As I end my time at Canadian Baptist Ministries I am blogging about core convictions that I have in terms of Christian mission. Part I (found here) covered Convictions 1 & 2. Now for the sequel…
Conviction 3: Mission needs to flow out of a vision of God, not a vision of the world.
I am tired of how often this verse is mis-used: “without a vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). This phrasing is from the King James Version, and has been used in too many presentations I’ve been subjected to that talk about the need for organizations to have vision. That is not what this verse is saying! Contemporary translations render it more accurately: “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint . . . ” (New International Version) Revelation is about the revealing of God. So, we could say, without a vision of God, people perish. What we do flows out of the kind of God we see.
Isaiah 6:9 is the story of Isaiah seeing God. He sees God’s might and power, recognizes his sin, is forgiven and cleansed, and then deployed into mission. The kinds of God we see is what determines the kind of work we do.
Similarly, the “Acts of the Apostles” flowed out of their time with Jesus. What they did was an extension of Jesus’ ministry.
Mission does not begin with a problem analysis or needs assessment. Too much Christian mission is problem-centred instead of God-centred. The problem with being problem-centred is we end up being part of the problem. We end up tired, or fatalistic, or cynical, or angry, or listless, or mediocre. But when we live in an ongoing encounter with God, it’s not that the problems diminish, it’s just that God gets bigger in our eyesight, which puts the problems into perspective. Surely the end-game God is working towards is more than a “lack of problems”. We are not working towards a “lack of problems” on the planet, but a presence of something: a presence of God, the Kingdom, shalom, abundant life.
Core Conviction 4: Mission therefore flows out of joy and hope, not out of a desperate attempt to fix a decaying world.
Mission flows out of worship. Whenever we truly and deeply encounter God in worship, we are intersected by and filled with the power of God and the vision of God and the purpose of God and the dream of God, and are animated inwardly in a way that flows outwardly and leads to change – NOT because we are worried and NOT because we are trying to fix the world, but because we are filled with the intentionality of God. The world is not a problem to be fixed. It is God’s Creation that He is loving, and we are invited to join in that loving. That loving will include the confronting of evil, the subverting of injustice, and the redemption of all things — including the redemption of women and men who willingly participate in God’s purposive activity. Too much Christian work is compulsive and reactive, rooted in anxiety and anger instead of rooted in the peace and joy that is the fruit of the Spirit. We need to pay attention to our internal energies – to the things inside us that drive us. This is not easy — it is not natural for me — but it is the only way to ensure that what we do is aligned with God.
One of the things for which I am grateful at CBM is how easily we laugh: here in the office, and on the field. Our partners and Field Staff often work in the midst of much brokenness, but they are still able to laugh because the brokenness does not define them: they are defined by their identity as being children of God.
So . . . those are my four Core Convictions. They are not rocket science, and they are not new. But I do think that if every church and Christian agency could get these key things “right”, we would be on the right path.