Thursday, July 9, 2020

Islam and the Geo Politics of the Middle East | Free Online Course by Dr. Nabeel Jabbour

As an incredibly generous gift to the church and the missions community, Dr. Nabeel Jabbour has recently released his training course available for free as a set of 47 lectures and pdf resources, about 45 hours of content. Much more than the title suggests, the course is full of missiology and practical advice for ministry to Muslims, not just simply on politics and Islam. But Jabbour’s handling of politics demonstrates just how necessary and beneficial it is to incorporate political theology into missiology – this is often a glaring blindspot for workers in general and Americans in particular.

Jabbour is also author of The Crescent through the Eyes of the Cross: Insights from an Arab Christian.

From the website for the course https://www.drjabbourcourse.com/courses/islam-and-the-geo-politics-of-the-middle-east/:

The course has been recorded and there are 47 sessions to view at your leisure. They vary in length and each session’s length is stated in brackets after the title. Each session is based on the sessions that came before it. Start with Session 1, and after you finish viewing it, click the button “Mark Complete ✔” and that allows you to go to Session 2 and on and on.

The list of materials alone is worth checking out. Thank you Nabeel!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Review of Undivided Witness: Jesus Followers, Community Development, and Least-Reached Communities (Regnum Books 2020)

I commend to you a new book edited by David Greenlee (who will have a chapter on movements and the “common good” in our forthcoming Motus Dei book), Mark Galpin, and executive director at OCMS Paul Bendor-Samuel (who is also part of Motus Dei), titled Undivided Witness: Jesus Followers, Community Development, and Least-Reached Communities. From the description:
Undivided Witness presents ten key principles linking community development and the emergence of vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the ‘least reached’. Twelve practitioners explore this uncharted missiological space, drawing on decades of serving and learning among communities in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and South, Central and Southeast Asia.
‘Tribalism’ is everywhere, including in the missions community. There are people who are passionate about church planting. Others whose heart is for community development, social justice, and the poor. Then there are those who want to reach the least reached. These different tribes only occasionally speak, and, maybe more than they care to admit- view the other tribes with suspicion.

I remember feeling this tension when I started ministry twenty years ago while I was preparing for ministry in a poor, unreached Muslim country. Books on church planting and discipleship seemed to focus on responsive contexts that already had a local church. Community development practitioners rarely spoke about evangelism. And literature on the least-reached didn’t have much to say about God’s heart for the poor and marginalized. It was as if I was forced to choose my tribe in an either-or dichotomy. Doesn’t God care about all three?
To deal with this issue, a group of practitioners, missiologists, and scholars gathered at the Oxford Center for Mission Studies in 2018 to explore this unexplored space called ‘CDLR’ (Community Development Least Reached) which is the intersection between 1) community development, 2) the least reached, and 3) emerging, multiplying vibrant communities of Jesus-followers. What resulted is a list of ten principles which form the chapter structure of Undivided Witness:
  1. Understanding the Kingdom of God is crucial to understanding how and why community development and vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached are connected.
  2. Our understanding of how people enter the Kingdom of God will affect how we do ministry.
  3. The gospel impacts the whole person and people’s whole contexts.
  4. Our motivation is to glorify Christ. We long for people to come to faith in him, but our vision does not stop there. We want to see the Kingdom of God impact people and the communities we live in.
  5. Spiritual warfare and prayer are an integral part of community development.
  6. Creation glorifies, praises, and witnesses to God. Caring for creation is an act of worship. Our concern for creation is an act of obedience to God and participation in his work of reconciling all things to himself.
  7. Community development will only be truly transformational if it brings a vision for vibrant communities of Jesus followers and the renewal of the whole person and community.
  8. Community development workers are committed to professional excellence.
  9. There is significant overlap between the principles of excellence in community development and working toward the formation of vibrant communities of Jesus followers.
  10. The ‘least reached’ are so for a reason, both spiritually and often in terms of poverty and development.
Undivided Witness models some of the best integrative thinking in missiology. Their ten principles of ministry on the overlap between community development, discipleship movements, and least-reached peoples are skillfully unpacked and explained with challenging case studies and deep theological reflection. This is an important conversation on perhaps the most difficult and strategic ministry context in the world today.

