Saturday, August 9, 2014

“Discipleship” as Key Sound Bite for Communicating Biblical Mission

As someone who is involved in missions leadership, I understand the challenges facing evangelical sending agencies today in communicating vision, purpose, branding, and management. We all want to be unique, relevant, and Biblical.

I also understand that there are certain trends that rise and fall in the missions scene.  Church planting was all the rage a few years ago. And now it’s movements. Other trends include the rise of the term ‘transformation’ and the emphasis off the church and onto the kingdom.  This is related with holistic or integrated mission and on caring for the poor. Other long-lasting trends include the unreached or least-reached, and the use of metrics to evaluate our effectiveness. Of course every trend and emphasis has a way of highlighting only part of the nature of Biblical mission.

But is there a way for sending agencies to tie all of this together in a way that is not reductionistic?

Maybe. How about “discipleship?”

I’m interested all the talk these days on disciple-making movements. It might just be trend as well, but somehow I think that, as a necessary sound bite used in communication, it comes closer to recapturing the essence of what we’re doing across ALL contexts, more than church planting or integrated development or peace-making or proclamation or compassionate evangelism.

I want to commend Melanie McNeil’s Mission Paradigms: Is Discipleship Important? to you. It’s not an eloquent article (she’s a better writer than I am!), and I don’t agree with everything the says, but she makes a case of discipleship to be a key metaphor to reclaim Biblical mission in our world today (of course, discipleship has to be properly defined!).  From the conclusion:

We have explored the way the task of mission is described today by modern mission agencies, and I have argued that the reductionism of modern missions has resulted in a narrow definition of God’s commission. I have shown that the definitions of the task being used today fail to embrace the whole of God’s vision for the world he created. Whole life discipleship, the radical journey into relationship, and maturity of relationship with God is the core of God making his name known in the nations. God invites us to participate with His mission, and this will require a radical shift in the mission paradigms of today.

I have sought to demonstrate that such a shift opens up paths of radical transformation that impact both lives and communities, but it will come at a cost. The question is whether we in missions, and the Church, are prepared to count the cost and move into new things together with God, and with each other.

The review of methods and vision and mission statements here is not a judgment on any individual agency or strategy. It is a call for all of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ to embrace whole life discipleship and the radical rule of God in our lives and organisations.

Related Post: The Purpose (Vision) and Task (Mission) of Missions


Gene Daniels said...

A shift thinking and talking about making "disciples of Jesus" might also help with the "convert" issue in the Muslim world.

Becoming "Christian" carries such over tones of cultural treason, but "discipleship" might be a much better way of framing it.

Not being an Arabic speaker, what kind of meaning and emotional freight does "al-Hawāriyūn" carry in the Arab world?

Abu Daoud said...

Hi Gene,

Using 'Al Hawariyun' when communicating doesn't make a very big impact, in my ample experience. I often do mention the word when talking with Muslims who are Quranically literate (that sounds odd, doesn't it?) I will say, "his disciples, or as the Qur'an calls them, the hawariyuun"...and so on. That people today could become hawariyun is not an idea that anyone has ever mentioned to me. But next I'm talking with Muslims in Arabic, I'll ask about it and see what they say.

And good post on a good article. Thanks.

Warrick Farah said...

Once I said I was "from the hawariyeen" and the Muslim I was sharing with asked if I was a Unitarian. In my experience, every term has baggage and is misunderstood.