Continuing discussion of Chester and Timmis Total Church: a radical reshaping around gospel and community
Chapter 6 is on World Mission
If church planting is linked with mission at a local level, the gospel also has a much bigger scope. The authors focus on Isaiah’s big vision for the world coming to know Yahweh (66:23) and how this global vision informs Paul’s own understanding of the gospel for all nations (Romans 1:5; 16:26)
And mission revolves around Jesus – Christians are ‘sent’ (missio) in his name, by his command, to tell of his salvation, baptise in his name, all in the power of his Spirit. Mission is not an ‘add on’ to the Christian faith, it is Christianity in action.
This all leads to a ‘community for the nations’ – it has always been God’s intent that his people (Israel) will be a blessing for the nations (Ps 67:7). And it is the church which is central to God’s missionary strategy.
You know a good tree by the apples it produces! So it is with the gospel. We know the arrival of the kingdom is good news because of the kind of rule the King exercised while on earth. We know it continues to be good news by the communities he creates that live life to the full and model his rule.
Karl Barth talked of the missio Dei – and how the church’s role is to fit in with the mission of God. Mission then is not some sort of applied theology, it is rooted in God – his character and his purposes. And it is tightly tied to the local church.
This ties in with a much ’emerging’ / missional church discussion – how it is a false distinction to say look at Jesus but not the church and so therefore we need authentic communities of faith. [Much of those discussions are not new, they are reforming earlier questions].
So how’s this all work out? If the local church and global mission are intimately connected, this raises questions (the authors argue) over how mission is often ‘contracted out’ to big mission agencies. They argue, a bit rigidly in my view, that a more authentic and effective model is individual churches partnering in international mission together. I don’t see the ‘either or’ here – seems Chester and Timmis’ strong independency & autonomy of the local church is shaping the discussion here. Yes, church to church mission relationships are good, but larger mission agencies can do things that individual churches can’t.