The following comes from a Bob Roberts presentation at the Innovation3 gathering in Dallas as shared on Ed Stetzer's blog January 29. I thought it was pertinent to what we are about as missionaries in the global south and worth taking a look at.
What are your thoughts about what Bob shares below, especially the part about getting the order right of Gospel-disciple-society-church, along with any input concerning his nine points about what can be learned from the church in the global east/south?
The church is alive, healthy, explosive, and transformative like never before in the history of Christianity - just not in the West!
The Great Commission in Matthew says as we are going to make disciples of all nations. The idea of "as we are going" is the idea that it is a natural integration of all of life. There are two core fundamentals to the Great Commission. The first is the lowest common denominator - the disciple. To make disciples is what we have been called to do - not plant churches, not make converts - but make disciples. BUT, I don't think we understand what Jesus meant by disciples. How did the early church produce so many disciples so fast?
First, it was a different kind of decision - not merely accepting Christ, but more of an abandonment to Christ - a Galatians 2:20 kind of disciple. Second, the early disciple probably wasn't as "educated" as modern disciples given the reality that they didn't have the Word of God as we have it - but what they did have they obeyed.
The second core fundamental is the grid on which the disciples live and bear fruit - the society. This is the "all nations" part. All nations, "ethnos", people groups, families, tribes, etc. are made up of the same domains of society. There can be as few as 3 or as many as 13 domains depending on who you read. For our purposes we will list governance, education, economics, agriculture, communication, arts-entertainment, science-technology, and social. Society is the grid on which all of humanity lives and the grid on which the disciple lives and operates.
In our western context the progression generally is:
Gospel ->preacher -> church -> society
In Acts and the East the progression generally is:
Gospel -> disciple -> society -> church ->
My book The Multiplying Church gives more of a full discussion of this, but if we want movement and multiplication we have to get the order right. Having laid the ground work let me share some common things I hear from pastors and we need to learn from the church in the global east and the global south:
1. The focus is first on the Holy Spirit - not nearly as much on the pragmatics.
2. The Word of God is viewed first as a book to be obeyed and a manual for discipleship and following Jesus - more than a book of propositional truth and theological systems. This doesn't mean theology doesn't matter - it does. It doesn't mean they don't want to learn, know, understand theology - they do, but they are limited by teachers, etc.
3. They are "missionaries" from day one. They value the Sons of Ishmael as much as the sons of Isaac. In the West when we think of the Middle-East our loyalties often go first to Israel - they would be just as passionate and concerned for Muslims.
4. They don't debate the issue of church "models." They value all expressions of the church be it house, building, factory or whatever. They value the church, not the form and are often involved in multiple forms.
5. There is the integration of faith and life in all dimensions. Being a disciple is not just about the Sunday event for them. Evangelism takes place more in the community and where people do life as opposed to a church service.
6. They live their faith out in the context of the theology of the Kingdom of God. That means the reconciliation of individuals, but also of "all things."
7. They live more by faith than by dollars, technology, or material things that we as mega-church pastors in the west would consider as necessary.
8. They are inspired by living saints versus old heroes dead for generations. We are living at a moment in history when the new "Calvin's" and "Luther's" will have names like "SonLee" and "Akmed."
9. They listen and respect us - even though the church as a whole in the west is not growing or as impactful as they are. We talk and don't listen thinking we have all the answers. Humility and dependence upon God is a necessity for them, for us - nice character traits.