Academic journal article International Review of Mission

The Salvador World Mission Conference - Two Sectional Themes

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

The Salvador World Mission Conference - Two Sectional Themes

Article excerpt

The last three issues of the International Review of Mission have been devoted to the exploration of the theme of the forthcoming Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil from 23 November to 4 December 1996. The themes for sections one and two have been the foci of the last two issues of the IRM. In this issue we seek to highlight the themes of sections three and four, namely, "Local Congregations in Pluralistic Societies" and "One Gospel - Diverse Expressions," respectively.

It is interesting to note that in almost all the world conferences, of which Salvador will be the eleventh, four key concerns have been explored. The conferences certainly dealt with the meaning and content of the message of the gospel that God's people are called to proclaim. They were also concerned with the social implications of the gospel or the socio-political and liberative power of the missionary message. So too, in Salvador, sections one and two will deal with the meaning and content and the symbolic representation of the core of the gospel in relation to cultures as well as the liberating power of the gospel in the context of oppressive structural and power dimensions of cultures.

These conferences were also concerned with the equipping of Christians in local congregations, groups and mission agencies for their life and witness in their contexts. Equally, as a fourth emphasis, the conferences also dealt with witnessing together in unity with a belief that any Christian witness that is not in common and does not produce unity and community is a countersign of the gospel. This was the over-riding concern behind the work of section four in San Antonio. So too in Salvador, the work of sections three and four will focus upon the equipping or building up (oikodome) of the people of God for their authentic living and witness in the context of increasing plurality - cultural, religious, etc. - in all societies. Section four will deal with the question of unity in diversity of our expressions of and witness to the gospel. This issue of the IRM seeks to promote such a discussion around the proposed themes for sections three and four.

I. Local congregations in pluralistic societies

Whether it is the consideration about the nature and type of encounter between the gospel and cultures or about ways in which the gospel addresses the structural dimensions of culture, namely the cultural structures of power-relations, it is the people of God at the local worshipping communities who are the primary agents of such reflections. In a sense, the local congregations are the "hermeneutic of the gospel," that is, they are the most effective interpretative clue to the power of the gospel. No wonder that Luke is careful to include a powerful portrayal of the life of the first congregation of the Spirit-filled disciples at the end of his account of the day of Pentecost (Acts, ch. 2). He repeats such a portrayal again in Acts, ch. 4. The credibility of our claims to the transforming power of the gospel, to a large extent, depends upon the life and witness of the local worshipping communities in each and every place. Hence, the importance of the study process undertaken by the Division on World Mission and Evangelism in the early 1960s on the missionary congregations. It is critically important that we look at the life of local congregations in relation to local cultures. We need to consider how local churches can be equipped by the Spirit of God in order that they may be authentically incarnated. Inculturation of the gospel in the life of a local Christian community and the necessary equipping of God's people for such a process are vital. However, local congregations almost everywhere in the world are located within pluralistic contexts. Hence, the need to pay attention not only to the inculturation of the gospel within the life of local churches but also to the context of increasing cultural and religious pluralism. …

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