In the introduction, the editors share their purpose for Undivided Witness:
Our overall hope and aim in writing this book is that it will stimulate more reflection and discussion on this area of ministry, contribute to a rarely explored theme in missiology, and encourage the discovery and recognition of the links between community development and the emergence of ‘vibrant communities of Jesus followers’ in least-reached settings. By demonstrating the synergy between church planting and community development, we hope to dissolve the perceived tension between these ministry approaches and to encourage organisations that have traditionally focused on church planting and evangelism to recognise the strategic role community development can play in achieving their Kingdom objectives in least-reached contexts—never to be used merely as a platform but as an integral feature of truly holistic mission. 
In addition, we hope that our work will influence and shape the practice of those already committed to the strategy of community development as a ministry approach in least-reached contexts, enabling them to become more effective and transformative in building God’s Kingdom. 
While we have confidence in these principles, we consider them to still be under development. Input from readers is therefore welcome to both refine the principles and to develop a robust explanation and grounding for each. In turn, this will help us contribute to a missiology that guides ministry and service involving community development among the least reached.
Buy the book now on Amazon Kindle or in print from Regnum.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Online Missiological Training: Post-Pandemic Insights and Applications

Based on "Neurobiological Data on What Online Education Could Be Doing to Our Spirituality and Our Brains: Some Augustinian/ Niebuhrian Reflections" (Ellingsten 2019) and "Makeshifting the Learning Management System: Strategies and Tactics in the Digital Classroom" (Smith 2019)  Articles Available Here

* The nature of the online world fundamentally changes the way our brains work. While accessing vast amounts of information is enhanced, "heavier online use is making us more shallow, more caught up in the present moment and its patterns, less transcendent in our thinking and behaviors" (Ellingsten 2019, 10). In short, we are less intelligent, more reactionary, and more spiritually shallow.

* Cross-cultural ministry is always more difficult, both cognitively and emotionally. Over-exposure to the internet and poor approaches to online education can have drastic effects on the missionary who will be less intellectually prepared for complex issues and impaired from the ability to love deeply.

* Increase in social media usage seems to be evidenced by those who are more depressed. Because the internet makes us less empathetic, could this be contributing to the increase in irrational online outrage/anger, the spread of conspiracy theories, and to anti-science rhetoric?

* Whether we like it or not, online training is here to stay. Things are not going back to the way they were before the pandemic.

* Learning facilitators who are more creative and involved in the online LMS (Learning Management System) tend to have higher levels of job satisfaction and also students who tend to have more transformative learning experiences (Smith 2019). Personal touches such as short videos and audio are helpful, as well as face-to-face synchronous meetings when possible.

* Online learning needs to intentionally contain elements that are offline. This includes longer stretches of reading and reflective writing while not connected to the internet. Videos and podcasts are proliferating but immersive reading needs to be maintained. Additionally, intentional offline time for the spiritual disciplines of meditation, prayer, and solitude is now MORE important in an online environment than in traditional formats.

* Online course design also needs to include the context of the learner. Learners are always in a "classroom." Especially for the missionary, the classroom is the ministry setting. Reading and writing needs to be integrated with the complicated classroom of real life. This has advantages to artificial (traditional) classrooms, but it requires more creative design from learning facilitators.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Counting Missionaries | Justin Long

Here is the latest discussion on global statistics from Justin Long in his post COUNTING MISSIONARIES published on June 3, 2020:

Globally: 425,000 missionaries (Anglican, Independent, Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic)
Total in World A countries: 11,940 (3%) [World A: <50% evangelized)]
Total in World B countries: 87,000 (20%) [World B: >=50% evangelized, <60% Christian]
Total in World C countries: 326,060 (77%) [World C: >=60% Christian, of any tradition]

From the summary:

