Following Jesus Into the Mission Field
By: Bill Easum
Those who follow my writing know I believe we are living in a pivotal period of history in which everything that will be is being separated from everything that was. In such a traumatic period, all of the rules of the game of life are called into question.
Christianity and the Scriptures are the result of such a period. The effect Jesus had on the people around him signaled the end of many traditions and the birth of a yet-to-be-understood way of life. Although Jesus never intended to establish a new faith, his actions set into motion a movement that would become a profoundly new way of life.
However, Judaism was so entrenched in the rules and regulations of institutional life that she was unable to follow this movement of God's spirit into a new and deeper understanding of life and Christianity was born. Could it be the same thing is happening today to Christianity?
For the past 1600 years, since the rule of Constantine, much of Christianity has lived aloof and apart from the gentile world relying on its institutional and political dominance to protect it and to propagate the "faith." Today, with its institutional and political dominance receding into the shadows of yesterday, authentic Christianity is again breaking out of its institutional, religious closet to once again become a movement rather than a religion based on doctrines and rules.
Movement More Than Religion
In these road stores, St. Luke leaves a question behind that begs to be answered: Where were all of the disciples going and why? Perhaps more importantly, where was Jesus going and did his actions set all of this travel into motion? The answer is they were all on the road to the gentiles, away from the spiritual center of religious professionals to the world. Luke reinforces this traveling theme with the Pentecost experience, the mission of Paul to the gentiles at Antioch, the conflict between Paul and the Jerusalem Church, and finally Paul's mission to the West. In every instance, Christianity was depicted as a movement away from the center of religious institutional, professional life into the fringes of the mission field.
So, here is the question God is again asking Christianity: "Will you follow me once again into the mission field?"
If we wish to be faithful and to claim the future for Jesus, we will have to abandon the comfort of our institutions and follow Jesus into the mission field. What does this mean? It means that to be effective on the mission field, Christianity will once again have to become a movement.
Movements Embody the Spirit of the Founder
In movements that thrive long-term, subsequent leaders embody the spirit of the movement's founder. Christianity thrived because people like Paul, Apollos, Lydia, Baranbus, Peter, Mark, Stephen and others caught and lived out the spirit of Jesus by following him into the mission field. Christianity thrives today where leaders embody the spirit of Jesus. Their leadership is not based on professionalism, personality, office, or even institutional ordination. Their leadership is based on how well they can function among the world of the gentiles. .
Christians give their loyalty, not to a set of rules or policies or a religious group, but to a person who embodied the "way" they are supposed to live and die.
Movements Are Guided By Mission Rather Than Rules
Movements Are Mobile Rather Than Static
Movements Depend on Contextual People
It's hard for people steeped in a static religion of the past to embrace radical change. Judaism opposed Jesus; Jerusalem questioned Antioch; Rome challenged the Monastics; Anglicans chastised Wesley; and today some established denominational leaders are shaking their heads at the lack of religion found in the emerging postmodern congregations. But, my friends, be forewarned; the more we rely on our institutions more than following our leader into the mission field, the more likely we will be to be left behind on the road to nowhere.
Bill Easum is president of 21st Century Strategies, Inc. a full service church consulting group since 1987 whose mission is to equip Christian for global impact, www.churchconsultations.com.