Fullness of Life for All: Challenges for Mission in Early 21st Century

Fullness of Life for All: Challenges for Mission in Early 21st Century

Fullness of Life for All: Challenges for Mission in Early 21st Century

Fullness of Life for All: Challenges for Mission in Early 21st Century

Synopsis

This important book is needed today. The challenges that Christian churches face have changed immensely in the last quarter-century. One of the central issues facing the churches everywhere in the world is their missionary presence in their nations and societies. The authors of this volume are among the world's leading missiological thinkers and represent nearly every major Christian tradition in Europe, Africa, North America and Asia. In this new century, the Christian church faces new situations that include, for example, the fall of communism; the globalization of culture; cultural and religious minorities and multiple religious majorities in nearly every country; ethnic and interreligious tensions; relativism and individualism in Western culture; the rise of a global impact of a postmodern world view; poverty in poor countries and in urban areas in wealthy countries; and the decline of Western cultural authority and, with notable exceptions, of religious authority generally. This book speaks of ways in which Christian churches are seeking to respond to these challenges. The purpose of this book is to describe some of the main challenges facing the churches in mission today, particularly with reference to inter-religious conversations all over the world. The title of this volume has been derived from the theme of the 24th General Assembly of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) at Accra in August, 2004 whose theme is, "That All May Have Life in Fullness." Such Christian witness is more than humanness, because it arises from the fullness of God's grace: forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope that God's will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. Christian presence in a desperately needy world will make the fullness of God's presence known. Such fullness of life permeates the heart, mind and action of Christians. The editors and authors of this volume hope that it will challenge the reader to reflect upon the missionary presence of the churches and their communication of the Gospel in a secularized, religiously plural world filled with struggles, violence and rumors of war. Fullness of life points to the Kingdom of God that is here already and at the same time not yet here. This constitutes Christian expectation and hope. This book is must reading for anyone interested in seeing the Christian Church respond in new and relevant ways to the new situations facing our world in a new century.

Excerpt

At the end of the nineteenth century the name of American Methodist layman John Raleigh Mott (1865–1955) became associated with the watchword of the Student Volunteer Movement and the World Student Christian Federation: “The Evangelization of the World in this Generation”—a formula that found enthusiastic support along with criticism at the first World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 1910. The members of those movements felt themselves responsible to offer the Good News to everyone on earth, so that all people would have the possibility of hearing the Gospel. It was the high tide of colonialism, belief in progress, and unrestrained optimism concerning the benefits of Western civilisation and culture. Admittedly, the churches and missions were not in full agreement with the colonial powers and did not approve of all the military methods. Many, “constrained by Jesus’ love” (the title of Van den Berg’s groundbreaking study, 1956), took great risks to bring the Gospel of God’s mercy to those who could be comforted by the message that the Messiah had come and that people of all cultures could be saved in the name of Jesus.

A century later the situation has dramatically changed. The enthusiasm to preach the Gospel to everyone who has not heard has been tempered by a century with two world wars, the end of colonialism, an oppressive communist era, the supremacy of the free market economic system, the rise of global uncertainty, and the growth of religious relativism. Eighty years ago, Hegel’s phrase about Christianity as the “absolute religion”—only surpassed by Reason—was popular. Ernst Troeltsch said that, as a religion of personal salvation, the Christian religion was the highest and most effective development in the religious world that we know of so far (Troeltsch 1969: 2). Troeltsch believed that Christian salvation fulfills the aspirations that are present in the Jewish and Islamic religions of Law and in the higher polytheistic religions as well (ibid.:187). The idea of progress was not only a cherished belief of

See Stephen Neill 1964: 393f. and Jerald Gort 1989: 359–365.

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