2,000 years after Christ, somewhere around 3% or less of all missionary workers are deployed amongst those who have very little chance to hear (a factor in why they have little chance to hear), while three-quarters of missionaries work in places that are over-saturated Christian countries (albeit perhaps of a different tradition than the missionaries in question). While I do not doubt that places like Germany and England and France likely need evangelistic effort, this “out of balance” situation seems to me to continue to be one in need of reformation.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Monday, May 11, 2020

Impact and Implications of the CoVid-19 Pandemic | Jason Mandryk

Jason Mandryk with Operation World just released a free eBook (53 pages) titled Global Transmission Global Mission: The Impact and Implications of the CoVid-19 Pandemic.

You can download the eBook here http://covid-19.operationworld.org/global-transmission-global-mission/:

CoVid-19 is proving a disruptive, distressing, and divisive force throughout the world. How do mission-minded Christians respond? What happens to the Great Commission when the world is on lockdown? In this short e-book, Jason Mandryk, the author of Operation World, takes readers through a sweeping overview of the implications of the coronavirus for the global Church, and specifically, its impact on global mission.

In compiling this analysis, the Operation World team interacted with ministry and mission leaders in every region of the world, getting input on how to pray for different nations afflicted by CoVid-19 as well as strategic considerations from a wide array of missiological contexts.

Here is the Table of Contents

  1. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
  2. PREFACE
  3. INTO THE UNKNOWN
  4. THE BIGGER PICTURE – SOCIOCULTURAL ISSUES
  5. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ECONOMY?
  6. CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC
  7. CHURCH LIFE DURING LOCKDOWN
  8. MISSION MOBILIZATION
  9. MISSIONARY SENDING
  10. MISSION FIELD REALITIES
  11. CHRISTIAN MEDIA
  12. PRAYER – THE LAST RESORT?
  13. REASONS FOR HOPE

Read the whole thing, available in PDF, Epub, and Mobi.

Friday, March 20, 2020

A Missiology of Social Distancing: Ministry Innovation in the Midst of Biosecurity Events

The extent to which biosecurity events like this current COVID-19 pandemic affect the world, including mission, are yet to be determined. But big changes to ministry are (probably) coming and things may never be the same again. It may leave a lasting impact on various contexts for generations to come.

We need to think through how “social distancing” will affect communities and peoples- if this Coronavirus continues off and on for 18 months, there may be a psychological crisis worldwide as well. Suicide, depression, pornography, substance abuse, etc. are likely to rise.

If infection curves do not flatten, and health care systems are stretched beyond capacity, then the Church could step up and serve (indeed many are already), but it will require personal sacrifice. Some could even die.

One relevant case study is a West African movement that was featured in Miraculous Movements. When the Ebola epidemic began in 2014, they were planting 2,000 churches per year. It decreased to 200 per year during the 18 month crisis.

But the movement met needs that the government was unable to- church planters volunteered to serve in remote areas. The radio station that was being used for evangelism and preaching began an awareness campaign to counteract the rumors that Ebola was just a CIA conspiracy. Several volunteers died after traveling to villages to teach those who had no awareness of how their burial customs were spreading the virus.

These volunteers built such goodwill with those communities that many churches were planted after the epidemic ended in 2016, and the movement continued. We could draw similar examples from the early church’s growth during the plagues in the Roman Empire.

Such a loving response requires a robust theology of suffering. We will need to learn to pray. The marginalized and the invisible in our communities will be the most vulnerable.

During social distancing, we need to examine how the use of various internet technologies will affect the "diffusion of innovations" in communities, especially as it pertains to the gospel. What will happen to large, attractional, program-driven churches? Will ecclesiology become deinstitutionalized, and could this enable discipleship movements? 

Or will oikos (social-familial) structures become less communal, and could this constrain discipleship movements? Will individualism increase?

When charitable giving dries up with the collapse of economies, what will happen with our current model of support-raising missionaries? What about churches and seminaries in the Majority World who depend on wealthy churches in the West?

