Monday, April 16, 2012

In Response: Holy Scripture

In response to a question about Holy Scripture's authority:
I questioned this very thing early in my faith, I felt that, while the truth could be extracted from the text, the text itself was not authoritative or reliable. Over the course of time and much study I've developed an awed reverence for the sheer  magnitude and scope of scripture. A few others alluded to it in their posts but it must be mentioned that the councils were not as concerned with traditional preservation as they were with "rightly dividing the word of truth." Scholars and leaders were aware of the level of intellect and scrutiny that abounded in their time and the growing tide of apostasy that constantly stood at the door of the church. They wanted no hint of partiality or question of authenticity, that's why some books with questionable content still made it in regardless of the theological implications (Revelations, Hebrews) while others with complementary statements of faith couldn't pass the litany of authenticity. The protection of scripture throughout the ages along with the steady stream of christian study has literally elevated the conscience and the soul of humanity.

I am not one of those that proclaim that the bible is innerrant in translation, instead I proudly state that it is innerant in intent. There is always room for a more well rounded concept or idea but the heart of God from the Holy Spirit to the individual is found in those pages regardless of language and scholarship.

There is room to believe that the bible is intended for a specific audience at a specific time with a specific purpose as long as that doesn't get in the way of seeking personal truth within the text. The problem isn't what we get out of the bible, most of the time, it is what we attempt to put in that creates problems and hinders the gospel from impacting and changing lives. There is also room for the belief that divine revelation is on par with scripture (a belief that several of my closest friends have adopted) however, i would contend that this is usually a reasonable objection to alleviate the burden of holiness or "lower" the standards rather than drawing closer to the will of God. Think about it realistically, many people want "freedom" in worship and "freedom" in giving so they say the tithe is a Jewish commandment that doesn't necessarily translate into the dynamic church founded in the New Testament. However, how many of these believers go to the text to prove that they are correct in their assumption and even further how many use this principle to guide their giving beyond the tithe? To the contrary most people just want a lower and baser standard so that the requirements of a faith filled life can be comparable to a sin filled, unregenerate, unengaged, and powerless existence.

let's be honest...

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