WRF Board Member Dr. Matthew Ebenezer on "Equipping the Whole People of God for the Whole Mission of God"

July 10, 2017
Matthew Ebenezer

[Note: The item below expresses the views of the individual to whom the material is ascribed and does not necessarily reflect the position of the WRF as a whole.  This article is also available as an attachment.] 


Training Workers for God’s Mission:
Equipping the Whole People of God for the Whole Mission of God[1] 

by
WRF Board Member Matthew Ebenezer, Ph. D. 

Mission is God’s work. He initiates, empowers, and consummates mission. This understanding of mission makes church-based ministries only a part of the many responses to the mission of God.  Understanding mission as God’s prerogative, in which the church plays an important role, places upon Christians two great responsibilities: to recognise the essential character of Missio Dei, and to consider its implications. A biblical understanding of mission, therefore, as this paper shows, needs to define who the ‘workers’ of the Kingdom are, and what the mission of God is.  Since Word and deed go together, the former attested by the latter, theological institutions should educate clergy (prospective and serving) to the challenges of the parish, and equip the laity to recognize their role in Missio Dei.  It is heartening to note that theological institutions and affiliating bodies are already in the process of re-thinking and re-structuring their programs to suit the present needs of the church, its people, and its mission.[2]

The topic “Training Workers for God’s Mission” is understood as follows.  1) God’s mission, or Missio Dei, the focus of our paper, includes all activities that build the Kingdom of God.  Thus the need arises to address the training of ‘priests,’ pastors, and seminary teachers, and also all of God’s people in their God-appointed callings to be part of God’s mission of redemption and renewal. 2) Since the focus of training is workers for Missio Dei or ‘God’s Mission,’ the challenge is to make God’s people to recognize their diverse holistic and missional callings as uniquely suited for mission and evangelism in their particular contexts.  3)  This paper recognizes the importance of ministries such as Theological Education by Extension (TEE) that help equip God’s people to minister in pastoral and evangelistic contexts, especially in places where churches lack trained leadership. However, this paper is not intended to encourage equipping laity theologically, whether to acquire knowledge or to give leadership in churches without pastors, rather the paper aims to help the laity recognize the importance of their callings in the service of God’s Kingdom. 4) Although the writer recognizes the importance and place of pastoral and evangelistic ministries, and the high calling of ministers of the Gospel, the major thrust of this paper will be the deed-oriented, holistic aspect of the mission of God carried out by the whole people of God.  

This paper attempts to show that mission is not only the responsibility of trained clergy and missionaries.  Mission is the responsibility of all God’s people, the clergy as well as the laity, using their varied callings, gifts, and abilities to extend the Kingdom of God through obedience to His will by their life and witness.  Therefore, training workers for God’s mission includes making the clergy aware of the vastness of Kingdom concerns, and educating the laity to seize opportunities of witness in their respective callings to be witnesses of the salvific work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of this paper is threefold: 1) To trace the holistic character of God’s mission, theologically, biblically and historically; 2) to survey contemporary holistic missional opportunities available to fulfil Missio Dei; and 3) to consider the implications of Missio Dei for theological education. This paper will be divided into three sections that correspond with the three purposes given above.  An attempt is made to show that the clergy as well as the laity together make the people of God; and that the gospel is not communicated by Word alone, but by Word and deed.  This paper seeks to encourage the church to motivate men and women to recognize and utilize their callings in the service of the Kingdom.

I.  Missio Dei: A Theological, Biblical, and Historical Overview 

With the exaltation of the clergy appeared the tendency to separate them from secular business.  . . . After the third century they were forbidden to engage in any secular business, or even to accept any trusteeship. - Schaff[3]

The issue of the nature of mission has been debated widely.  Questions in connection with this are: “Is it right to refer to ‘missions’ or ‘mission’?”  “Is there a connection between the two?”  “Does mission refer only to the kerygmatic aspects of preaching and evangelizing?”  Up to the nineteenth century the idea of missions was seen as man’s response to God’s command, and this was understood primarily as evangelism.  Karl Barth is generally considered the first to articulate the idea that mission is God’s work at the Brandenburg Missionary Conference (1932).  This thought reached fruition at the International Missionary Council (IMC)’s Willingen Conference (1952), following which the term Missio Dei or ‘Mission of God’ was coined by Karl Hartenstein and popularized by George Vicedom.[4]  In recent years there has been a growing awareness among Christian theologians that mission is primarily God’s work.[5]  A simple distinction between mission and missions is: mission is what God does; missions are what the church is engaged in – the different expressions of the one Missio Dei.