Will there be more resistance to mobilizing ministers to serve in places that lack an indigenous church, often countries with weak health care systems? Will xenophobia, racism, and even theological tribalism increase? But could this simultaneously increase the number of people who care about peace-building and ecumenism?

I wonder if there should be space for biosecurity events built into many areas of missiology, whether it is research, worship and music, preaching, peace-building, teaching, strategy, training, leadership development, theological education, etc.

We are only just beginning to think through what prolonged and sporadic cycles of social distancing will mean for mission. But we have hope, and there are many opportunities ahead. For faithful followers of Christ in uncertain times, apostolic innovation is required.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Hills and Hiding? A Response to Travis Myers | Kevin Higgins

Below is a guest post from Kevin Higgins (President of William Carey International University) written May 1, 2019 but not previously published. It is a response to an article published at Desiring God on April 23, 2019: A City Under a Hill: Five Problems with Insider Movements. Feel free to comment below.


Hills and Hiding? A Response to Travis Myers

Kevin Higgins | May 1, 2019

I recently received the link to the article, “City Under a Hill: 5 Problems with Insider Movements” by Travis Myers (Professor, Bethlehem College & Seminary).

I will primarily use the outline of the five points he raises, however I begin from one of his major subtitles near the beginning of his paper: “When the Gospel hides”.

By highlighting this comment and framing it as a major section of his paper he tips his hand to an assumption he is making about insider movements: they are secretive and hiding the Gospel. This is of course hinted at in his title as well (city under a hill).

While I welcome questions about insider movements and feel the discussions are a healthy process, I find responding to this idea that insider brothers and sisters are hiding their faith is just covering old territory in the long discussions about IM. The claim that insider movements are secretive or silent or don’t share their faith is a claim as old as the discussion itself (back to at least 2004). This has been frequently rebutted, and the number of Muslim followers of Jesus who face persecution and death because of their faith is also witness to the erroneous nature of this straw man argument.

Does every “insider” believer stand boldly? Certainly not. Does every Christian living in Muslim countries do so? Does every Christian in the USA? Of course not.

The real question then is what do godly leaders in such contexts teach and encourage their people to do? In the case of insider movements, the expectation is that disciples of Jesus make other disciples of Jesus. They share their faith and they bear witness.

They do not hide the Gospel.

Now to Myers’ five points. I use his terms, and each of the five is followed by a direct quotation from Myers’ article.

1) Hermeneutics

“IM is predicated on the misguided idea that faith in Jesus as Lord of one’s life can “complete” and be the apex of any religious tradition or religious identity.

Two responses. First, IM is not predicated on this point. Not every IM proponent even holds this position, and in fact, if fulfillment thinking is not true it would not change anything. IM practice or approaches or principles are not dependent on this theme. IM is predicated on many other biblical principles and passages. The literature is full on this point.

Second, in my own thinking the only mentions I have made of “fulfillment” thinking were extremely guarded and tentative and quite clearly distinguished from what we mean when we refer to Old Testament fulfillment. I was raising the point merely to explain how I understood things, because it was already being asked.

My contention is that Jesus does fulfill a number of dimensions of anyone’s cultural and religious backgrounds when a person comes to faith (and personal longings and hopes as well). It is frequently the case that in Jesus people can and do see a number of beautiful aspects of their heritage, including their religious heritage, which now seem to find a new fullness and beauty in Jesus.

Myers’ argument which assumes IM bases itself in fulfillment thinking is a generalization and inaccurate.

2) Integrity and Identity

“Core Islamic doctrine explicitly denies biblical doctrines that are central, and essential, to Christian faith.”

This is true. Core Islamic doctrine does deny biblical doctrines that are essential. No argument on this point has ever been put forward by any insider advocate I know of.

Muslims who follow Jesus (not all, but a number whom I know) do argue that on the basis of the Qur’an and the Bible a number of core Islamic teachings are incorrect and they seek to reform those understandings, including Islamic teaching about Jesus, the Bible, salvation, and more.

