Christian Ministry, Free Course, Lesson 003
Ministry in Contemporary Society
Globalization, which began with the European exploration of the Western hemisphere, is today a rapidly expanding phenomenon. The world today is a very eclectic place. Christians are not immune to its subtle influence. In our pursuit of life, each of us should be reminded of Israel’s relations with her pagan neighbors. When they failed to allow Yahweh an exclusive place in their lives and teachings, they wandered from the true path.
Is there more reason to believe that the revelation of God in Jesus Christ yields less exclusiveness? Not all positions held by individuals or fellowship groups can be right. Some attitudes may be correct and others may be either wholly or partially wrong. We need to broaden our horizons and become enlightenment as to representative thinkers.
Living in a global society brings us increasingly into contact with people of different worldviews. How shall we act as we seek relationship with people of the global community? It has now become more important than ever to be able to state our own faith in relation to the faith of others. But how can this be done if we do not understand the content and assumptions of non-Christian religions? We need some way to compare and contrast the Christian faith systems with other faith systems.
This is where comparative religion can play a role. Comparative religion has been used to develop a theology of religions out of a sense of need to examine the historical development of one’s own religious tradition as well as the traditions of others. Perhaps the greatest crisis facing Christian missions is uncertainty within the Christian community about what to make of religious world circumstances. The most widely employed typological distinction in the debate over a Christian theology of religions centers around three positions: exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism.
Over the centuries, the church has faced challenges from other ideologies. Justin Martyr wrote his apologies for the Christian faith. Others have entered into debate. Still others have taken up military arms to defend the faith and subdue unbelievers. What form should the encounter in the 21st century take?
Christians often assume a stance relative to missions that reflects their upbringing or their reaction to that upbringing. An uncritical approach leads us to accept the status quo. A critical approach leads us to question the status quo. The standard by which we judge any position should be Scripture. So, the major question to be resolved is: What is the task and scope of missions from a biblical perspective? To this point, we might expect all those who proclaim a religious faith to feel compelled to convert others. But just what do believers think about missions?
The definition of mission is one of continuing debate and affects the way churches and individuals engage in mission activity. If the concept of Christians in mission is defined as being Christian in the presence of others, then it follows that evangelism will mean basically responding, when asked, why Christians believe and act as they do. Three modern answers have been proposed to the question, "Where do we do missions?" These are (1) to the ends of the earth, (2) only within the local context, and (3) only where we are specifically invited by indigenous partner churches.