What is the difference in the idea of mission as narrowly referring to evangelism and church-planting, and mission as Missio Dei – Mission of God?  Various differences can be noted here: in the former mission is understood primarily as telling the good news of salvation; the focus is moreover on gathering souls into a saved community who then become witnesses to what they have experienced.  In the latter, mission is viewed as a greater phenomenon that includes a holistic dimension, which is both spiritual and physical.  In some ways, the debate centres around the ‘Nazareth Manifesto’ (Luke 4:18,19), and similar texts, and ‘The Great Commission’ (Matt 28:18,19), and related texts.  In the former the emphasis falls on being salt and light in the world; mission is primarily viewed as ushering in the Kingdom of God and establishing God’s rule of justice, peace, and liberation; in the latter the call is for Christians to preach the Gospel and fulfil the command of Christ.  Christians who primarily focus on social action take the life and ministry of Christ seriously and tend to spiritualize His death, resurrection, and Second coming.  Jesus Christ for them becomes a model to emulate and the events during His life are interpreted socially, economically, politically, and ecologically.  Some evangelical Christians often tend to downplay the holistic element in mission, focussing instead on the life and atoning work of Christ.  The ideal is a balance between these two extremes. 

Theological: The idea of mission is woven into the character of God, especially His revelatory and redemptive actions in history.  Biblical redemptive history unveils a God who reveals Himself graciously. This redemptive revelation is mediated to God’s people through His chosen servants who were not only priests and prophets, but also people called of God for His work.  They were examples of grace that showed God’s sovereign choice despite human sin and shortcomings.  Among these in the Old Testament were Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, David, Elijah, Hezekiah, Elisha, Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther; they completed their role in the work of redemption in their particular contexts, accomplishing the mission of God while being conscious of their ‘secular and sacred callings’ – they came from all walks of life: they were princes and prime ministers, prophets and priests, kings, queens, and governors, etc.  They were people of faith some of whose exemplary – not sinless - lives are given as examples for us in Hebrews 11.  Our Great Example, the Lord Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of all these models, being in every way like as we are yet without sin (Heb 4:15).  He becomes our Perfect Model for emulation.  The people of God are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, (I Pet  2:9), yet like the High Priest of the Old Testament they need to be reminded of their sinfulness and need for holiness (Heb 10:1,3).  It is a people of God who are conscious of their sinfulness; they trust in Christ’s atoning work for their redemption and daily commit themselves to live holy lives consecrated for use in God’s kingdom to accomplish His purposes. There ought to be a realization that whatever calling we have is God-given and to be used for His glory.              

Biblical:  God deals with mankind holistically in the Old Testament.  Creation is followed by the command to care for creation (Gen 1:28).  Sin does not warrant a complete destruction of God’s entire creation; God provides for continuity (Gen 6:13-22).  Redemption from bondage in Egypt is accompanied by provision for His peoples’ physical needs (Ex 16:13; Deut 8:15,16).  God deals gently with His people providing and protecting them until they are safe in Canaan (Ex 19:4).  The Mosaic law reveals His care for both His people (Deut 23:19), for aliens living among them (Ex 12:49), for the poor  (Ex 23:10f; Lev 19:9,10; 23:22; 25:5,6) , and for the land itself (Lev 25:4,5, 11).  God stands with the oppressed and the poor taking their side through prophetic intervention, seen in several of the prophetic books, and calls His people back to Himself. 

Jesus’ ministry was in every sense holistic.  His message was not only the salvation of mankind from sin; it was also meeting their immediate physical needs.   The preaching of the gospel was accompanied by care and concern for His followers as is evidenced by the various feedings of multitudes (Matt14:14ff.; 15:32ff.).  In the synoptic gospels there are several references to Jesus’ healing of sick and concern for the poor (Matt 11:5; Luke 4:18; 7:22; 14:13), and His compassion for needy people (Matt 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13).  Jesus concern for the poor was matched by His incarnational action (2 Cor 8:9).  This holistic emphasis of Jesus should not eclipse His ultimate purpose for mankind.  Only a truncated gospel finds support for holistic acts in the life and ministry of Jesus, and stops short of His death and resurrection, His command to preach the good news and make disciples, His ascension, and the hope of His coming. 