This is not at all the same thing as suggesting that Islam does not teach incorrect things. In fact, it assumes the opposite.

3) Discipleship

“The IM approach stunts Christian discipleship and spiritual growth.”

I am guessing, perhaps wrongly, that Myers has not met insiders personally or directly. His conclusions certainly seem to indicate this. The question here really is what are IM movements doing about these issues? How do they disciple believers?

The movements I have known and been involved with are all rooted in ongoing inductive study of whole books of the Bible in community. Also, increasingly, I see leaders focused on reflection on the doctrinal history and themes Christ’s people have wrestled with historically, as these leaders in turn wrestle with issues in their contexts.

This does not mean that every answer Christ’s people have arrived at in other epochs and contexts is simply swallowed whole into such movements. I would argue we don’t do so in the west either, and would add that I don’t think we should do so.

4) Ecclesiology

“One’s identification with Christ should entail identification with all of Christ’s people in the world today and throughout time. That is more fundamental, ultimate, and significant than ethnic, cultural, linguistic, family, or local identity.”

I hear this sort of claim from time to time from critics of IM. I can sympathize with its intentions and heart. However, several things need to be said.

First, what is meant by identification with “all Christ’s people in the world today and throughout time”? How is this even possible? How many Christians identify in this way? We have Christian denominations who do not see others as Christian, will not have communion together, do not recognize one another’s ordinations, and more. We don’t even share (fully) common creeds, confessions or canon of scripture. So, to ask insider believers to hold to a standard that the Christian church has not attained seems hypocritical. I am not suggesting Myers is hypocritical as a person, but that this standard is.

Second, even when we do pursue unity and identification as Christians with others, this happens very much on a small and personal and local scale: through relationships. And this also happens between insider believers and those who we would call Christians. I have seen it and facilitated it. There is no sense among the leaders of IM’s which I know that Christians are not also brothers and sisters in Christ. They welcome thinking of all believers in Jesus as members of the Body.

Finally, I know believers who are “insiders” who also pray regular for Christians. They do so as brothers and sisters.

5) Soils and Strategy

“Though admittedly difficult in many contexts, religious identity and ethno-cultural identity can and should indeed be differentiated. The former must be given up for Jesus and the church. We should reject the conflation of social and religious identity.”

I want to point out where I agree and disagree with Myers here.

First, where I disagree. I understand Myers’ point here but it is, from many points of view, simplistic and impossible to separate religion and culture. We think we can, in the west. And maybe in a western context this may be partly the case, with our assumptions about secular and religious life, and physical and spiritual dichotomies, and assumptions that religions are easily distinguished and identified.

But in most contexts, this simply is not as easy as Myers suggests. In a Muslim context where something as normal to daily life as brushing one’s teeth and using the toilet are guided by religious teaching, what would be culture or religion? Should one brush one’s teeth differently just to show one is not keeping one’s religion? If one continues to brush teeth as they have since childhood, is that keeping their religion or their culture? These are purposely “easy” sorts of examples, in order to show that it isn’t easy.

In the simple examples above most readers will likely be thinking, “well brushing teeth doesn’t matter so even if it is guided by religion, no problem.” This already suggests we are comfortable making distinctions about what is ok and not ok to keep, even from one’s religious heritage.

Where do I agree with Myers?

The fact is that obedient discipleship will require changes. It will require replies of yes and no to all sorts of things, cultural, religious, emotional, personal, relational, attitudinal, philosophical, etc.

Thus, for me, the point is not whether one can keep culture but must jettison religion, or even whether that is a distinction we can make. The point is how do needed changes happen, how are they identified, who makes such decisions, and how do they decide, and for what reasons and motivations?

This is why we have taken great care in the movements I have been involved with to cultivate processes for handling such questions (for example, the questions of should we continue to do this or stop doing that). We have never given a blanket “yes, just keep doing everything”. Neither have we given a blanket no, on the other hand.

What we have done is asked, “what does scripture say on this issue? How do we obey? What does being faithful mean? How do we decide which aspect of our heritage is ‘ok’ and ‘not ok’?”

