Posted by: Veroni Kruger | February 24, 2021

Mission

There can be no doubt that the church is called to mission.  Because it is such an important topic, and because of my own personal calling to mission, I intend to devote the next few blogs to mission.  But first I want to make clear what I understand mission to be.  A good starting point is to define what it is not.      

WHAT MISSION IS NOT    

MISSION IS NOT THE IMPOSING OF ONE CULTURE UPON ANOTHER      

Missionaries have often been guilty of considering evangelising or Christianizing to be influencing the “natives” to be like the missionaries in cultural characterization.  At the base of this approach is the assumption that the culture of the missionary is superior to that of the people among whom the missionary has come to work, and somehow more “Christian.”  It is a racist point of view that has been shown to be false.

The widespread custom among missionaries of teaching the people among whom they work to sing translations of the hymns of the sending culture is a result of this approach.  In Africa at least, and I believe also in other parts of the world, this often leads to church music that is completely unnatural to the indigenous people.  Every culture has its own media of expression, and it is an impoverishment of the people of that culture to detract from those means of expression.      

I would characterize this fallacy as cultural colonialism.

MISSION IS NOT THE EXPANSION OF ANY PARTICULAR DENOMINATION OR CHURCH MOVEMENT

There is nothing wrong with organizing the work of the church along the lines of various groupings, be they denominational or doctrinal or customs.  Effective organization is a powerful vehicle for the truth of the Word of God, and it is unreasonable to try to deny that.  But whatever vehicles we employ, they always remain just that – instruments utilized for the work of mission.  The donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem did not become the focus of the events on Palm Sunday, but only to carry the object of people’s admiration.  In the same way, the vehicles we employ in mission must never become more important than mission.  Denominations are useful vehicles for the spread of the Gospel, but should never become the objective of mission.    

Tremendous progress was made as long ago as in the nineteenth century, when Henry Venn and Rufus Anderson coined the phrase “the three-self formula”.  According to this view of mission, the goal of mission should be the building of churches that are self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating.  Yet, in spite of this formula being ostensibly accepted as a principle for mission in general, there are still organizations that seem to have the expansion of their own particular group as the main focus of missionary activity.  There are movements for whom the call to mission is totally executed through church planting all with the name and characteristics of the planting organization.   

I would characterize this fallacy as ecclesiastical colonialism

MISSION IS NOT “CIVILIZING” PEOPLE

This wrong approach is similar to the first one (that of imposing one culture upon another), yet different in the focus on the individual.  “Natives” are taught to be like the missionary in as many respects as possible.  Early missionaries were often more interested in making people conform to their own standards than to let them know that Christ died for them just as they are.  Clothes were handed out so that the pagans could “cover their shame” even before the Gospel was presented to them.  There is a terrible theological blunder behind all of this, viz. that we need to make ourselves acceptable to God.  This serious theological error has both serious and ridiculous consequences.  It is sad that the Gospel should be so obscured by man-made rules and regulations.  On the other hand, people in large parts of the world are still labouring under the western traditions of ties and jackets for men no matter what the climate is like, because of the impressions left by early missionaries.  The underlying assumption is similar to that discussed under cultural imposition, namely that the culture of the missionary is superior to that of the unevangelized.     

I characterize this fallacy as personal colonialism.

Next week I will write about the reason for mission.  Why should we do mission?


Responses

  1. I believe we were in the military in walvisbaai together in the 60’s and would like like to hear from you.

    Like

  2. You are right about our being in Walvisbaai at the same time. You can call me on 0828638741, or send an email to veronikruger@mac.com

    Like


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