Monday, June 12, 2006

On Christian Missions and Missiologists

For the last three years of my life, I have been learning a lot about missions. I have attended a lot trainings and seminars that increased my knowledge about missions. I am convinced that there is indeed a great progress in missiological studies and it can be observed by many books and publication that surface which deals with the issues in missions trends today. It is interesting how anthropology and sociology jumped into the wagon to contribute to the ever expanding study about missions. Cross-cultural studies, ethnocentrism, contextualized theology, worldview, etc are common words in theological discourses today.

It has been observed also that there is a burgeoning missionary activity today. Even the third word countries are sending more and more full-time missionaries to foreign countries. This is in addition to a large number of short-term missionaries being sent month after month by different missions organizations and local churches. This means that there are missionaries out there in the field who probably lack the trainings necessary to become a missionary, or even worse… do they know what missions is all about?

It is interesting to find out what most Christians think about missions. My elderly pastor in my home church would tell me that mission is church planting. For him mission does not necessarily mean that a church should send missionary to a foreign country. For him as long as you are doing church planting you are a missionary. This is the reason why this pastor is so unsympathetic with our decision to go cross-cultural missions.

Here is another good definition of theology and you often hear this from well-meaning and dedicated Christians. A mission is going places to tell others about Jesus but they would add these words… “But of course you don’t have to leave home to be missionaries, the people in you neighborhood is your mission field and they need to know Jesus also.

This guy had a good picture of what missions is all about when he says that “When I think of missions the first word that comes to my mind is GO! Matthew 28:19-20 (also known as the Great Commission) states “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and, lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” I can just heard God shouting from heaven “Hey y’all Christians down there, get up out of those pews and GO and while you’re going TELL everyone about Me and my Son, cause it’s great news guys, in fact, it’s the greatest news on Earth!” This is indeed a good definition the church mission. Here the main point of doing mission is telling others about God and Jesus Christ.

I believe no one can give a good definition of missions other than the missiologists. I will quote directly from a school of missions website (sorry I Could not remember the URL and I can’t find it anymore). Missiology is the integrative study of the expansion of Christianity as it has been propagated by Christian missionaries—the study of missionary work—draws together scholarship in biblical, historical, doctrinal, and practical theological studies. Missiologists would define missions as the cross-cultural expansion of Church of Jesus Christ.

Missiologists reflect on the global march of the Church, they use tools from the social sciences to understand various dynamics. Insights are drawn from cultural anthropology, ethnology, sociology, geography, and political science. Missiology seeks to develop strategies for effective missionary work and church planting. In doing their work, missiologists interact with a wide range of professions, especially those of agriculture, education, medicine and public health.

For that reason, most of the materials, seminars and trainings we have been using and attending have been developed by missiologists. Almost all of the knowledge we are acquiring about missions are results of the efforts of the missiologists. Undoubtedly this is one of the reasons that missionary movements in this era have been increasing and that even the third world have been significantly involved in missions.

However, I find it interesting to know what great theologians have to say about Christian missions. I believe their thoughts and ideas regarding mission would make a very important contributions to contemporary missions. This will be the ideas I want to explore in my next posts.

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