Friday, July 25, 2008

The Mission of the Church and the MDGs

There is a lot of people who say that our diversity can be united in mission. But that begs the question - what is the mission of the Church?

The mission of the Church can be summed up in the Great Commission:
And Jesus came to them and said: "All authority in heaven and on earth has
been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and lo, I am with you
always, to the close of the age."

Another way to say this is that the mission of the Church is to reconcile all people with God and each other thru Jesus Christ. Any thing that detracts from this mission is bad. That which furthers the mission is good.

The MDGs are good works. They can be ways of furthering the mission of the Church, but they are not the mission of the Church. I will work with non-Christians in relieving poverty, bringing good news to prisoners, working for justice and peace and other "good works" but only if I can do them in the name of Jesus Christ and only if I can, in some way, further the mission of the Church. The Church is only the Church when she is evangelizing.

Now that does not necessarily mean that we start grabbing people by the shirt and asking if they know Jesus. It does not mean that we need to be overt in our evangelism. A great deal of evangelism is what I call "covert." Evangelism can begin with justice issues. It can begin by working the the MDGs. But at some point it needs to be plain that we are doing this because of what Jesus has done for us and what He can do for them.

The MDGs cannot be a goal of the Church. They are a byproduct of living the Great Commission. The MDGs and any other social justice work are works done because of what Jesus has first done for us. If we make them the goal, we cease to be the Church. If we put them ahead of the Great Commission, we start to worship a false god.

I fear that this is what TECUSA is doing - particularly at Lambeth now. Our church leadership is trying to convince others that theology doesn't matter and that soteriology doesn't matter and that moral living doesn't matter. Only "mission" matters. This is a lie and leads to death because it leads to a false god (see the previous post).

I can support most of the MDGs because they can be great means of brining God's word and the new life that Jesus brings to those who do not know Jesus or need to know him better (which is all of us!).

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

10 comments:

Robert said...

For those of us (me) who are not up on our religious acronyms, what is a MDG?

Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

I fail to see how the establishment of a global income tax (however small; no income tax will ever shrink) administered by the people who brought us the Oil For Food scandals furthers the Great Commission in any way whatsoever.

plsdeacon said...

Hi Robert,

The "MDGs" are the "Millenium Development Goals." They are the UN's proposal to eliminate extreme poverty, improve health and education and work in environmentally sustainable ways to life people out of poverty.

Anonymous - I don't see any call for a global income tax. I see working to eliminate poverty as method of "covert" evangelism where we bring people to know and love Jesus Christ by working to bring them out of poverty and helping them to adopt a Christian worldview.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

Anonymous said...

Dear Phil,

I couldn't agree more with what you have said. The church is not primarily a "three hots and a cot mission." The Gospel reading for this week makes the point that Jesus is the bread of life not just a free lunch.

Deacon Dale

Anonymous said...

Ministry of presence is vital to the mission of the church. So we have to go and meet people where they are. If we can ease suffering so that they are in a place to hear about the Gospel, that is what we need to do. As you point out, TEC has made the MDG's a major mission of the church. Unfortunately, a lot of deacons have signed on, hook, line, and sinker.

Capt. Deacon Warren

The Underground Pewster said...

A very good summary of the place for the MDGs. I have always thought the MDGs were a smokescreen to blind us to the shenanigans going on in T.E.C. I also thought they would fade away until the next "Five-year Plan" is announced by our fearless leaders. Look for one last gasp to push these before the General Convention of 2009 (again, most likely a smokescreen).

In another context, I have heard this phrase "We are mission oriented and not issue oriented." Or, "We don't want issue people to run for church leadership positions."

Am I wrong to be upset because I think that part of the mission of the church is dealing with issues?

Grace said...

Phil,

Most of what you're sharing seems so self-evident to me. It's actually hard to understand why any Christian could disagree. The church is so much more than a social action club with a religious twist.

Working on the MDG's is important, and one way we can show the love of Christ, but for the church they can't just be an end in and of themselves.

We need to also introduce spiritually hungry people to the "bread of life."

I wonder if part of the difficulty may be in a misunderstanding of some of the teaching of Jesus such as the parable of the sheep and the goats.

I also think not everyone in TEC actually shares the same faith, or definition of the gospel.

There are people who strongly feel they are able to earn "salvation" based in good works. And, the "good news," means nothing more than speaking in a general way of God's love, and out of that doing kind, and merciful deeds.

As far as I'm able to understand, they feel based in our own effort, reason, and strength we are able to establish the kingdom of God.

Ron CS said...

Phil,
I respect your commentary and agree with what you're saying. With that said, I think it's hard to miss the call for a global tax. Support for the MDGs in TEC is not just about doing good works; it also about getting our government to provide greater monetary support.

The whole ONE campaign by TEC (http://www.episcopalchurch.org/ONE/) disturbs me a bit because the goal is not to ask for talent and treasure in support of a noble cause. The goal is to get congregations to ask their Congressional representatives to spend tax revenues on the MDGs.

The Global Poverty Act of 2007 would require the President and his administration to “develop and implement a comprehensive strategy” to achieve “the Millennium Development Goal" of eradicating poverty. This type of legislation could easily lead to an obligation of US taxpayer dollars to the UN which in effect is a "global tax".

TLF+ said...

When/if the truth comes out, it will be clear that TEC cares not for Christian mission OR the MDGs... it is spending much more on lawsuits than on either of these priorities.

Jim said...

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." He also said "When I was hungry you fed me, when I was ill you comforted me, when I was in prison you visited me."

I don't think something like if not the MDG is optional. It is not, certain paranoid posts to the contrary, expected that the UN administer the monies. Rather it is an idea, that if everyone who could actually gave a very small amount, the various groups that work around the world on poverty issues would be able to achieve their goals.

Frankly, I doubt we will ever see either the elimination of extreme poverty or the end to political violence as long as their is socialism abroad in the world. I am a free market sort of guy. But, that does not diminish what Jesus had to say on the subject.

Certainly I would love to see the India model where people get real opportunities and real jobs tried in Africa. I bet the effects would be dramatic.

I hope that we can see more and more efforts to do MDG financing of micro-loans. But in anycase, preaching the gospel to the starving without bread is a looser. Jesus preached but he also fed and healed. We have a tough example to follow.

FWIW
jimB