Thursday, 8 September 2011

Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert on Mission and Social Justice

Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 288pp., ISBN 9781433526909.

Although I’m pretty certain I won’t want to say everything the way they say it, I’ve had this new book from Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert on pre-order for several months now, and am really looking forward to looking at it more closely.

A generous excerpt from the book is available here.

And here is the publisher’s description:

‘Social justice and mission are hot topics today: there’s a wonderful resurgence of motivated Christians passionate about spreading the gospel and caring for the needs of others. But in our zeal to get sharing and serving, many are unclear on gospel and mission. Yes, we are called to spend ourselves for the sake of others, but what is the church’s unique priority as it engages the world?

‘DeYoung and Gilbert write to help Christians “articulate and live out their views on the mission of the church in ways that are theologically faithful, exegetically careful, and personally sustainable.” Looking at the Bible’s teaching on evangelism, social justice, and shalom, they explore the what, why, and how of the church’s mission. From defining “mission”, to examining key passages on social justice and their application, to setting our efforts in the context of God’s rule, DeYoung and Gilbert bring a wise, studied perspective to the missional conversation.

‘Readers in all spheres of ministry will grow in their understanding of the mission of the church and gain a renewed sense of urgency for Jesus’ call to preach the Word and make disciples.’

A twelve-minute video available here – featuring the two authors and Ryan Kelly – also provides a flavour of what to expect.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

William Carey

William Carey, so-called father of modern mission, was born this day (17 August) in 1761 – 250 years ago.

Sunday 21 August 2011 has been designated as ‘Carey Sunday’, endorsed by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Baptist Union of Scotland and the Baptist Union of Wales. BMS World Mission has a number of helpful resources here to help churches celebrate the 250th anniversary of Carey’s birth.

As a young Christian, I devoured biographies of William Carey, and I recall doing a short series on his life for 8- to 11-year-olds in my Sunday School class, trying to finish each week on a cliff-hanger!

I also recall, even as a young teenager, being intrigued about what appeared to be some major flaws in his domestic life as well as being fascinated by all his activities I wouldn’t necessarily have associated (at that stage in my life) with ‘mission’ – in agriculture and botany, in founding schools and a college, in campaigning against Sati (the practice of widow burning), in publishing a newspaper, etc.

In fact, a few weeks ago I came across a nice piece here by Vishal and Ruth Mangalwadi, imagining a quizmaster at the finals of the All India Universities competition asking the best-informed Indian students, ‘Who was William Carey?’, with the many different answers embracing him being a botanist, industrialist, economist, medical humanitarian, medical pioneer, agriculturalist, translator and educator, astronomer, library pioneer, forest conservationist, crusader for women’s rights, public servant, moral reformer, and cultural cultural transformer. The Mangalwadis conclude that ‘Carey was an evangelist who used every available medium to illumine every dark facet of Indian life with the light of truth’, and that ‘as such, he is the central character in the story of India’s modernization’.

The line perhaps most often associated with Carey – ‘Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God’ – remains theologically rich as well as ripe for reflection on practice.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Paul Beasley-Murray on Salty Christians

Paul Beasley-Murray, ‘Salty Christians’, Ministry Today 3 (1995).

Okay, I think the title might make a bit too much of the reference in Matthew 5:13, but this is a terrific article (from a paper first presented to a Baptist Assembly Seminar at Bridlington, on 27 April 1994) which resonates with many of our concerns here at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

Beasley-Murray lists some of the ways we keep the salt in the salt cellar, essentially keeping people in the religious ghetto of the church – by our preaching, our teaching on stewarship, the activities we lay on and expect people to attend, our concept of mission, and because the ‘close identification of many a ministerial ego with many a church has created a psychological need to emphasise the church over the kingdom’.

Then, more positively, he writes about ‘mobilising salty Christians’ – through preaching and teaching, in the leading of public worship, in decision-making meetings, in Bible studies, in support groups for particular occupational groups, in running a stewardship campaign with a difference, in running church membership classes differently, and in giving people time to live in the real world.

Lots and lots of practical wisdom, much of which still bears repeating.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Mission Frontiers

Mission Frontiers is billed as ‘the news and issues journal from the U.S. Center for World Mission’. Themed issues are published and available online very two months, with the following being among the more-recent ones:

July-August 2011 – Overcoming Poverty

May-June 2011 – Jesus Movements

March-April 2011 – Church Planting Movements

January-February 2011 – Discipleship Revolution

November-December 2010 – Going Radical

Friday, 8 July 2011

Matt Chandler, Michael Horton, and Tim Keller on the Church in Culture

For those who are following, or even vaguely aware of, the ongoing debates about the role of the church in culture – especially the lines being drawn in the sand between so-called ‘Two Kingdoms’ advocates on one side and so-called ‘Cultural Transformationists’ on the other side – this is a really useful 10-minute trialogue between Matt Chandler, Michael Horton, and Tim Keller.

Keller begins by asking: ‘What’s the church’s role in culture?’

To make it more granular, he asks: ‘What is the church’s job in equipping its members to carry out their callings in the world?’

