Mission without Reformation & What I Would Have Said

Here are two short articles to consider

– Mission without Reformation …. is deluded, self-defeating and even DANGEROUS by Chris Wright
– What I Would Have Said If I Had had the Chance by David Fitch

Mission without Reformation … – is a short essay that Chris Wright wrote as a contribution to a conversation around the Lausanse Core slogan about mission. He sas that we need repentance and renewal in the church …otherwise, the church may (has) become “a stumbling block to evangelism when it betrays the Gospel”. AND “there are scandals and abuses in the world-wide evangelical community that are reminiscent of the worst features of the pre-reformation medieval church in Europe.”

What I Would Have Said …. – is a blog post responding to Willow Creek’s ‘Reveal’. It offers good insights into the nature of mega-churches – & these insights also extend to be relevant to ‘normal’ organised churches. (Note – I don’t agree with it all – but it offers some good insight)
Mission without Reformation By Chris Wright

In preparation for Lausanne 2010 in South Africa, the Lausanne Theology Working Group is focusing on the core ‘slogan’ of Lausanne. The Lausanne Covenant (1974) defined ‘evangelization’ as ‘the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world’. This has ensured that the explicit theology of mission within the Lausanne movement has been integral and holistic. However, while the slogan has a rich resonance and an obvious meaning and appeal, we cannot claim that we have fully explored the depth of what is entailed by each of the three phrases. In presenting this plan to the leadership of Lausanne, I added the following statement:

We also need to make sure we also use the whole Bible. For holistic theology and practice of mission require a holistic understanding and use of the Bible. The Bible shows us God’s priorities and passions. The Bible as a whole shows us God’s heart:

• For the last and the least (socially, culturally and economically) as well as the lost (spiritually)
• For those dying of hunger, AIDS, and war, as well as those who are dying in their sins
• For the landless, homeless, family-less and stateless as well as for those who are without Christ, without God and without hope in the world.

The God who commands us to disciple all nations also commands us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. We still struggle to ‘relate’ these things to one another when we ought never to have split them apart in the first place. But sadly we did. We have been guilty of putting asunder what God has joined together. Lausanne, in its commitment to holistic mission, believes in the integration of all these things because anything less is untrue to the Bible.

The Lausanne Covenant speaks of ‘the entirety’ of the Scriptures, and about ‘all that it affirms’. May God protect us from selective hermeneutics, from polarized priorities and from segmented perceptions of the gospel. My big concern is not just that the world church should become more evangelical, but that world evangelicals should become more biblical.

To be biblical is also to be prophetic. And most of what the prophets had to say was addressed, not to the world of outside nations (though they did have words for them), but to the people of God themselves. The prophets confronted Old Testament Israel and demanded that they change their ways, if they were to have any hope of fulfilling their mission of being a light to the nations and a blessing on the earth. The dominant prophetic call was to repentance among God’s people, so that God could get on with the job of blessing the world.

Just as much today we need repentance and renewal in the church, as well as renewed passion for world mission. Otherwise, the church may become, as the Lausanne Covenant puts it, “a stumbling block to evangelism when it betrays the Gospel”. Arguably, in some respects and in some places it has already become exactly that.

Indeed, my hope for Cape Town 2010 is that it would launch and foster nothing less than a 21st Century Reformation – among evangelicals, who need it as much as any other Christian bloc.

For there are scandals and abuses in the world-wide evangelical community that are reminiscent of the worst features of the pre-reformation medieval church in Europe.
• There are some mega leaders, like ancient prelates, wielding vast wealth, power and control – unaccountable, unattractive and unChristlike
• There are multitudes of ordinary Christians going to so-called evangelical churches, where they never hear the Bible preached or taught. They live in scandalous biblical ignorance.
• Instead they are offered, in the ‘prosperity gospel’ a form of 21st century indulgences, except that you pay your money not for release from pains after death, but for receipt of material ‘blessings’ here and now.
• And there are evangelicals parading ungodly alliances with secular power – political, economic and military – identifying themselves (and the gospel they claim to preach) with agendas and ideologies that reflect human empire not the kingdom of God in Christ.

Will we have the courage to identify and renounce such scandals and to seek a reformation of heart, mind and practice?

The 16th Century Reformation was criticized because it lacked missionary awareness and energy until much later. They were so obsessed with tackling abuses in the church that they neglected world mission. How ironic and tragic will it be if 21st Century evangelicals are so obsessed with world mission that we neglect abuses in the church, and remain wilfully blind to our own idolatries and syncretism?

• If reformation without mission was defective,
• then mission without reformation will be deluded, self-defeating and even dangerous.

