Christian Mission is ex Deus (from God) as well as ex Humanus (from human being). It is from God, of God, and for God. Yet human intellect, which is a gift from God, is a necessity in making it happen. However, human intellect is not free from presuppositions, perspective, prejudices, cultural biases, fear, ignorance, pride, fear, the desire of freedom from any accountability and various human limitations. Therefore, it is possible that with all good intention a Christian mission may entail with it-confusion, misunderstanding, division, distrust, suspicion, blame, and bad relationships. We may be 80% right and only 20% wrong, and yet the 20%, though small, can undermine all the right done. Undoubtedly, Mission effort requires constant reflection on what we are doing and how we are doing.
II. PHILOSOPHY OF MISSION
What is the philosophy of your mission?
The question may sound ridiculous to a missionary or any mission agency. We would normally ask about Vision, Mission, and Methodology. We might question about the commitment of a missionary or financial stability of a sending agency, or at the most, we may question about their theology.
Usually, we don't talk about the philosophy of mission. We talk about philosophy of education and science but not of mission. Some may talk about it in the academic set up, but rarely while orienting a missionary. I suggest that we talk about it sooner than later.
What is philosophy?
Philosophy, in academic set up, is defined differently but I would adapt it in following terms.
Philosophy of Mission comprises a set of views and theories of a particular philosopher (in our case the source is the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit who inspired it), the fundamental nature of knowledge (the essentials and the core values of the teachings of the Holy Bible), reality (understanding of social, religious, political, and economical context), and a critical consideration of the existing and possible results and their implications (learning from the two thousand years of the history of the missions of Church).
Hence the philosophy of mission embodies in itself the theology of mission, the ethics of mission, and the wisdom of mission (the best applied ethics). It needs to be articulated by the missionary who is on the mission field. And its articulation would often depend on the depth of the virtues a missionary has acquired. This is why the intensity of the problem on the mission field is direct reflection of who the missionary as a person is. Hence, continuous orientation, training, and support of a missionary with a right philosophy of mission are indispensable.
The first component of the philosophy of mission is the knowledge of the Holy Scripture and our continued learning from the Holy Spirit. Biblical mission must be grounded in the Biblical Theology. A study of socioloÂgy,anthropology, culture and other skills are helpful; however, it is the understanding of Biblical theology that would determine how biblical the particular mission is.
Samuel Escobar rightly emphasized, Biblical scholarship and theology are therefore foundational points of reference for missiological work. (p.22)
What constitutes our biblical theology?
We need to ask questions such as:
- What is essential and non-essential in our mission? How do we understand the Biblical concept of Church?
- What is a local Church?
- What is a universal Church?
- Is there anything called independent and isolated Church?
- What does the Bible teach us about goal of faith? About unity and love? character of a new community? about the ultimate goal of missions?
Vision: All may glorify God of the Bible
Mission: To save people from the penalty of sin (evangelism) and from the power of sin
- To present the whole gospel relevant to the context
- To facilitate establishing of a witnessing community, a body of Christ, who is able to interpret and apply the gospel in their context.
- To educate the new community to seek love and unity with other existing followers of Christ so that they can together become a powerful witnessing community. To have functional understanding with fellow Christians and not do the things that divides the local Christian community. [Essential unites but non-essential divides].
- To enable the established new community become mature and multiply on their own.
We need to check whether our Vision, Mission, and Objectives are aligned to the biblical theology.
Ill. TRANSFORMING OUR THEOLOGY INTO OUR ETHICS
The second component of the philosophy is facing the reality (understanding of social, cultural, religious, political, and economical context).
Our theology must be made relevant to the context. It must determine our ethics that is pragmatic.
What kind of life style? behaviour? cloths? food habit?
What is prevalent? What is assumed in the minds of people?
Is there any ethical guideline for our Mission?
If so, how are they influenced and guided by our biblical theology?
We should also ask the questions about implications of our mission?
What are the implications of what are we doing? how are we doing? negative campaign? methods of control? the guiding principles?
Does the end justify the means?
Is misrepresentation, manipulation, and monopolization right in mission?
What kinds of ethics are applicable in a given situation?
What do we want to ultimately achieve through our mission effort?
- Corporate authority or individual authority?
- Personal vision or perpetuation of vision?
- Personal empire or the Kingdom of God?
How do they fall in line with the teaching of the Bible?
Application of ethics must be sensitive to social, cultural, religious, political and economical context.
We are constantly judged by our conscience as well people around us who interpret us according to their yard stick.
IV. TRANSFORMING KNOWLEDGE INTO WISDOM
The third component of the Philosophy of Mission is critical consideration of the existing and possible results and their implications (learning from the two thousand years of the history of the missions of Church).
Most problems on the Mission field are not new. They are repetition of the same from the past. Likewise, no debate and consultation on the subject is also new. Many books are written and published. Our library is full of them.
We are fortunate we have more than 2000 years of church history. We can learn from the past and shape our present. We are blessed with more than one option.
In other words, we have options to be wiser than our predecessors. We can choose to be wise.
It is one thing to have information but it is entirely another thing to have wisdom. There are things that may apparently look right, legal, and good and yet may cause damages that are serious in nature. Mission is not only about right theology but also ethics that is right and appropriate.
St. Paul wrote, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Co 6:12 NAS)
It is not only right means but also right end result. It is not only reaching the destination but taking the community along with us. It's not about how fast we arrive at the spot but how safe we arrive. The traffic sign better late than never does have some lesson even for mission work.
Hence, wisdom is needed. The wisest man of the world wrote, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (Eccl 12:13-14)
We need wisdom to uphold our united common witness, wisdom to trust in God, and wisdom to seek not only His Kingdom but also His righteousness on top priority.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." (James 1 :5)
Yes we need to draw a succinct and carefully thought philosophy of Biblical Mission. However, the greatest challenge would be how to nurture them in the minds and hearts of our jealous and passionate missionaries on the mission field.
I believe what is impossible with man is possible with God and hence our effort must be persistent and consistent.
Soli Dea Gloria!
DR. A. K LAMA