A truly holistic gospel is based on a holistic biblical pattern.  The best example of such a relationship is seen on the day of Pentecost and in the early church.  The gospel that converted three thousand through Peter’s preaching translated into belief and action. The early church not only preached the gospel but also took care of the material needs of believers (Acts 2:44,45). Acts 6 suggests consistent holistic care for believers in the church.  The apostle Paul refers to help given among the early churches to meet the need of the poorer churches (Rom 15:26).  When Paul met with the leaders of the church to discuss evangelizing the Gentiles, one concern of James, Peter, and John was that Paul and Barnabas should “remember the poor” (Gal 2:9,10).

Historical:  Early centuries   Commenting on the practice of Christians about the second century, Professor Chadwick writes, “The practical application of charity was probably the most potent single cause of Christian success.” Apart from meeting the needs of fellow believers, Christians reached out “. . .  in social action in time of calamity like famine, earthquake, pestilence, or war.”[6]  In the mid-third century the wealthy church of Rome reached out to refugees fleeing during barbarian invasions and the Decian persecution.  Chadwick notes here, “. . . the distribution of alms was not confined only to believers.”[7]  The impact of Christianity on society, especially in the status of women and the treatment of slaves is particularly impressive, when compared to the contemporary norms. Another important contribution was its teaching on the sanctity of marriage.[8]  This shows that early Christians took the holistic implications of the gospel seriously.  Chadwick notes, “In the Church masters and slaves were brethren.  Several emancipated slaves rose to be bishops, notably Callistus of Rome in the third century. . . .  Protests against the institution of slavery as such came in the fourth century when the Christians were beginning to be in a position to affect social policy.”[9]  Of particular importance was the outlawing of gladiatorial shows in AD 404 following a spectacular protest by an eastern monk named, Telemachus.[10]  In the wake of post-Constantinian Christianity several changes were to appear that would impact Christendom.

Bosch, with regard to this period, traces the rise in importance of the clergy, especially due to the advent of heresy and the view that the clergy were the guardians of the apostolic tradition.  He comments, “. . . the doctrines of apostolic succession, the ‘indelible character’ conferred on priests in the rite of ordination, and the ‘infallibility of the pope.’”  He then observes, “The clericalizing of the church went hand in hand with the sacerdotalizing of the clergy.”  He traces briefly the use of the term ‘priest’ that was introduced into the Christian church and the elaborate rituals that developed around the Eucharist by commenting,   “At the same time it [the rituals] cut off the priest from the community, putting him over against it as a mediation figure and as a kind of alter Christus (‘another Christ’). The priest had active power to consecrate, forgive sins, and bless; ‘ordinary’ Christians, enabled thereto by their baptism, had only a passive role to play, namely to receive grace.”[11]  An interesting observation by Schaff seems to imply that the clergy had their own occupations that were gradually discouraged when the distinction between them and the laity became pronounced.[12]  Priests and monks moreover came to be identified with learning and erudition. The laity, nevertheless, recognized their calling to communicate the gospel in the early centuries.  Missiologist Timothy Tennent, referring to the probable spread of the gospel to Britain by Christian soldiers, observes, “The gospel spreads not just through the officially commissioned missionaries, but also through countless ordinary believers who, wherever they go, bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.”[13]  Similarly, well-known sociologist Rodney Stark says, “. . . the primary means of its [Christianity’s] growth was through the united and motivated efforts of the growing numbers of Christian believers, who invited their friends, relatives, and neighbours to share the ‘good news.’”[14]  This early involvement of the laity in Word (and also in deed), would soon disappear as the church grew more structured and the ecclesiastical hierarchy were gradually tasked with spiritual matters. 

Middle Ages   Schaff refers to the contribution of the church in education and learning in the middle ages.  He writes, “The preservation and study of ancient literature during the entire medieval period are due chiefly to the clergy and monks, and a few secular rulers.  The convents were the nurseries of manuscripts.”[15]  These references indicate that holism was built into the Christian community’s life and message.  Unfortunately, it seems that three events affected the natural holistic practice of the church. The first was the Church-State nexus following the ‘conversion’ of Constantine (AD 313) in which social concerns gradually came to be handled by the State.  Secondly, theological disputes, such as the Arian controversy, and the calling of various regional and ecumenical councils kept the church preoccupied. Thirdly, the growing power of the hierarchy and ecclesiastical monopoly over holistic concerns was especially evident in Rome.  Moreover, the rise of convents and monasteries meant that these became centres of holistic outreach meeting social needs and providing relief for the poor and the suffering.[16]   It appears that the last reason given led to a compartmentalization and separation of a clergy, that practised good works (and by the time of the Reformation established their monopoly over such works with the blessings of the church); and the laity, who contented themselves by being overawed by the commitment and concern of the church (clergy and monks) for the poor.  The laity, moreover, depended on the clergy to perform vicarious good works on their behalf without realizing their own identity as being a people of God.