Conclusion

I have no expectation of being able to persuade every critic of the viability of the biblical faithfulness of IM as movements. And my aim here is not in fact to persuade. But I do hope to explain and, where possible, correct misperceptions and assumptions which result in misrepresentations. I do not for a moment suggest Myers intends to misrepresent anything about IM. But the five points do result in that at the end of the day.

To return to the title of Myers’ article, the IM examples I know of are not “cities under a hill.” They are seeking to both receive and share Christ’s light with all those around them, hoping that Jesus and His Gospel will be impossible to be hide.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

No DMMs in the USA

From https://discipleship.org/national-study-on-disciple-making-in-usa-churches/:

NATIONAL STUDY ON DISCIPLE MAKING IN USA CHURCHES: High Aspirations Amidst Disappointing Results

SPONSORED BY DISCIPLESHIP.ORG + EXPONENTIAL 

CONDUCTED BY GREY MATTER RESEARCH

The following key points are a summary of the results from this study:

1. Fewer than 5% of churches in the US have a reproducing disciple-making culture – we champion and celebrate these churches. They are a model for other churches. But, at the same time, in light of the truth that disciple making is the core mission of the church, the study found a disappointingly low percentage of churches with a culture of and strategy for reproducing disciples and disciple makers (Level 4 and 5 churches).

2. An absence of churches reflecting viral-like disciple making movements (L5 churches) – we did not find clear examples of disciple making movements (DMM) in the US. Stated differently, we did not find in the established churches that were interviewed disciple making movement churches. These churches may exist in the USA, but they are not reflected in the data uncovered. Such churches are common in various other parts of the world. We delineate them from level 4 churches (reproducing disciples) by the level 5 viral-like features – these churches reflect a special movement of the Holy Spirit as they rapidly multiply disciples and disciple makers. We look forward to finding them in the USA.

3. Lack of commonly understood definitions – there is not a clear, compelling and commonly understood set of basic definitions for terms such as discipleship, disciple, and disciple making. This makes it very difficult to assess effectiveness within local churches and within the broader church community (consistent definitions do not prevail in Protestant churches in the USA).

4. Overestimating Impact – pastors are overly optimistic in their assessment of the disciple-making cultures present in their churches, and frequently overrating their effectiveness in discipleship and disciple making.

From page 13: “The USA lacks clearly defined examples of viral-like disciple-making movements (DMM). There are some 1,000 disciple-making movements around the world that match the following character traits. They are unique movements, reflecting a revival-like culture like that found in the early chapters of the book of Acts…"

Download the whole thing.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Review of Ephesiology: A Study of the Ephesian Movement (Cooper 2020)

I’m excited to introduce you to a new book, Ephesiology: A Study of the Ephesian Movement. See also the corresponding website https://ephesiology.com with a course, blog, and podcast.

Author Michael Cooper will be presenting at Motus Dei: Movements Research Symposium later this year. His talk is tentatively titled, “Missiological Theology of Movements focused on the Study of the Gospel of John.

Ephesiology is a study of the origins of the Christian church planting movement that began in Ephesus. It presents a way to read the Bible through the glasses of first-century movement leaders which will lead you to a “missiologically theocentric” pursuit of movements today for God’s glory.

Cooper offers a robust, holistic missiological theology of church planting movements (CPM) by looking primarily at Acts 19, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Revelation 2-3. He exegetes these passages through what I would call a “movemental hermeneutic” of Scripture. Throughout, Cooper’s missiology engages with church history, religious studies, sociology, and current CPMs.

A unique aspect of Ephesiology is that it doesn't use strategy buzzwords such as people of peace, T4T, Insiders, DMM, generational mapping, or contextualization (although 4 Fields is used in the appendix). It is really just a biblical look at CPM, and Cooper does some creative and nuanced work to make the biblical text relevant for practitioners today.

Those who are more theologically inclined will like Ephesiology, while others might find the theology lengthy at times. Ephesiology is especially good for those who might be turned off by aspects of the DMM/T4T/CPM industry but who are still interested in movements (and New Testament theology).

