Editor’s note: This is the last article in a three-part series on “The Only Cause That Counts.” Previous articles include “Missiology: The Gospel at the Intersections” and “How Missiology Teaches Us About God and Mission.”
My last few posts have talked about missiology, the discipline of cross-cultural communication of the Christian faith. Missiology helps us understand who God is and what the gospel means at points of intersection in our world. Good missiology results in a healthy, autonomous, indigenous expression of the Christian faith, life and church within each cultural context or people group.
Unfortunately, a lot of what we call “missions” today ignores proper missiology. In the United States, lack of proper missiology results in churches doing their own thing because they’ve always done it that way, or because they are imitating perceived success elsewhere, without understanding the disconnect between their church and their context. I am increasingly convinced that a major part of the reason why the church in the United States isn’t growing as it should (and could) is because we have a weak missiology that doesn’t address real issues at places of intersection in our complex world. Today in America, Christian work is all cross-cultural. Even in contexts that look similar, there are layers and layers of cultural things happening simultaneously, impacting thinking and affecting relationships. If our faith, theology and missiology don’t learn to engage at those places of intersection, then the church of Jesus in the United States will not gain ground.
Internationally, lack of proper missiology is terribly sad. At its least dangerous, it becomes missions as tourism. Well-meaning Christians raise money from their relatives, friends and churches to see what they can see. They often paint churches that – for a lot less money – could be painted by someone local who longs to have enough money to feed the family. Internationally, lack of proper missiology results in doing what is good for us, with much less regard to the receiving church.
Good missiology asks and answers honestly:
- Why do we do what we do?
- Do these endeavors move forward the cause of Christ like in the book of Acts?
- Is this move good for the church as an organization or for the cause of Christ?
The Apostle Paul was all about the accountability of what happens on the receiving end. Everywhere Paul went, the results were new disciples, new churches and new local leaders being identified and empowered.
Today, good missiology results in more disciples, leaders, groups and churches — plus energized churches here and overseas, mission agencies with empowered people, effective missionaries, and alive networks and eager individuals in the West resourcing at every level the cause of world evangelization.
Good missiology is like a great orchestra: everyone playing instruments that took a long time to learn to play well – and together – with nuanced ups and downs, loud and soft, fast and slow, to create something beautiful that both musicians and listeners enjoy.
The Lausanne Movement for World Evangelization uses the language of reflective practitioners for people who live and dream, think and minister at places of intersection. I invite you to be a reflective practitioner. No Christian is exempt from the Great Commission. We are all instructed to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus Christ commanded.
We are all called to go and live out God’s mission. The increasing fragmentation of our world multiplies the points of intersection (and friction) at every level of society, culture and certainly church. Let us decide to live out our faith, our vocation, and flesh out our thinking, even at those wild places of seemingly incomprehensible intersections. Because at the end of the day, Christ’s cause is the only cause that counts.
Delia Nüesch-Olver is the Latin America Area director for Free Methodist World Missions. She began this role in 2008 after 35 years of ministry experience as a cross-cultural church planter and pastor. She also served as a professor of global urban mission at Seattle Pacific University. She is an ordained elder and has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology.3