Pre-Reformation.  Latourette observes, “An expression of the Christian faith of the laity which was seen in hundreds of parishes was care for the unfortunate.  With the deepening of religious life of Western Europe through the revivals, especially, those of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and with the growth of cities and the increase in wealth, works of Christian charity multiplied.”[17]  In a chapter entitled “The Shaping of Western Europe” Latourette refers to several changes in Europe that were a direct influence of the permeation of Christian ideals.  Some of these were, stressing the equality of all mankind, the forbidding of exposing infants, forbidding of sacrifice of slaves, promoting manumission of slaves, and elevating the status of women.   He notes, “The Christian faith also stimulated care for the sick, the poor, and the stranger.  . . . monasteries regularly entertained travellers, parishes cared for the indigent, and in the name of Christ hospitals were founded and maintained for the ill and the aged.”[18]  These pre-Reformation attempts to show the practical outworking of the faith were a perfect preparation for what would follow in the sixteenth century.

Reformation and Post-Reformation.  Critics point out that none of the Reformers had any interest in mission work. This is an unwarranted criticism.  A careful student of history can trace the impact of the Reformation in places rooted in a solid biblical theology that stressed the glory and sovereignty of God.[19]  Of the Reformers, Calvin saw all of life as belonging to God, to be lived for His glory.  Calvin balanced his call to the ministry of the Word and Sacraments and his call to translate biblical truth into practice in everyday life with efficient precision.  The best known example of this outworking was his vision for the city of Geneva.  Despite the criticism of Calvin’s enemies, Geneva was undoubtedly an outstanding example of holistic Christian influence.  Schaff writes,

The material prosperity of the city [Geneva] was not neglected. Greater cleanliness was introduced . . . . Calvin insisted on the removal of all filth from the houses and the narrow and crooked streets. He induced the magistracy to superintend the markets, and to prevent the sale of unhealthy food . . . .  Low taverns and drinking shops were abolished, and intemperance diminished. Mendicancy on the streets was prohibited. A hospital and poor-house was provided and well conducted. Efforts were made to give useful employment to every man that could work. Calvin urged the Council in a long speech, Dec. 29, 1544, to introduce the cloth and silk industry . . . .  The factories were forthwith established and soon reached the highest degree of prosperity. The cloth and silk of Geneva were highly prized in Switzerland and France, and laid the foundation for the temporal wealth of the city. When Lyons . . . surpassed the little Republic in the manufacture of silk, Geneva had already begun to make up for the loss by the manufacture of watches . . . [20]

McNeill refers to many social, economic, political, and moral (severely criticised) reforms that took place in Geneva, and the founding of the influential Genevan Academy (1559).[21]  Among the Reformers, Calvin’s theology was not only soundly biblical and practical, it was also holistic.  This aspect makes his approach relevant to contemporary situations.  Bierma writes, “For him [Calvin], the gospel addresses not just souls or individual persons or so-called ‘spiritual matters.’  It addresses the whole person and all aspects of life and society – political office, civil disobedience, wealth and poverty, work, wages, usury, education, marriage and family life.”[22]

Commenting on the post-Reformation period, Latourette says, “On wide ranges of social life Christianity was having effects.  Some of those were a continuation of what we have noted in earlier centuries.  Others were new. . . . in the West, the power inherent in the Christian faith gave rise to many efforts on behalf of the underprivileged and for social reform.”[23]  Latourette also refers to a movement in Germany that led to founding homes for “underprivileged and delinquent children” and various other activities that sought a spiritual rebirth for the nation.”[24]  Stephen Neill refers to holistic Roman Catholic missionary activity in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in the Philippines.  He writes, “The missionary method followed by all the [Roman Catholic] Orders was the same – the creation of strong Christian villages, in which church, school, hospital, and orphanage all played their part.” [25]

