Mission as Transformation

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1 1. Acts 20:27 Communication and context in the Bible A paradigmatic example in the New Testament: Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4:3-30) Communication and power in the Bible A. Ministry of the prophets in OT (Amos, Isaiah) B. Preaching of Jesus and the twelve (Matthew 10:1) Audiences of biblical revelation A. The ministry of Jesus to the poor (Luke) B. The epistles to the churches The ultimate model of communication: the incarnation A. John 1:1-17 B. Philippians 2:5-11 How to think theologically about communication issues A. Biblical priorities in communication B. Biblical models of communication C. Theological perspectives on issues in which communication is important Mission as Transformation Vinay Samuel Vinay Samuel is executive director of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Mission Theologians Keynote address at the All India Consultation of Evangelicals in Social Concern from January Reprinted with permission from Drishtikone the magazine of the Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief, available from EFICOR, 308, B-Block Community Centre,,Janakpuri, New Delhi website Mission God s grand picture Mission is God s mission missio dei. It is God s intention or God s purpose for the world. It is God s plan and strategies for the world, and God s action in the world. It is God and the world and it is a grand scheme. It is more than saying what is God s plan for my life?. It is to ask what s the whole thing about? God told Jeremiah, who was just a young man (Jeremiah 1: 9-10)... I have put my words its in your mouth... put you over the nations and kingdoms. I will give you power to uproot and to tear down. Incredible? What is God s plan for the world? There s nothing wrong in thinking big because that s what God wants us to do and that is his purpose. That is the grand picture and mission is always the big picture first. God s purposes are universal and he wants us to bridge the gap between our situation and his plan for the world. Mission in history God works and reveals himself in human history. The Bible talks of how God worked with nations. When God showed himself, in miraculous acts on behalf of Israel or in punishing a nation, he was acting in history. That is how the prophets saw it. God intervened through the course of human history but never violated human freedom. History is governed neither by fate nor by chance but under God s providence. It moves forward. Mission is God s action in everyday life, individual and corporate. Mission in creation God expresses himself through his creation. He created not just human beings but the whole creation. Not just to feel good but something that ll express himself, his character and personality, his love and joy and most of all to make known who he is. Therefore he continues to express himself in his creation and in its history. That s why it s a dynamic view of creation, not something static like a picture. God chooses us in this divine freedom to love this creation and work it, and fulfil MISSION AS TRANSFORMATION Transformation 19/4 October

2 God s purposes. That is the large picture of mission. In the Old Testament we have God working with all the nations, taking one nation, using it as a symbol, as a sign of the way in which he expresses his character, his divinity, sovereignty, his power but the whole creation is his area of involvement. In the New Testament we have the narrative of God entering history through the incarnation. He shapes history by becoming part of it. And after his death and resurrection he sends his Spirit into history, everyday life to continue his purposes for his creation. Looking at the larger picture of mission in both the New and the Old Testament we find God working with all the nations where he expressed himself his sovereignty and divinity. But, why incarnation? Why become like one of us, be pierced, bleed, suffer, hurt and cry? He identified with us. He does not stop there but sends the Holy Spirit to guide us in every decision we make. And that is his mission. Our identity is shaped by the historical circumstances in which we experience our belief, in which God deals with us and relates to our belief, that s how reality is. Our problem as evangelical Christians we are constantly separating belief from history, constantly separating truth from real living and history. As God works to push history to its completion even one individual coming to Christ is a significant historical action of God. God is working in history to move the whole nation to fulfil his purpose and that is the grand vision of God s mission. All this teaching is so that you know and you don t have to bewildered by history. What a privilege! God s mission in the world, missio dei motivates our involvement in the world. That is why I say mission is individuals coming to Christ, challenging corrupt and sinful systems, structures and cultures and enabling individuals and communities to experience God s transforming power. Transformation If that is mission, what is transformation? Is transformation a set of ideas or theories or a way of doing mission? Transformation mean empowerment that s an idea. It means justice and freedom. That too is an idea. So we get a collection of ideas. But transformation means more than that. Sometimes it is a set of ideas used as a strategy especially by development agencies. It certainly is a narrative, that is what happened to that village, that s what happened to that community men women and children. There are many testimonies of transformation. The best way to understand transformation is go back to the New Testament and find out how the Bible describes it. The focus of transformation in the New Testament is the person, Roman 8: 19,20,21. Creation is waiting to be transformed. Why? Transformation of creation is linked with the people of God. The Bible talks about human person s transformation. So who is this human person who needs to be transformed and what is the biblical understanding of the human person? What is our doctrine of personhood? What does a person mean? Is a child a person? Understanding the biblical view of person is going back to the image of God (Genesis 1: 2&3). The heart of creation is human person. Transformation has to do with character The image of God has two dimensions vertical and horizontal (Gen. 1-3). The vertical dimension is where God by his grace constitutes this person an gives that person the ability to relate to him. So a person is someone in relationship. The horizontal aspect has several dimensions mutuality, interdependence and relating to others. Transformation has to do with experiencing Christ and lives being transformed. That s what happened to anyone who encountered Christ. There is a total reorientation of that individual and relationships, and reconstitution of his/her identity and the gift of looking at the world in an entirely new way. Secondly, in this human person, it is not only reorientation but also empowerment. The call of Christ empowers us, orients us, reconstitutes us, recontextualizes us and sends us with a mission. Transformation has to do with character. One of the missing elements in secular development theory is the role of the development character. Very few people talk about development character among the poor. We have such romantic ideas about the poor. If you live with them you begin to realize that they know they need character as much as anyone else, especially as their situation has distorted their potential to love, forgive and ability to cope with stress and sacrifice. They need their personhood to be restored, reconsti- 244 Transformation 19/4 October 2002 MISSION AS TRANSFORMATION

