Thursday, November 26, 2009
A Familiar Divide?
A familiar divide is back again within the North American evangelical church. Its origin goes back one hundred years ago when the social gospel won over large segments of churches within mainline denominations. Yet a century later, after the fundamentalist-modernist battles in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the emergence of a new evangelicalism in the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, the church growth movement of the1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s and the emerging church movement of the twenty-first century; after all these years, we Christians still can’t seem to resolve its tension. Social gospel slippery slope assaults are still lobbed from the right. Accusations of pie-in-the sky, other-worldly pre-occupations are hurled from the left. Both sides have dug their trenches and hunkered down, waging a theological battle over what constitutes the mission of the church. Its impact is swaying most evangelical entities, including mission agencies, churches, seminaries, denominations, para-church ministries, and relief/community development organizations. Even the late Dr. Ralph Winter (one of the 20th century’s greatest missionary statesman) recently bemoaned that the biggest trend in global mission happens to be “the polarization of mission agencies between those that focus on evangelization and those that concentrate on relief and development.”
However, UTM has always made every effort to resolve this tension in mission between evangelism/discipleship and social concern/justice as we serve the urban poor. In future blog posts, I will share a variety of theological, historical, and socio-cultural reasons that the mission of the church should wholeheartedly embrace both. Since I am blogging rather than writing essays, these rationales will be random, reflecting my ADD thought-patterns.
But before I begin to share my views, I’d like to hear your beliefs as to what comprises the mission of the church. Any thoughts?