In England, the eighteenth century Evangelical Revival led to a widespread impact on society.  Speaking of John Wesley, Latourette notes, “From a substantial income from the sale of his books he aided what he deemed good causes.  He furthered the care of deserving poor and the creation of lending funds to assist struggling businessmen.”[26]  Stott comments, “Historians have attributed to Wesley’s influence rather than to any other the fact that Britain was spared the horrors of a bloody revolution like France’s.”[27]  Vidler describes the activities of the Clapham Sect, among who was the Member of Parliament and social reformer William Wilberforce (1759-1833), saying,

These rich and prosperous men . . . . consecrated themselves to good works and noble causes, above all to the abolition of the slave trade. . . .  They were full of benevolence and philanthropy towards the poor . . . . they interested themselves a great deal in the social as well as in the moral and religious needs of the industrial poor, for example in the provision of hospitals and education.  They denounced the barbarity of the criminal law and the state of prisons and they were ahead of their time in being willing to allow State interference in order to improve factory conditions.[28]

The efforts of Wilberforce led to abolishing slavery in most parts of the British Empire from 1834. As the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries heralded the era of modern missions, early Christian missions were accompanied by acts of charity.

Modern period.  In the eighteenth century the Roman Catholics first founded a school for boys and later another for girls; a hospital and a leper asylum, and a charitable dispensary in the French colony of Pondicherry in south India.[29] This century also saw the beginning of the first Protestant missionary movement in India with the founding of the Tranquebar Mission (1706) by Bartholomew Ziegenbalg and Henry Pleutschau: German Pietistic Lutherans commissioned by King Frederick of Denmark to spread the gospel in India. They established schools and set up of a printing press for printing gospel literature.  Their attempts to help the poor failed because the Mission Board in Copenhagen who could not comprehend the connection between preaching the gospel and helping the poor![30]  This attitude appears to have changed later.  C. F. Schwartz (1750-1798) of the Tranquebar Mission engaged in systematic ‘teaching, preaching, catechizing, and supervision,’ apart from which he established an orphanage and became a mediator between the British and the local rulers in political affairs.[31]

Among modern missionaries of the nineteenth century, William Carey (1761-1834) is prominent.  Neill sees Carey’s missionary work as a “five-pronged advance” each having equal importance.  These five are:

(1)   The widespread preaching of the Gospel by every possible method; (2) support of the  preaching by the distribution of the Bible in the languages of the country; (3) the establishment at the earliest possible moment of a Church; (4) a profound study of the background and thought of the non-Christian peoples; (5) the training at the earliest possible moment of an indigenous ministry.[32]    

Along with these important aspects that would establish an “indigenous ministry” in India, Carey engaged in holistic activities that impacted the country significantly.  Carey (linguist), Joshua Marshman (schoolmaster), and William Ward (printer), commonly known as the Serampore Trio, actively involved themselves in: the abolition of sati (practice of widows immolating themselves on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands) and child sacrifice; setting up of schools for boys and girls; engaging in self-supporting activities, such as  running of schools; journalism (they started newspapers in English and Bengali that drew attention to social evils); and their lasting achievement was the establishment of Serampore College (‘for the instruction of Asiatic, Christian and other youth in Eastern Literature and European Science’) in 1818, which continues today.[33]

This spirit of holistic ministry is seen in the activities of other nineteenth century missionaries and nationals in India whose activities included education (Alexander Duff, John Wilson, Stephen Hislop, John Anderson, etc.);   women’s emancipation and education (Isabella Thoburn, Pandita Rama Bai, etc.); medical work, founding hospitals and training institutions (John and Henry Scudder, Ida Scudder, William Wanless, Clara Swain, Sara Seward, Edith Brown, etc.); founding of sanatorium for tuberculosis patients and leprosy asylums; and printing presses. This trend continued into the early part of the twentieth century with missionaries being involved in setting up schools and research centres for teaching agriculture, and animal husbandry.[34]

The above cursory survey of church history shows that social awareness was intertwined in the Christian gospel.  Normally, the preaching of the gospel and the establishment of churches was followed by concern for the underprivileged that took different forms: caring for the sick and the poor, reforming society, developing a concern for the needs of mankind.  Perhaps the culmination of evangelical social reform efforts came from William Booth in the nineteenth century.  Coming from a Methodist background, Booth’s efforts to reach the poor, and the socially and financially bankrupt came from a general understanding shared by many that the Methodist church had forgotten much of Wesley’s ideals and was now catering to the middle-classes.  Booth’s approach, generally caricaturized as ‘soup, soap, salvation,’ reached out to people often neglected by British society. His organization, the Salvation Army, after facing some initial setbacks has emerged as a well-knit, social organisation that reaches the neglected segments of society.[35]  The social response to the faith was very much a part of the evangelical and Reformed tradition, but gradually came to be neglected by the twentieth century.  

