The Book of Revelation was written about 95 AD in a time of great trouble. The Emperor Domitian was persecuting the church, and had exiled and killed many Christians. John had been exiled to the Island of Patmos. From there he writes this letter of encouragement to the churches of Asia Minor.
Joel Edwards, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, was the speaker at the Easter People main celebration on the Saturday evening in Llandudno, speaking in part about the church and its role in today's society. In the course of his address he described how he had been rung up one Friday evening by Ruth Gledhill (although he did not name her) and asked what guidelines he could give for the future of the church. Her subsequent article appeared in The Times on Saturday 17 March under the title 'Less is more when it comes to worshippers'.
Produced by Peter Brierley of Christian Research, and recently 'on tour' around the regions of England under the title 'Turning the Tide?', The Tide is Running Out presents and analyses the results of the 1998 English Church Attendance Survey, and is based on a return by over 12,400 churches - a third of all churches in England. The survey sought to discover both the present facts and some possible future trends of church going, worship attendance and frequency, also noting age profiles, theological positioning and regional differences.
In the previous articles in this series we attempted to define what we mean by 'mission' and 'culture', and saw that as we seek to take the whole gospel to the whole world we need to learn to re-express it in terms which are appropriate to the cultures of those among whom we work and witness for Christ, while yet being faithful to the substance of the gospel itself. In this final article we turn our attention to an important aspect of culture in which this dual commitment is put to its greatest test - that is the aspect of religious belief.
In the first article in this series we defined 'mission' as all that God in Christ has sent us to do, and we understood this to mean 'the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world'. In the second article we examined the phenomenon of culture as an aspect of the world to which we are sent, and saw that it comprises shared patterns of behaving and thinking which manifest themselves in a particular society.
In the first article in this series we looked at the term 'mission' and defined it as doing all that God in Christ has sent us as a Church to do in the world. More precisely, we defined it as 'the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world'. I concluded by saying that as we engage in mission we need to pay attention to the contexts in which we operate if we are to maximise our impact for Christ. This leads us on then to a consideration of the concept of "CULTURE".
Having been invited by the editor to contribute a series of articles on the subject of 'Mission and Culture', I think it would be good to begin by defining our terms. In this first article, therefore, I propose to consider what we mean by the word 'mission'. In subsequent articles, I shall go on to consider what we mean by 'culture', and then go on to explore how 'mission' and 'culture' interrelate.
Firstly, then, the meaning of 'MISSION'.
Was it coincidence that I received the invitation to write this article on the day I returned from a conference on 'What is evangelism'? I don't know, but sadly the conference offered little to answer the question, making the error of drawing no distinction between mission, evangelism and witness. The three were therefore consistently confused, even treated as synonymous - which they are not!1
I'm sure you felt the same excitement and delight as I did reading the Our Calling leaflet produced from a report to Conference last year. I had just finished reading The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren, and Our Calling fitted in exactly with what I felt God was saying to me through that book. This is a great opportunity to unite our church into this vision of fulfilling our calling.
As you may remember, Our Calling divides into the four headings:
This article addresses the second of the elements in last summer's Methodist Conference report entitled Our Calling, namely Learning and Caring. In it I want to introduce you to Annette, Peter, Barbara and others.
But first let's notice how interlinked are these four elements of the vision for the church. You may remember that they are:-