Challenges for the Church in the New Millennium (#8)
by Robert J. Young
The Nature of the Christian Mission

Note: On the first Sunday of January, 2000, I presented to a combined adult Bible class a list of items that the church must thoughtfully address if we are to be a viable voice in the new millennium. I was asked to expand that Bible class presentation into a series of bulletin articles which were published in the church bulletin. They are reprinted here in the hope they will be helpful to even more people. These may be freely used as deemed appropriate.

| Introduction | The Bible & Truth-#1 | Bible Inspiration-#2 | Bible Interpretation-#3 | Nature of Church-#4 | Possibility of Unity-#5 | Worldliness-#6 | Christian Experience-#7 | Christian Missions-#8 | Christian Hope-#9 | Human Nature-#10 | Christian Living-#11 |

In order to be effective, the church must address several practical matters. These must be addressed biblically, integrating the message of Scripture with appropriate actions in today's world. Among these matters are those addressed the previous article-- worship, gender roles, and ethnic and racial attitudes.

The church must also ask anew about the way the Bible describes the nature of the Christian mission effort. Toward the right end of the theological spectrum, toward conservativism or fundamentalism, the tendency is to understand Christian missions almost exclusively in terms of evangelism. The mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel. Genuine missionary activity is overtly evangelistic. Such disdains the "social gospel" and likely, down deep in the heart, wonders about the value and effectiveness of the various benevolent and educational endeavors which are being undertaken under the guise of missions. The conflict is obvious as one thing is affirmed and another practiced.

We must ask whether it is possible to continue to affirm the priority of evangelism while at the same time feeling the burden of the social ills of the world and refusing to distance ourselves from our social responsibilities? If Jesus came into this world with mighty words and mighty works, both proclaiming and demonstrating, described by Matthew as "preaching, teaching, and healing," do not good news and good works supplement and reinforce one another? To separate them is as Carl Henry has described it "an embarrassing divorce."

The church must find the healthy marriage that links our abilities to help address physical concerns with our intense desire to address spiritual concerns. We must find the "both-and" that will effectively answer the "either-or" option. We must not become so enamored with the need to love that we forget the ultimate expression of love includes addressing the needs of the whole person. If Jesus is our example, we cannot but do both. We must speak the truth in love, we must minister in love. Both dynamics are clearly a part of the early church as described in the Bible, and both must characterize our understanding and practice of the Christian mission today.

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Last updated February 21, 2001.