An outstanding example of Christian transformation in the history of modern missions comes from north east India where tribal head-hunters, converted a little over one hundred years ago, abandoned pagan cultural practices in favour of the gospel.[36]  Firth refers to Christian love in action shown during the ‘bamboo famine’ – a phenomenon that occurs once in several decades in north east India and results in an increase in the rodent population that devastates crops and food supplies leading to thousands of deaths.  During such famines villages would protect themselves from hungry marauders searching for food.  After their conversion, the people in this region refused to build stockades around their villages during the famine to keep away starving people in search of food; instead they welcomed them, gave them food, and cared for them showing Christ’s love: actions that resulted in tremendous church growth.[37] 

The above examples give us ample evidence that throughout Christian history, mission was primarily understood as holistic.  A transformation of the heart, mind, and will led to effective Christian witness in Word and deed. There were periods when the emphasis was greater or lesser due to various reasons.  Holistic mission was primarily carried out by the clergy, but there were also examples of the laity being involved in holistic mission, though such examples are fewer in number.    

The abandonment and recovery holistic mission in evangelical circles.   Stott, summarizing the findings of David O Moberg, gives five reasons that led evangelicals to shun social responsibility.  The first is, “The fight against theological liberalism,” the second was the reaction to the ‘social gospel’ of Walter Rauschenbusch, the third was the pessimism that followed World War I, the fourth was spread of premillenial teachings that viewed the world as evil and ‘beyond redemption,’ the fifth he says, “. . . was probably the spread of Christianity among middle-class people, who tended to dilute it by identifying it with their own culture.’[38]  Stott writes that the first person to remind evangelicals of their social responsibility was Carl F. H. Henry as early as 1947.  In 1966 the Wheaton Declaration spoke of the need to address social issues. The International Congress on World Evangelization, Lausanne (1974) promoted Christian Social Responsibility, with the added clause ‘in the church’s mission of sacrificial service evangelism is primary.’[39]  In October 1999 evangelical global evangelical Christian leaders met in Iguassu, Brazil to formulate the Iguassu Affirmation which says with regard to the holistic gospel, “The Gospel is good news and addresses all human needs. We emphasize the holistic nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament demonstrate Gods concern with the whole person in the whole of society. We acknowledge that material blessings come from God, but prosperity should not be equated with godliness.”[40] The Affirmation in its section on ‘Commitments,’ promises to address global economic and ecological issues.[41]  In short, the recovery of the holistic element of the gospel recognizes that the biblical gospel needs to address mankind’s spiritual and physical needs. The gospel is concerned with the welfare of the poor and needy; and also a concern for God’s creation and the use of earth’s limited resources.  The challenges are numerous, but Christians need to begin where they are: to realize that each Christian has a calling to be part of God’s kingdom activity:  being in the world, but not of the world, and to be salt and light in the world.

The above historical overview shows that the preaching and practice of the gospel essentially included a holistic character.  The Christian community engaged in acts of mercy and compassion as a natural response to God’s redemptive work in Christ.  Various changes resulted in 1) shifting the holistic responsibility of all Christians solely to the ecclesia and made the laity spectators instead of participants in Kingdom activity; and, 2) the holistic activity of evangelical Christianity was abandoned due to the threat of the ‘social gospel.’  In recent years there are signs of a reversal of this trend:  1) From the mid- twentieth century evangelicals have recovered the importance a holistic gospel and have begun witnessing through Word and deed.  2) There are indications that the ‘callings’ of the laity to be witnesses in their respective occupations and professions is taking place.  

Missio Dei in the Bible: Reformed insights.  The Reformed tradition takes all of life seriously.  A close examination of Calvin’s views on the importance of all aspects of life comes from the doctrine of God.  Meeter rightly states, “The fundamental principle, if anywhere, lies precisely in the field of the evangelical doctrines of the Calvinists . . . .  We may say that the fundamental principle concerns the doctrine of God.”[42]  From a Christian worldview of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation, Christians ought to see themselves as part of the primary Redemptive purpose of being God’s spokespersons in announcing the salvation that is available in Christ.  Moreover; the effects of this redemption are varied: restoration of the environment; developing ways of energy conservation; exploring alternate power resources; reducing global warming; co-operating with ‘secular’ initiatives in accomplishing any of the above.  The Christian also takes biblical guidelines on living a Christian life seriously.  This calls for action in the area of practicing biblical teachings on family, civil affairs, justice, and morality.