3 tuted through grace and through an engagement with them over a period of time, open them up to the vertical and the horizontal dimensions, enabling them to reorient all their relationships, to develop a character that copes with all of life. The components of personhood Firstly, personhood has to do with bodies. The physical body has organic form. But even the body grows in a social environment, so body has its own time and space and location. But the identity of a person is body and location. Personhood is never something that we possess entirely on our own. Unless another person recognizes you publicly or recognizes you as a person you are not recognized. So body is always in relationship to others. Personhood is a gift from the community. Our thoughts and conversations have social dimensions. So personhood is a social gift where one is addressed and also responds to others. Personhood and participation in a social community are two sides of the same coin. A person is not just a private subject. Even some cultures see it that way. Personhood is both ourselves and ourselves in relationships. Secondly, personhood has to do with self. Self is the core inside us, which is totally private. Self is not a substance but a process; it is both transcendent and rises above ourselves. It is the choices we make, in relating, receiving and understanding people and situations. Self therefore is the substance in a person. Thirdly, personhood is understanding the role each one of us is entrusted with. Be it as a mother, grandmother or as a child. The fourth component of personhood is morality, faithfulness and commitment. That ethical content me a moral person, me and my beliefs, convictions, code of conduct, standards, guidelines and the laws I live by that is me. So people correct me when I fall and I correct them. Other people strengthen me, and I strengthen them. So this morality is me. The fifth component of personhood is integrity. Integrity is not what I do; it s this thing that makes me feel that I have truth in me. Just that word, integrity, means that which holds together. It also holds me together. It makes one feel, I am truthful, faithful and committed to standards of excellence. Sir, I am a person with integrity; a person of my word, I can be relied upon, I am dependable, have commitments and I have integrity with my husband, wife and children, are words we hear from people eager to be trusted in work. The sixth component of personhood is other regarding. This is where love comes in. It is not just myself but me in relation to others interdependence, sacrifice, love compassion, acceptance and inclusion are all a part of personhood. Some people cannot cope with others, cannot cope with difference, cannot include others, that is how and where personhood is diminished. But imagine a person who is relaxed with any kind of people, includes everybody, doesn t get scared, doesn t get terrified, doesn t get destabilized, but is truly inclusive and that is a person whose personhood is maturing. The seventh component of personhood is ethical resistance. It is the resistance to wrong, dealing with wrong, with sin, with violence, with disagreement, distortions. There is in me that which cannot abide something wrong. I will resist and not just give in. Some people have a strong ethical resistance and are able to forgive, to embrace, to share the difference, heal and rebuild. Don t just accept wrong, resist it. The eighth component is reconciliation and renewal. Forgiving, healing, reconstituting, rebuilding, ability to share differences are all morally and religiously shaped. It is not just resistance against something evil, but recognizing that you yourself constantly have to be cleansed, renewed and reconciled. We are never the same people, we forgive and we are reconstituted. Charles Taylor, a Catholic philosopher and theologian, talks about human flourishing. He says that we flourish because we are constantly growing and improving and changing. We are no longer the same people. What a joy to see communities flourish! Can you imagine three years with Jesus and you are less of a human being than when you first started. What a tragedy! That is what happened to Judas. The ninth component of personhood is creativity, stewardship and seizing the opportunity. We make choices, we create, and we struggle, build and take responsibility. We manage things. Finally the over arching component of our personhood and a part of our life is prayer and worship. We are creatures of worship. That is what really makes us who we are. In worshipping and turning towards God in prayer we really are fulfilled and we flourish. MISSION AS TRANSFORMATION Transformation 19/4 October

