Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: GloboChrist

Review: GloboChrist: The Great Commission Takes a Postmodern Turn by Carl Raschke

For many writers in the Missional movement, there is a lot of discussion regarding what is wrong with the church and they do not really offer a solution. Raschke builds an argument for a wonderful understanding of the new discipleship and ecclesiology of the future but then tears it down in the last chapters. Most of the discussion includes a denial or defense of every opinion and does not do a great job of finding a compromise.

In the first chapter, Globopomo, we get the definition of GloboChrist and an explanation of the postmodern church and the impact globalization has played on the structure and transformation of Christianity. Here he lists the first set of ideas that points us in a new direction. Raschke says that “global postmodern Christianity needs to be characterized by decentralization, deinstitutionalization and indigenization (understanding universal concepts in light of specific circumstances)” (p.39). While these topics are built during the next few chapters many side trips are taken that either support or distract from the discussion.

In the discussion of globalization, one of the driving points, that is often drowned in academic and philosophical ideas, is that “primary force driving Christian global expansion… is the relational power of the Gospel” (p. 43-44). This idea is supported by the fact that faith is something to be nurtured by a community. Raschke hits some very significant points here.

The next idea that is focused on is the fact that the church must be incarnational. For us as the church, we need to be “present in local situations and in the sensitive space of people’s daily lives” (p.48). He later describes incarnational ministry as being more than just present in life but to truly be Jesus to one another. From here, we hear a message of hope as we adventure into ideas of contextualization and mission.

Raschke then dives into this dance of ethics, theology, history and non-agreeable rhetoric that, for the most part, derails his main concept of mission as an incarnational ministry. It declines even further into a discussion of Islam that points towards the “radicalness” of the faith and politely compares it to fundamentalist Christians. He makes his point but it feels as if it was a bit overdone.

In chapter five, Radical Relationality, we are given insight into a guide for further discussion and action. “The four R’s of becoming a Christ-follower heeding the call of the Great Commission …: radical, relational, revelatory and rhizomic” (p.116). Radical in terms of “Jesus extreme actions that expose the root of all authentic religious language and behavior”. Relational as the “real and genuine goal” of our faith. Revelatory in the incarnational characteristics of relationships. Rhizomic (multiplication/growth and interconnectivity) by the means of “spreading out, withdrawing, splitting, segmenting, then re-forming” (p.116-123).

Through all the rhetoric, there are many gems of quotes and grand ideas that points Christianity towards a global yet local understanding of faith that demands our love for our neighbors. One of the defining lines for me was Raschke's take on discipleship: “Discipling demands discipline,... discipling requires a singular focus on relationships, relationships that incarnate the pure love of God for his fallen creatures, as shown on Calvary.”

In the last two chapters, there is a breakdown of progress and we turn towards a conversation on the eschaton which seems almost out of place. This almost seems like it is an insurance policy on the information portrayed and he even calls out practically every tradition in the Christian faith. I get lost in his sense of identity only to believe that he has an argument for any side of any discussion. He even calls out moderates in the claim that they can go either way depending on the wind of culture yet he maintains his stance on discipline for incarnational and relational ministry.

The book was a good read, overall, but if we turned downed the language and the massive bibliography, we might have actually achieved something. One wish that I have it that Raschke needs to be more focused on building from his argument and less on the tear-down of others’. I have taken many good ideas from this book and I hope that we can look into postmodern Christianity with a new light of discipleship, relationships and dedication to the Gospel.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Church's Mission: Post-Enlightenment to Today

The modern interpretation of the Great Commission is one of disciple-making and evangelism. This understanding is based on Jesus’ command to “go” and often defines our mission in the Church. But this has not always been the mission of the church and the outcome of history has proven that the Great Commission has been interpreted in ways that have given the Church various direction throughout Protestant ecclesiology and missiology.
Although there is much to say about the missiology of the post-Reformation era of Protestantism the real conversation exists post-Enlightenment. With the Age of Reason and scientific discovery there were realizations that pre-Enlightenment missions were not a spread of the Gospel but a colonizing force cloaked in religion. So as Christianity moved into the post-Enlightenment era there was a tonal change in mission work and, specifically in the US, there was a focus toward the spread of ‘right tradition’. The shining example for this is the Methodist movement in the US during the 19th century. But our reality of mission in the US is limited to the understanding of Scripture as a call to proclaim our own tradition. This was apparent in the 19th and 20th century with the devisiveness of denominationalism with almost all Protestant and Christian groups.
But the foundation of mission is all bust lost in Christianity since the time of the Enlightenment. Our churches have forgotten that Christ’s call to ‘baptize the nations and to make disciples’ is our call to mission. The Great Commission should be constantly discerned as our command from Christ and our discipleship and our unity must be what defines us a people of faith.
There are three texts that outline this history and have been foundational in our understanding of the mishappenings and even the hope of our faith.
In David Bosch’s Transforming Mission we hear many stories and facts that outline the history of mission as something that can be improved upon. “Advocates of mission were blind to their own ethnocentrism… and confused their middle-class ideals and values with the tenets of Christianity.” (p301) Bosch creates a conversation around this in the argument that US Christian mission was a focused on the popular and stable segment of society that would best be able to create economies of expansion.
In Understanding Church Growth by David McGavran, it is outlined that mission and evangelism has taken many forms over the years but for many Americans there is a “fog” that limits our ability to see how we can grow. McGavran forms the argument that growth is a requirement of faithfulness and that we must not see evangelism as a goal but instead discipleship as our call to fulfill the Great Commission.
All three of my readings are glimpses from the past but J.C. Hoekendijk completely understands where the church has been and where it needs to go. Initially, I started reading The Church Inside Out and with a little vocabulary adjustment, this book could have been written yesterday. His clear understanding of how the church got to where it is and the hope and mission that defines us as Christians is a positive light that we all need to realize.
But Hoekendijk doesn’t use the language of expansion like McGavran. Instead he finds fault in many of our systems and says that “we must look for another way.”(p.18) There is more to what Christ is calling us to in the Great Commission than being a multiplying people of a religion. We need to be disciples who “establish the shalom”. By living and proclaiming shalom as humble servants we live out Christ’s example that is outlined in Matthew 9 as people that go into the world with a “Messianic shalom.” (p.25)
In my next article we will look toward the future of mission and evangelism through the lense of the Great Commission. After looking at past voices we will progress into modern thinkers that are discerning God’s call to the Church to baptize the nations and make disciples.