Cooper might not like me using these words (perhaps for good reason), but his approach is both contextual and holistic. He engages deeply with religion and culture and also cares about social justice and transformation. Because it is filled with biblical principles, Ephesiology is meant to be applied in both the Global North and the Global South.

Here is Cooper’s missiological-theological framework of the Ephesian movement (pgs. 180-181):

  1. The early missionaries launched a movement that is missiologically theocentric, with the heart to connect God’s story with the story of culture… A proper missiological theologian will allow the identity of a movement to evolve from within a culture.
  2. Paul grounded the movement with the vision to fulfill God’s will of uniting all things in Christ.
  3. Paul and Timothy led the movement as a community of brothers and sisters determined to equip the saints for ministry.
  4. The disciples multiplied a movement by empowering leaders to use their gifts, inspiring them to join in suffering, entrusting them to teach others, and reminding them to preach the Word.
  5. The church in Ephesus sustained the movement by reengaging the works of her first love.

Overall, Ephesiology is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn:

  1. how all who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord while Paul was in Ephesus for two years (Acts 19:10),
  2. the incredible movements that transformed peoples from India to Iberia in the first 250 years of the church, and
  3. how we can glorify God by joining with him to unite all things in Christ today (Eph. 1:10).

As Cooper says, “This is the story of Paul’s missiological theology situated in the grand narrative of God’s mission. It rocked the world of his time, and it can rock our world as well” (pg. 34).

Buy the book, register for the online course, or have Cooper run a workshop for your group.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Introducing “Motus Dei: DMM and the Mission of God” | Global Missiology

The online journal Global Missiology has published my essay Motus Dei: Disciple-Making Movements and the Mission of God in their January 2020 issue. Here is the abstract:

God's mission is diverse, and so are the ways missiologists discuss it. This article outlines a constructive missiology of the current "disciple-making movement" phenomenon in a way that makes creative connections between different conversations in the field of mission studies. In so doing, a new concept called motus Dei (Latin for movement of God) is situated into our understanding of the missio Dei.

Here is the main outline:

  1. Integral Mission as Both Apostolic and Indicative

  2. Towards a Missiology of Disciple-Making Movements

  3. Locating DMM in the Missio Dei

    • The Globalizing Church and the Role of West-South Partnerships

    • DBS as Translation and Inculturation

    • The Eradication of the Laity

    • Obedience-Based Discipleship and The Common Good

    • Prayer, Miracles, and Weakness

From the Conclusion:

In their passion for movements, DMM advocates tend to discuss them as if they are the primary way God is working in the world today. The same could be said for those who advocate the missio Dei with respect to holistic ministry. This article represents one bridge-building attempt to show that there is more common ground than is often recognized. Discipleship movements, occurring at the intersection of divine initiative and human responsibility, play an important role in God's mission to redeem his creation back to himself. Despite the tendency to emphasize our distinctive differences, we in the mission community need to embrace our unity in Christ and to listen more carefully to one another.

What can the wider mission community, and missiologists collectively, learn from the current DMM phenomenon? One central lesson is profoundly theological: sometimes, God moves quickly. Other times, slowly. In his sovereignty, speed and quantity is not the issue, but the quality of growth and the glory God receives. Related is that statistics should never be the sole measure of success. Furthermore, we should not expect movements to happen in every context if we just do ministry in a certain way. At the same time, this study of DMM demonstrates that there are approaches to mission and forms of ecclesiology that seem to facilitate movements better, so we are wise to inquire how they can be fostered more effectively.

God seems glad to work both inside and outside of traditional ecclesial patterns established in Christendom. However he works, God often moves in ways that defy expectations; it is his mission, after all. We might call this divine activity the motus Dei, the movement of God. In light of this motus Dei, we can - and indeed should - pray earnestly with apostolic and ecumenical passion, "that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored" (2 Thess. 3:1), just as it is with DMM.

Read the whole thing.