Dec 18 2014

UM & Global: Hendrik Pieterse: Make Disciples, Transform the World: Reflections on United Methodist Mission (Pt. 2)

Today’s post is written by Dr. Hendrik R. Pieterse, Associate Professor of Global Christianity and World Religions at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.  Dr. Pieterse contributed this piece as part of our reflections on the WCC’s new document on mission and evangelism, Together towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes.  You can find more posts in this series by clicking on the “Together towards Life” tag at the bottom.

Given the danger of focusing too much on human initiative in mission, as I outlined in my last post, what should we do, then? For a denomination wracked by anxiety over perceived decline, is the temptation to take matters into our own hands simply too great, unwittingly perpetuating the distortions of which Bosch and others have warned? Therefore, should we abandon the Matthean commission in favor of, say, Johannine or Lucan themes of mission and discipleship? Some have argued as much.

I, for one, am not yet persuaded. What we need, I think, is not a new mission statement but a coherent ecclesiology to give our disciple-making task the theological depth and missional flexibility fit for a global context. And to that end Grace Upon Grace and GBGM’s Theology of Mission, reflective of the ecumenical consensus summarized in TTL, offer important resources. I will mention just one or two.

We should pause to insist, however, that we dare not do our ecclesial reflection without substantive exegetical attention to Matt. 28:19-20—and to do so in the context of Matthew’s Gospel as a whole. This exegetical work serves not only to resist the all-too-common habit of using “making disciples for the transformation of the world” as a free-floating mantra in denominational discourse, deliberation, and communication. It serves also—and more importantly—to anchor our mission statement in Matthew’s total account of Jesus’ identity and mission. Surprising, perhaps even transformative, insights might result.

Take, for example, the fact that Matthew intends chapter 28:19-20 as a summary of his Gospel. “[T]eaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (v. 19) thus lifts up the entirety of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection, recounted in the preceding chapters, as the pattern of discipleship. The result lends discipleship a prophetic, even costly, edge. Comments Bosch: “To become a disciple is to be incorporated into God’s new community through baptism and to side with the poor and the oppressed. . . . This is what Jesus has commanded his disciples . . .”

As a further example, consider that verse 20, promising Christ’s abiding presence with the disciples is not intended as a spiritual “back up” for however the church happens to define its mission. Rather, it reminds the disciples of mission as divinely generated and directed gift and promise. The church’s mission depends upon and endures as long as Christ’s promised presence.[1] To use mission parlance: the church’s mission is always and forever a function of and a grateful response to the missio Dei. Does the absence of this concluding promise in the Discipline’s citation of the Great Commission confirm the above suspicion that United Methodists tend to sublimate the priority of grace in mission?

Which brings us, briefly, to Grace Upon Grace and Theology of Mission as resources in constructing a coherent missional ecclesiology. In both documents, and beautifully and succinctly in the latter, United Methodists encounter at least three crucial affirmations:

(1) Mission is always and irreversibly the work of the triune God. Mission is a function of the doctrine of God. Mission is missio Dei.

(2) This means the church’s mission is always and irreversibly derivative, as instrument and servant of the divine mission. Foregrounding the church’s disciple-making charge at the expense of the divine initiative contradicts the logic of the missio Dei and compromises the church’s call.

(3) Mission is a journey of discovery, surprise, repentance, and transformation, as the church encounters in the neighbor a divine initiative that always and irreversibly precedes even our loftiest visions and best-laid plans. Thus mission regains its sense of expectancy and unpredictability. And, as the GBGM document notes, the virtues appropriate to an ever-surprising divine initiative is “openness” and “gratitude,” as we “await the leading of the Spirit in ways not yet seen as God continues to work God’s purposes out in our own day in a new way.”

This understanding of mission, and these virtues of missional discipleship, we Methodists once knew well. Grace Upon Grace and Theology of Mission are ready resources in recovering these seminal affirmations, however counterintuitive to a denomination so anxious to pull itself up by its own bootstraps.


[1] David J. Bosch, “The Structure of Mission: An Exposition of Matthew 28:16-20,” in Paul W. Chilcote and Laceye C. Warner, eds., The Study of Evangelism: Exploring a Missional Practice of the Church (Eerdmans, 2008), 84, 87-91.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/hendrik-pieterse-make-disciples-transform-the-world-reflections-on-united-methodist-mission-pt-2/

Dec 18 2014

Allan R. Bevere: Resident Aliens– Or When Did Southern Baptist Pastors Become Politicians, and the UMC Book of Discipline Become an Employee Handbook?

“…[W]e believe that it is time for the church to recognize that it is in a missionary situation in the very culture it helped to create. Of course,… the church ought to be in a missionary situation at any time and in any culture. However, it happen…

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/resident-aliens-or-when-did-southern-baptist-pastors-become-politicians-and-the-umc-book-of-discipline-become-an-employee-handbook/

Dec 18 2014

A Potter's View: Last-Minute Christmas Trees

Even today, one week before Christmas, I notice on Facebook that some people are just now putting up their Christmas tree. Part of me thinks, “It’s a little late, isn’t it, and why bother?” There have been those years when we all wonder whether we should put up a tree or not. Family priorities, circumstances, […]

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/last-minute-christmas-trees/

Dec 18 2014

Wesleyan Leadership: Holiness of Heart and Life: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself – Part 2 of 6

Genuine communication requires self-knowledge             Genuine communication begins when participants know themselves. Self-knowledge enables people to know their abilities, weaknesses, and limitations. When self-knowledge is lacking self-deception is likely to take over. Any subsequent efforts at communication will then be … Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/holiness-of-heart-and-life-love-your-neighbor-as-yourself-part-2-of-6/

Dec 18 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: The Advent Gospel of Two Christians: "Almost There"

When my sister and I were growing up, we listened to a lot of contemporary Christian music.

