Yesterday, the MA group were treating the issue of “ecclesiology”: the doctrine of the church. We noted that the church is sometimes seen as a hospital, a family and even a country club! In one sense it can act in these ways for good or ill, but it is not any of these things in itself. Theologically we could say it is the main instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit to witness to, embody and work towards the establishment of the kingdom of God. That would be more accurate but a bit theoretical.
Yes it is there to heal broken lives but that’s not its main role, yes it is there to “contain” people like a family [contener is wonderful Spanish word meaning to contain as in a jar but also people within communities] and it is also a place for people to meet but it has a role beyond itself: God’s just rule upon this earth.
In all it is and does the church [local and universal] should be to see God’s rule announced; given a concrete form and worked towards. The church is God’s revolutionary group.
I was amused more than annoyed when the Church of England’s film was turned down for showing at UK cinemas. People asked what was so offensive. This got me thinking. That God’s name is honoured rather than blasphemed, that his kingdom should come on earth and his will be done could two good starters for ten.
Then the next line hit me, “give us today our daily bread”. Not bread for the week, or month or year but today and daily. Reflecting upon what Bonhoeffer says about this verse from Matthew is truly shocking and would most certainly be offensive our consumerist society.
Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.
George Osbourne would not approve!
Yesterday I blogged about the need for missionaries to “work their way out of a job”. I think this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums up the internal attitude we need for that task.
“costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” “
I know I have blogged on this subject before but this issue keeps popping up. This post was prompted by a prayer request on one of our many prayer diaries that we follow. It basically asked that we pray for a certain missionary to settle in and be able to evangelize and disciple young people.
Now, I may be over-reacting but my first thought was, “it is the job of the local church, not the missionary or the agency, to evangelize and disciple”. Clearly the missionary should be a member of the local church and thereby be part of a group who do evangelism, however, the missionary should at least be attempting to train others to do the job.
One of the first slogans of mission I ever heard [and as the son of a mission trainer of 50 years that was a long time ago!] was the role of the missionary was to “work your way out of a job”. Good old Roland Allen in his Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours said this 104 years ago! You would have thought, even in this dull-witted age, that we may have caught on by now.
What’s the answer? Is it a moratorium on foreign missions? The answer is certainly not me whining on my blog! Answers on a postcard.