In line with his recent published work on the gospel and the great commission, Horton speaks about culture (in this context) being about the ‘myriad callings’ we have as husbands, fathers, plumbers, teachers, etc., rooted in creation. But, he says, we have another calling in the great commission. Here, he deploys a distinction influenced by Kuyper between the church as an ‘organisation’ and the church as an ‘organism’. As an organisation or an institution, the church (for Horton) doesn’t have any calling to transform culture; but in terms of being an organism, the church as a people is scattered into the world to pursue their callings.

Chandler speaks about the mission of the church being ‘to proclaim the good news and make disciples’. But part of that process, he says, is training and releasing Christians to be faithful in their domains of society, to empower them to see themselves in their neighbourhood, hobby, workplace, etc. – the ‘units they do life in’ – as being a faithful presence and witness in those areas. Disciplemaking needs to go beyond emparting knowledge.

Keller judges that there is probably not much difference between the practice of Horton and Chandler. He says he hears them saying the same thing but not wanting to say it the same way. It’s not the church’s role, as the church, to change the social structures, but to equip the people to make a difference. Keller muses that it’s not the job of the pastor to lead a church to change a culture but to create a culture-changing people.

10 minutes well spent.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Derek Christensen on Equipping the Lay Mission Force

Here’s a short but powerful essay which echoes a lot of our concerns here at Imagine...

Derek Christensen, ‘Equipping the Lay Mission Force’, Momentum 2, 2 (2007), 129-34.

He begins with the ‘scattering‘ of the missionary church in Acts 8:1-4 and 11:19-24, pointing out the vital role that ‘lay’ people have continued to exercise in the history of the church, right up to recent times. Even so, as he says, while there has been ‘a great deal of writing on lay involvement... the truth is, it’s not happening’.

The bulk of the article is then taken up with an expansion of five reasons for a lack of lay involvement and five possible courses of action to take, as follows:

Five reasons for a lack of lay involvement:

1. The dominance of a professional leadership model of church life.

2. Continued focus on ‘come’ instead of ‘go’ strategies.

3. Related to this is the fact we leave most of our people with a gaping chasm between Sunday and Monday.

4. Failure to achieve a theology of culture that handles the dialogue between church and culture in ways that resonate with both people of the culture and people within the church.

5. Failure to fully resolve the church-academy divide.

Five possible courses of action for renewal in lay education:

1. Change our expectations of the role of the lay person.

2. Establish a seamless range of training opportunities for the whole people of God.

3. This implies a greater emphasis on the reflective practitioner.

4. Have as watchwords for our training three words: appropriateness, assessment and access.

5. Learn to see training of the lay mission force as a long term, lifelong task instead of short term and detached experiences.

Thursday, 16 June 2011


Anvil – ‘an Anglican Evangelical journal for theology and mission’ – has been relaunched as an online journal.

New material is available for free (following a pain-free registration process), and in time it is hoped that the whole Anvil archive will be available online.

According to the website:

‘Anvil is an Anglican evangelical journal of theology and mission. It aims to encourage clear and creative thinking and practice in theology and mission, through open, scholarly debate. While the journal stands clearly in an Anglican evangelical tradition, it seeks to engage constructively with other other Christian traditions both within and beyond the Anglican Communion. Anvil has a particular concern to reflect the unity and diversity of the church worldwide.’

Issue 27, 1 (2011) is available here. In addition to book reviews, it contains the following articles on the theme of ‘Fresh Expressions’:

Jonny Baker

Curating Worship

Drawing on many years involvement in ‘alternative worship’ and in particular on interviews for his recent book Curating Worship, Jonny Baker offers reflections on worship as curation and highlights a number of key themes arising from this creative liturgical and missional movement that are of value for the wider church.

Graham Cray

For the Parish by Andrew Davison and Alison Milbank – A Response

In their recent book, For the Parish, Andrew Davison and Alison Milbank offer a strong critique of Fresh Expressions and Mission-Shaped Church. In this response, Bishop Graham Cray highlights and responds to six of their criticisms, arguing they seriously mislead and misrepresent both the report and Fresh Expressions. He identifies contrasting approaches to the gospel and culture as underlying many of the differences before noting three areas of shared concerns.

George Lings

Evaluating Fresh Expressions of Church

One of the big questions we face today, particularly in relation to Fresh Expressions, is what we mean by ‘church’. In this article George Lings provides us with an overview and some critique of a number of existing lists and criteria on offer to evaluate church. He then explores in more detail the additional question of what it means for a church to be Christian, offering four distinctive characteristics. Finally, he critically explores the deeper question of our image of church and tracks four paradigm changes in this over recent years before concluding with a reflection on how the interpersonal paradigm can combine with the distinctively Christian features of church to assist in evaluating fresh expressions.

Eleanor Williams

Urban Fresh Expressions: Sustainability in the Mixed Economy

Drawing on parish experience and on research interviews conducted in preparation for a written project on the viability of Fresh Expressions of Church in urban deprived settings, Eleanor Williams surveys the findings of the research, drawing out key insights. She concludes by raising some challenging questions about the sustainability of new forms of church at the margins of society, and the meaning of the concept of ‘mixed economy’.

Select articles from earlier issues of Anvil are available here.