The Lausanne Covenant, like the Bible itself, commits us to the integration of both. May God grant us the will and humility to respond with equal commitment.
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What I Would Have Said If I Had had the Chance
Thursday, December 13, 2007

OK, not that anyone needs another bog- post on Willowcreek’s REVEAL. But I’m frustrated that the interview (WMBI radio this morning) turned into an apologetic for Willow without any feedback. Julie at the station did a great job and we both agreed this is the nature of radio. Anyways, here’s some quick retorts (poorly edited) on the interview between myself and Scot McKnight on WMBI this morning. This is what I would have said if Scot had given me a chance to get a word in edge-wise (wink-wink Scot … just kidding).

1.) HERE WE GO TRYING TO SATISFY NEEDS AGAIN – THIS TIME IT IS SPIRITUAL GROWTH NEEDS. The big problem with Willowcreek and many forms of American church is that it assumes the church is an institution that exists to satisfy needs – as they exist – unredeemed. When we organize church to do this it changes the very nature of the church making it unrecognizable as the people of God called to live the reality of His excellence before the world (1 Pet 2:9). The problem with the REVEAL report is that it takes all of this one step further, making spiritual growth into a consumerist personal need to be serviced by the church. Spiritual growth cannot be met as an individual separate from community, confessing sin one to another (James 5:16), speaking truth as real people to other people we know in love (Eph 4:25), worshiping and reorienting ourselves to The Reality – God of Jesus Christ, working out our lives in regular communal fellowship in submission one to another (Phil 2:12 after the order we are to be shaped into Phil 2:1-11). These practices cannot be mass-organized. They take intentional community.

2.) THE PERSONAL DISCIPLINES ARE NOT ENOUGH. Willow’s REVEAL thinks the answer is for them to train each of their people into the individual disciplines. The so-called Navigator wheel. Personal bible study, prayer, fellowship and service to others. Yet I know, from talking to Navigator leaders high up that this approach alone has been a failure. We need communal spiritual practices as well. They are essential.As I said, these practices are more akin to a missional order and cannot be mass organized.

3.) The problem with THE MEGA-CHURCH approach is its processes BREEDS PASSIVITY. REVEAL says our problem was we made people too dependent upon us. Yet this is the nature of the large attractional show church service which all mega churches are built around and get their name. IT IS POWERFUL SPIRITUAL FORMATION. It breeds passivity from the very start. To sit anonymously, take in the show of Christianity and pick and choose what I want to use for that day. It in essence makes Christianity unrecognizable. Can REVEAL do some research on this?

4.) The REVEAL report continues to assume the church is about CUSTOMER SATISFACTION. And so SPIRITUAL GROWTH IS SEEN AS A PRODUCT (see p. 90 of the report). But this is the root of the problem for those of us who see consumerism as the problem. Christianity is not about individual benefits although there are many derivative of participating in a life ordered by God’s Mission. To turn spiritual growth into something we offer as a church is once again to repeat the same mistakes all over again.

5.) REVEAL says we asked churches outside of Willow. But THE QUESTIONS THEMSELVES ASSUME A CERTAIN VIEW OF THE CHURCH which in itself is the problem. The questions about “rating satisfaction” regarding “church benefits” (I have to believe) would be laughed out of most missional churches I know. (the quotes are from p.53 of report).

Finally, when you see the church as God’s chosen social strategy for redeeming the world, the place where he is working, the social embodiment of His new way of life displayed before the world, it is hardly appropriate to ask someone if they are satisfied with it. It is like asking someone if they are satisfied with God’s salvation in Christ. Rate your satisfaction?

There is much more to be said. But what was telling in the WMBI radio interview was the callers who called in. A slice of American Christianity – extolling the virtues of putting on a show because alot of people show up, it works (uh in what way?) therefore quit criticizing, alot of young people show up to see a movie and the show, so our kids are in church – everyone should be happy (and when they graduate high school all the statistics say they will never come back), “double dipping”- going to a church to get things.
To me this is what American churches try to play to in order to survive. And in a few short generations, we shall see we have not survived following this way. THIS IS WHAT REVEAL REVEALS.

No one is trying to demonize Willow here. This is the most influential, self published, promoted ecclessiology in the world. If I am a theologian of any worth, I and others must engage the theology and cultural assumptions of this organization and its vast publications. We do this for the furtherance of Christ and His Mission. We do this seeking more faithfulness. We submit it to the Spirit for him to work (Acts 15). To this end, I continue to encourage Greg Hawkins of Willowcreek, Scot McKnight, and others to talk. In fact let’s talk together.