A (Post-)Evangelical Missiology of Transformation

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Before I return my copy of Transformation: A Unifying Vision of the Church’s Mission to Milan Telian, I wanted to blog a few more key insights on the nature of Transformation, excerpted from the last several chapters.

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The Transformed Person
By Michael Cassidy

You see, if we don’t get it that God is really on about spiritual, moral, and social transformation on all fronts and at all levels, then we will perpetuate across the globe the current Christian tragedy of my continent, namely Africa, where we have some 380 million professed Christians — nearly 50 percent of the continent’s population — yet a continent in many ways going down the tubes morally, socially, politically and economically.

I believe Christians are to blame because we have preached only a salvation message — that is how to be saved, born again, shout hallelujah and so on — and not a Kingdom message where we learn how to bring all of life — personal, marital, sexual, economic, political, etc. — under the kingship of Christ, so that wherever Christians are in any sector of society they are making a godly difference regarding how things actually function.

Bethel to Peniel: A Biblical Paradigm of Transformation
By Edward K. Pousson

God’s intervention into Jacob’s journey provides us with a dramatic biblical paradigm of transformation. Personal Transformation: Jacob becomes Israel. Community transformation: pagan Luz becomes Bethel (God’s house). National transformation: Israel becomes a great nation. And world transformation: all peoples will be blessed through God’s transformed people.

First, there is a revelation of God’s presence (Gen 28:12-17)…
Second, a revelation of God’s purpose turns the “certain place” into the “awesome place”…
A third factor helps turn Luz into Bethel. There is a passionate response for the presence and purpose of God (Gen 28:18-22)..

A Theology of Transformation
By Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden

Christ’s followers, therefore, are called, in one way or another, not to conform to the values of society but to transform them (Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 5:8-14). This calling flows from our confession that God loves the world and that the earth belongs to Him.

According to the biblical view of human life, then, transformation is the change from a condition of human existence contrary to God’s purposes to one in which people are able to enjoy fulness of life in harmony with God (John 10:10, Colossians 3:8-15, Ephesians 4:13). This transformation can only take place through the obedience of individuals and communities to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whose power changes the lives of men and women by releasing them from guilt, power, and consequences of sin, enabling them to respond with love towards God and towards others (Romans 5:5), and making them ‘new creatures in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We have come to see that the goal of transformation is best described by the bIblical vision of the Kingdom of God…We are called to be a new community, that seeks to work with God in the transformation of our societies; men and women of God in society, salt of the earth and light of the world. (Matthew 5:13-16). We seek to bring people and their cultures under the Lordship of Christ.

The churches in the New Testament were made up of men and women who had experienced transformation through receiving Jesus Christ as Saviour, acknowledging Him as Lord and incarnating His servant ministry by demonstrating the values of the Kingdom both personally and in community (Mark 10:35-45; 1 Peter 2:5, 4:10).

We affirm that the Kingdom of God is both present and future, both societal and individual, both physical and spiritual… The Church is called to infuse this world with hope, for both this age and the next… A repentant, revived, and vigorous Church will call people to true repentance and faith and at the same time equip them to challenge the forces of evil and injustice (2 Timothy 3:17).

We affirm that transformation is, in the final analysis, His work, but work in which He engages us. To this end He has given us His Spirit, the Transformer par excellence, to enlighten us and be our Counsellor, to impart His many gifts to us, to equip us to face and conquer the enemy.

Toward a Missiology of Transformation
By Chuck Van Engen

My thesis is that an evangelical missiology of transformation:
builds on classical concepts of mission developed over the last 100 years;
overcomes the dichotomies between evangelism and social action that arose 50 years ago; and
re-creates itself in a trinitarian praxis of mission appropriate to the global/local challenges, and opportunities, of Church and world in this new century.

With the decline of the Church in the West, and the center of gravity shifting so that two-thirds of all world Christianity is now in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania, the Church of Jesus Christ is increasingly a Church of the poor and oppressed…Thus the global “Enquiry” movement that Luis Bush is spearheading is very important. It has the potential of spawning a are-conceptuationlization of the nature of mission that flows from the fountainhead the majority church in the majority world, articulated by majority Christians spread now on all six continents. One might say that for the first time since Constantine, over 1600 years ago, the world church has the potential of constructing its understanding of mission with the building blocks drawn from the experience, life, vitality, and vision of churches and missions in the south and east of the globe as well as the north and the west.

Metamorphosis is the word used to describe the phenomenal transformation that happens when a chyrsalis becomes a butterfly! I believe a biblical missiology of transformation envisions just such a change in persons, social structures and nations of our world because of the Gospel of the Kingdom and the work of the Holy Spirit. Such a missiology of metamorphosis would involve the kind of radical change we see in Paul after meeting Jesus on the Damascus road… This is a missiology that seeks to turn the world upside down.

[Johannes] Verkuyl’s trinitarian, kingdom-oriented emphasis echoed Leslie Newbigin’s view expressed in The Open Secret. “The Christian mission,” he affirmed, “is an acting out of a fundamental belief and, at the same time, a process in which this belief is being constantly reconsidered in the light of the experience of acting it out in every sector of human affairs and in dialogue with every other pattern of thought by which men and women seek to make sense of their lives.”

To be believable the Church and Christians must be good for something — they must be able to demonstrate to the people of their contexts and nations that they have something concrete, measurable, visible, positive, constructive, and helpful to offer their contexts and nations. This calls for radical conversion — as much of the Church and of Christians to their mission of being Christ’s transforming presence in the world — just as much as conversion of non-Christians to faith in Jesus Christ.

Orland Costas was right when he affirmed that the Church can only be a penultimate goal of mission, not the final goal. Socio-economic and political change is also merely a penultimate goal of mission. A trinitarian, kingdom-oriented missiology of transformation will holy to only one goal: the glory of God.

Our mission is to proclaim in word and deed always the same Gospel that is always taking on new forms — it is always transformed and always transforming.

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