Five themes have particularly contributed to my missiological approach to faith and life:
Discipleship is a deeply-rooted concept within Christianity.
In the modern era, discipleship has been largely eclipsed by congregational, denominational and political priorities. That historical position is being challenged by expressions of Christianity emerging in the Majority World contexts of Africa, Asia, Latin America and, to a certain extent, amongst post-moderns in Western contexts.
“Disciple” essentially means “learner,” but it implies a form of learning that is lived out in practice, rather than being merely creedal in form. I believe a revival of the centrality of discipleship will continue to shape, challenge and redefine how we understand Christian faith, throughout the next few decades.
Messianic discipleship is a form of learning centred around the Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus, the Christ).
Yeshua’s resurrected presence is experienced by receiving his Spirit. Through the Spirit, God’s covenant community is transformed into a charismatic community. A group of people endowed with spiritual gifts profoundly shaped to liberate human beings from idolatry and the allegiances and falsehoods that compete against the knowledge of God. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
The charismatic community is brought under God’s authority by being baptised into the Messiah. A body of people learning to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Learning to exercise its God-appointed role, under the direction of the Spirit.
God’s intention is to co-work with this messianic, charismatic, covenant community. A community functioning with the strength, the power, the spiritual life, the anointing that he provides. The pathway to experiencing an anointed, messianic life is through yielding ourselves to God the Father.
This is the message of the cross: as we die to self, we become alive to God (Romans 6:4-13). As we embrace a practical form of discipleship, dying daily to ourselves, we learn the reality of living in union with God. Through spiritual union we are equipped to serve his eternal purpose.
My missional experience and missiological exploration of scripturally-based discipleship has led to the development of a resource named Maize Plant Discipleship, which is currently being published on a module-by-module basis.
The Hebraic worldview offers deep and significant insights that are relevant to all of life. It is foundational to an appropriate hermeneutical perspective of Scripture (the Bible) and thus particularly valuable (read: challenging) for people immersed in modern evangelicalism.
My own appreciation is indebted to several scholars, whose work I highly recommend.
- Marvin R. Wilson‘s Our Father Abraham does an excellent job of introducing and explaining the immense value of the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and the reasons why the schism between Christianity and Judaism is so serious.
- David H. Stern‘s magnus opus of the Jewish New Testament and accompanying Commentary, together with his “Messianic Jewish Manifesto” provides not only a lively translation, but a profoundly insightful one.
- Paul Sumner‘s unique scholarly work, the Hebrew Streams website portal, is highly accessible. Paul’s approach of “biblical archeology” underpins his immense appreciation of the ways in which the Hebraic worldview is utterly unique and valuable.
- Andrew Perriman provides a fresh and constantly updated narrative-historical approach to scripture, through his website, whereby Andrew grapples with “how we retell the biblical story as we negotiate the difficult transition from the centre to the margins of our culture following the collapse of Western Christendom.”
My own exploration of the Hebraic worldview is explored in particular in my Masters thesis, The Eternal Purpose of God. It is also woven into the theological fabric of the Maize Plant Discipleship syllabus.
Missiology is the study of mission. It is a relatively new academic discipline that is becoming quietly established in a number of centres around the world—including Fuller School of Intercultural Studies, with whom I conducted my doctoral research. It draws upon numerous other disciplines, besides theology, in its search to understand mission.
A simple way of appreciating the significance of missiology is related to what David J. Bosch identifies as an “almost imperceptible shift from an emphasis on a church-centred mission to a mission-centred church” (Transforming Mission, 2005, p.370). This implies or leads to recognition of several vital realities:
- The church is missionary by its very nature, because God is by nature missionary.
- The church is a servant community, called into existence to serve God’s eternal purpose.
- The church exists in tension with, but not separate to, a world in which injustice and corruption is both intrinsic and endemic.
Contextual missiology seeks to understand the unique ways in which God is at work and calling his covenant people to enjoin him in particular contexts. Key to this is an understanding of contextuality and contextualisation.
- Contextuality is a missiological discernment of the “signs of the times.” These critical factors indicate the significance of a particular context to the missio Dei. In other words, contextuality explores what God is doing in particular contexts. It specifically challenges assumptions that God’s mission will be similar in diverse contexts. It insists that cultural insiders must lead the way in the process of contextualisation.
- Contextualisation is the struggle of the People of God to embody God’s ‘eternal purpose’ in a particular context. Two elements keenly influence this struggle for embodiment: culture and Scripture. The people of God must live with this tension and hold them together in their embodiment. In this way, they express a continuity with both their spiritual history (Scripture) and their contextual history (culture).
Intercultural mutuality implies a working relationship between people of different cultures, based upon a mutual inter-cultural appreciation and compatibility of gifts, talents, characteristics and culture—all of which is rooted in a shared, vocational commitment to serving God’s eternal purpose, the missio Dei.
Intercultural mutuality embraces a missional stance that looks beyond colonialism, post-colonialism, independence and even inter-dependence and partnership, as typically understood. I neologised the terminology and and defined the concept (of “intercultural mutuality”), in my doctoral dissertation, Facilitating a Renewal of Discipleship Praxis Amongst Burkinabé Leaders and Learners.
A précis of how I explored intercultural mutuality and a presentation relating how it is relevant, in particular, to the interaction between African and Western Christianity is available here.
Throughout my entire adult life, the ground of my vocational work has been a continual effort to discern and follow God’s call to my life. A call bound up with God’s call to his Messianic Community (i.e. global church).
Insights from human development theory have informed my personal development and spiritual maturity and understanding of vocation.
- Alan Jamieson‘s research, encapsulated in A Churchless Faith, opened my eyes to the stages-of-faith thesis of James Fowler. Exploring Fowler’s thesis, in Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian, deepened my understanding of vocation as something holistic and encompassing. Vocation remains a central element of my personal philosophy of human being and development.
- Elaine Aron, in The Highly Sensitive Person, documents and promotes the concept of high sensitivity. I experienced this as an enlightening ‘window onto my soul.’ It enabled me to, first of all, to accurately understand the traumatic experiences of my youth and young adult life. I was then became able to reframe my trauma and to work effectively on my personal sense of human being and development.
- Parker J Palmer‘s Let Your Life Speak provides a simple introduction to some of the complexity involved in listening to the inner voice of our true selves, which is always guiding us towards an authentic expression of our personal vocation.
I am presently in the early stage of articulating a personal perspective on vocation and spiritual transformation, named Hodos, in the context of post-modern society.
Hodos sees religious faith as a Way of living, rather than a creedal belief system. Entering into that Way centres around a discernment of vocation and spiritual transformation.
Hodos draws its deepest inspiration from the story of the People of God: the Jews and the followers of Y’shua, the Jewish Messiah (Jesus, the Christ). Even so, Hodos invites a way of living vocationally that is accessible to all—not merely those who readily identify with religious faith.