One Christmas, we received monogrammed cassette tape holders for our collections. Yes, those really did exist. They were foot-long, rectangular bins with tape-sized dividers. Covered in cloth with a handle on the end, a zipper around the top kept everything in place. Hers said VALERIE, and mine said DARIAN. There is no better security system for a Christian cassette collection than to emblazon the children’s names on them. We carried them very proudly, along with our walk-mans, on road trips.

One tape that I put in my holder every December was Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas, which included the songs, “Breath of Heaven” and “Grown Up Christmas List.” Nearby it was Michael English’s self-titled album. On “side one” of that tape was the original recording of “Mary, Did You Know?”

Twenty-plus years later, DARIAN’s cassette tape holder no longer exists. I carried it until the fabric unraveled, and the first “A” came off, leaving me with the name of “D-RIAN.” Thankfully, the songs still exist and thrive on radio stations and in choir cantatas. Some people would even describe “Breath of Heaven” and “Mary, Did You Know?” as “new” Christmas songs. I have trouble thinking of anything from the cassette holder as “new.”

This is the time of year where familiar music fills our sanctuaries and dominates our airwaves. In church, we sing about baby Jesus and angels. Rudolph, Santa, and jingling bells echo at parties. We know the first verses of many Christmas hymns by heart. It would be easy to stick with what’s familiar and not to learn anything new.

Yet the prophet Isaiah calls to us….

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.

And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
*

Advent is the forging of a new creation that reveals God’s glory. New roads. New valleys. New mountains. New ground. Alongside our old traditions should be new expressions of glorifying God.

Is there a new song that you might sing this Advent?

While this blog series mainly focuses on songs that are not necessarily in the “Christian” genre, this week is an exception. Michael W. Smith (who had two cassette tapes in my holder!) and Amy Grant recently recorded a song entitled, “Almost There.”

The words remind us that no matter how far we’ve come as children of God, we’re still “almost there.” There is always more to learn. There is always further to go. There is always space for a new song.

Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith have recorded a number of well-loved songs, including some we sing mainly at Christmas time. Successful songs of the past have not prevented them from writing and recording new ones for today. Part of our growth as artists and as children of God is to create something fresh. We don’t neglect the songs written twenty years ago. We build upon them. “Almost There” is a song of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. It’s the story of Christ–not just Christmas.

As we sing the songs of cassette tapes and prior times, let us download a new tune, too. Isaiah may have written his prophetic song centuries ago, but the message is one of new creation—yesterday, today, tomorrow, and always.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

* Isaiah 40:3-5 (New International Version)

If you have trouble viewing the following video, here is a link to watch it on YouTube’s website:
http://youtu.be/-ClYL3pKCwI

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/the-advent-gospel-of-two-christians-almost-there/

Dec 18 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: The Advent Gospel of Two Christians: "Almost There"

When my sister and I were growing up, we listened to a lot of contemporary Christian music.

One Christmas, we received monogrammed cassette tape holders for our collections. Yes, those really did exist. They were foot-long, rectangular bins with tape-sized dividers. Covered in cloth with a handle on the end, a zipper around the top kept everything in place. Hers said VALERIE, and mine said DARIAN. There is no better security system for a Christian cassette collection than to emblazon the children’s names on them. We carried them very proudly, along with our walk-mans, on road trips.

One tape that I put in my holder every December was Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas, which included the songs, “Breath of Heaven” and “Grown Up Christmas List.” Nearby it was Michael English’s self-titled album. On “side one” of that tape was the original recording of “Mary, Did You Know?”

Twenty-plus years later, DARIAN’s cassette tape holder no longer exists. I carried it until the fabric unraveled, and the first “A” came off, leaving me with the name of “D-RIAN.” Thankfully, the songs still exist and thrive on radio stations and in choir cantatas. Some people would even describe “Breath of Heaven” and “Mary, Did You Know?” as “new” Christmas songs. I have trouble thinking of anything from the cassette holder as “new.”

This is the time of year where familiar music fills our sanctuaries and dominates our airwaves. In church, we sing about baby Jesus and angels. Rudolph, Santa, and jingling bells echo at parties. We know the first verses of many Christmas hymns by heart. It would be easy to stick with what’s familiar and not to learn anything new.

Yet the prophet Isaiah calls to us….

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.

And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
*

Advent is the forging of a new creation that reveals God’s glory. New roads. New valleys. New mountains. New ground. Alongside our old traditions should be new expressions of glorifying God.

Is there a new song that you might sing this Advent?

While this blog series mainly focuses on songs that are not necessarily in the “Christian” genre, this week is an exception. Michael W. Smith (who had two cassette tapes in my holder!) and Amy Grant recently recorded a song entitled, “Almost There.”

The words remind us that no matter how far we’ve come as children of God, we’re still “almost there.” There is always more to learn. There is always further to go. There is always space for a new song.

Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith have recorded a number of well-loved songs, including some we sing mainly at Christmas time. Successful songs of the past have not prevented them from writing and recording new ones for today. Part of our growth as artists and as children of God is to create something fresh. We don’t neglect the songs written twenty years ago. We build upon them. “Almost There” is a song of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. It’s the story of Christ–not just Christmas.

As we sing the songs of cassette tapes and prior times, let us download a new tune, too. Isaiah may have written his prophetic song centuries ago, but the message is one of new creation—yesterday, today, tomorrow, and always.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

* Isaiah 40:3-5 (New International Version)

If you have trouble viewing the following video, here is a link to watch it on YouTube’s website:
http://youtu.be/-ClYL3pKCwI

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/the-advent-gospel-of-two-christians-almost-there/

Older posts «