Thursday, November 15, 2007

Church unity is mission

Darkness comes early this time of year. I turned on the headlight of the van. I feel tired after bringing almost thirty children to their homes. As I was making a right turn, the Pastor of the Kachin church waved to us. I waved back and did a wai (prayer like posture Thai greeting) while driving the van and drove fast him. But then he came running after us and when I saw him. I pulled over and I looked back and asked what it was he wanted. He gave us an invitation for the Kachin’s church thanksgiving day on Saturday.

A very small congregation of Kachin tribe from Myanmar was worshiping few kilometers from our house. Few blocks from this church, you can also find a Shan church. A Lahu congregation is also located near our vicinity. May family neither attend nor visit these churches although they are practically our neighbors. We belong to a church that is composed of mixed tribal groups from Myanmar and Thailand up on the hill.

I can’t understand why Christians from different tribal groups could not worship together although they speak a common language. In fact they are almost indifferent to each other. Apparently, these churches are planted and sponsored by missionaries by whom that particular tribe is the people group they chose to work with. The missionaries’ strict focus on their chosen people group in total disregard to other resulted in a further fragmentation of the body of Christ. Sometimes thoughtless observance of what seems to be effective strategy in mission has its downside. Missions should be concerned with the unity in the body of Christ. Believers from different ethnic backgrounds worshiping together have more missionary impact than hundred of small congregations who are indifferent to each other.

And I agree with David Bosch in Transforming Mission when he says:
The unity of the church—no, the church itself—is called in question when groups of Christians segregate themselves on the basis of such dubious distinctive as race, ethnicity, sex, or social status. God in Christ has accepted us unconditionally; we have to do likewise with regard to one another. On the basis of Paul’s thinking, it is inconceivable that, in a given locality, converts could comprise two congregations—one of Torah observant Jewish Christians, and another of non-observant Gentile Christians (Sanders 1983:188). In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ a new age has dawned, in which Jew and Gentile are joined together without distinction in the one people of God. “Is Christ divided?” (1 Cor. 1:13). That is inconceivable! Segregation in the church destroys its internal life and denies its grounding in the substitutionary death of Christ. Only Christ, not Paul or anybody else (cf 1 Cor. 1:13), was crucified so as to reconcile people with God). “One has died for all” (2 Cor. 5:14). And Christ’s work of reconciliation does not just bring two parties into the same room that they may settle their differences; it leads to a new kind of body in which human relations are being transformed. In a very real sense mission, in Paul’s understanding, is saying to people from all backgrounds, “Welcome to the new community, in which all are members of one family and bound together by love”.

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