4 Daily activities of developmental intervention in...people we serve....makes our work transformational Paul s prayer is that Christ may be formed in you. What a glorious thing. The real goal of every person is that Christ is formed in us. Each life flowering and opening up to Christ, that s what it s all about. And when we grow in personhood, we become truly the home of Christ where Christ dwells, where the spirit dwells. That kind of evangelism is the most natural thing in the world. It s not evangelism where we force Christ down the throats of unwilling or adolescent youngsters. It is an experience of opening like a flower as a bud opens to the sun. It is not just a spiritual process or just a proclamation process. These are important, but it is the process of relating to them so that the Holy Spirit works through us, through our intervention in people s lives, whether its medical intervention, a class, a teaching, a prayer, playing with them in the field, or just being with them in a fellowship, or opening the word of God to them, an adult literacy class, or any of these things, through all those things they grow. To receive the lost sheep back should be the most natural thing. It is the most natural thing for Christ to be made known in all these things. It is how we engage in those daily activities of developmental intervention in the lives of people we serve. That makes our work transformational. How can communities create persons? Building communities that build personhood is very important. Do communities create persons? Is personhood unrelated to community? Communities, I don t think, create persons. But personhood is not realized outside of community. True personhood is only possible within community. And that is why in both the Old and the New Testament we have the overarching concept of the covenant. Covenant is a mutual commitment and relationship for mutual building up, receiving and giving and openness and building, that s what covenant is all about. The biblical concept of the community is people in a covenant relationship. I contribute to the building of the community and the community builds me. It is very important to build up communities that will build up personhood. If that is the case, then it is important to know how communities are constituted. Community is constituted through people s relationships, intentions, valuing, and perceptions of each other and their stories. Characteristics of a community Communities are moral communities and the components are freedom, justice, righteousness, order, law and truth. Building moral communities means that we must be committed to making freedom flourish, making truth flourish, and making justice, equity and righteousness flourish in a community. It is important to have transformational indicators. Creative communities are communities that flourish. The strong points of those communities are stewardship, truthfulness and hope. Truthful communities are not static but full of life. As a child I lived in a fairly large house with servants but also next door to a slum. People who took care of me lived in that slum. They took me to their homes and I saw creativity in the work of these people. They would pick up rubbish from dustbins and produce beautiful things out of it. Nothing can stop human creativity. Give an opportunity to be creative and people will flourish. The sadness of the caste system, the sadness of the oppression of the dalits is that they are made to believe that they are good for nothing and all their creativity is undermined. That is why we need a flourishing of this creativity, opportunity, stewardship, fruitfulness, a real sense of hope, capacity to build, the capacity for hope and capacity for stewardship. Creative communities are nurturing communities. I think of grace and love much more as community characteristics rather than simply individual characteristics. Love is primarily a community characteristic. It is in relationships that we experience love, that we share love and grace plays a very important role. Of course grace means mercy, forgiveness, patience, long suffering, all these characteristics, which the Spirit gives us. Love values people; grace builds people, and heals people. It is a community that provides security and a sense of belonging. The wonderful thing in being a member of a community is that you are sure that they will never throw you out. The hardest thing 246 Transformation 19/4 October 2002 MISSION AS TRANSFORMATION

5 about being refugees is the sense of not belonging anywhere, the sense of total displacement. Only those who experienced that kind of refugee status will know the feeling and how it reduces people s personhood. When orphaned children and battered women find themselves in a community that cares, we will see the beginning of the restoration of personhood. Yes, those are communities of security, and give a sense of belonging. It is a community that worships. Through worship we should bring healing divisions should be healed. Worship has tremendous social implications. So when we spend time in praise and worship it should be one of the most socially implicating and socially impactful times ever. Worship should impact us socially; it should open us to the kingdom that will help us see the poor, raise our consciousness, and awareness that helps build our capacity for advocacy. Our worship should destroy our divisions and unite us, strengthen us, give us a vision and give us transformational energy. That s what worship should do. It is a community with character. It is not the individual character but the community character that is shaped and created by the character of persons. The character of the community as a whole is being faithful and honest. This community is a moral community, a compassionate, caring community: it s a community of justice and advocacy. The character of the community should be visible and people should find security, healing and growth. The community character reinforces the character of persons. It is a community that constantly reflects the kingdom. The community itself is not the kingdom but is anticipating the kingdom, and trying to reflect the kingdom. That is why living in anticipation is of critical importance. That is why worship is important. The Holy Spirit enables us and gives us individuality and the Holy Spirit is the one Lord who binds the whole body together (1 Corinthians 12:1-12). The personhood of the persons and the personhood of the body, each flowing into the other, and building each other up. That is what we should be demonstrating and that s what every community needs. We anticipate that God will move us as a community. We will see justice; we will see liberation, spiritual growth, economic development, and shackles of poverty broken. We will see tears wiped from children s eyes, human flourishing. All these will be there and we will see it. That is our hope and that is our anticipation. Community and public action It is through communities we create public good and attack the evil systems of society. What we need is building of people; building of communities and that is our strength as evangelicals. We are capable of being with people and that is where the church comes in. We don t need lots of money to do it but we need people and volunteers to do it. When we build those communities and when those communities are ready, we use them as mighty weapons against forces of evil structures. Of course, we need the grand things as well, the big things like public policy, etc. They are also essential. But we need to build people s personhood as they can engage in public action. Conclusion We need to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit who longs to empower us. Just imagine how powerful the economic, political, cultural and transformational potential of Christian groups can be. Lets begin with what we have. That is what we need to be doing. It s not said in arrogance, it is said in humility. In spite of the potential many times we have failed this very Lord, we ve not drawn on the power of the Holy Spirit who longs to empower us. Let us humbly be open to him. MISSION AS TRANSFORMATION Transformation 19/4 October

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