 

II.   Missio Dei: Holistic Missional Opportunities


The magistrate will discharge his functions more willingly; the head of the 
household will confine himself to his duty; each man will bear and swallow the discomforts . . . when he has been persuaded that the burden was laid upon him by God. From this will arise also a singular consolation: that no task will be so sordid and base, provided you obey your calling in it, that it will not shine and be reckoned very precious in God’s sight.- Calvin[43]

Holistic Options in Urban Pastoral Ministry.[44]  These ministries are primarily suggested for any urban context; whether in the developed world or in a majority world context.[45]  The urban church always has the opportunity to reach out to its neighbour in numerous ways.  This type of ministry is best done by nationals themselves and not by foreign missionaries.  In a thought-provoking article Webber outlines some possible guidelines for doing urban mission.  In the urban context he calls for a change of approach and expectation from the traditional image of ministers which is limited to preaching, teaching, and counselling and proposes instead, “We must aim to train in an institution for theological education a man who is at once   a) a worldly man [by which he means a person who is sufficiently exposed to the struggles of the real world],   b) a man in Christ, and   c) a theological specialist.”[46]  One of the radical practices of the practical work program that he headed was that students had to actually find jobs and live among the poor to experience their hardships and challenges.[47]  This is true incarnational ministry.

Ministry to poor.  After discussing the marginalization of the poor, Philip Wickeri says, “The challenge for the historic Protestant churches is to rediscover our common Christian identity with churches at the margins.”[48]  However, in trying to understand the poor we need to be involved closely with their lives.  Wickeri comments, “According to Aloysius Peiris, speaking out of a South Asian context, the poor are not theologians and theologians are not poor. There is therefore the need for theologians to encounter the poor, in order to make their reflection contextual and their understanding of community relevant.” [49]  This challenge places upon theological institutions the responsibility of designing courses that not only expose students theoretically to the issues involved: it calls for a careful restructuring of courses to include the practical elements too, such as visits to the community, getting involved in their health care, fighting for their rights to basic needs.[50]

Any growing city has its share of poor.  ‘Poor’ is relative term and hence the poor in most majority world poor and developing countries are perhaps ‘poorer’ than the poor in developed countries.  For instance, the income, social benefits, and living standards of the poor in developed countries may be greatly superior to their counterparts in other countries.  But the poor nevertheless are present in all societies.  Churches situated in cities or towns have responsibilities towards the poor within their fold and community, and also for those in the area. Major cities have slums that cater to a growing number of people seeking the prospects of a big city. Among the opportunities that these places offer is that of working for the welfare of children.  Teaching of health and hygiene and helping these marginalized people secure the basic necessities of life can help them immensely.  Teaching these people proper values of education, savings, etc. can have long-term benefits.

Hospital and Prison ministries.  Hospital and Prison ministries can become evangelistic tools when used with sensitivity and wisdom.  Obtaining proper permission coupled with carefully prepared visits lead to opportunities for healing and transformation.  Given the complex nature of contemporary society teams from the church should be able to offer whatever help possible to those visited (especially in hospitals), and offer a meaningful gospel message according to particular needs.

Counselling ministry.  This ministry is not only for those within the church but also for people outside the church.  Churches that are already meeting the emotional needs of their members and have the resources to carry out this ministry to those outside the church should think about it seriously.  This ministry requires people who are willing to give their time to listen to people.  The greater the cities the more complex are their problems.  Crisis counselling can deal with people facing suicidal tendencies.  Those who have been helped may come to a saving faith.  Another important area is Marriage and Family counselling.  Both within and outside the church the need for marriage and pre-marital counselling is needed.

Reconciliation.  Reconciliation specifically deals with situations where personal, communal, or religious conflicts have led to hostility and suspicion between people.  At a personal level the church can help people be reconciled through a dedicated ministry for people in general.  In the case of communal and religious conflict, there are many countries in the world affected by religious, and communal conflicts.  There is need for sensitivity in dealing with such situations; in some cases the church can only assist government or non-governmental organizations that are dedicated for such work.

General Holistic Options  The sharp separation between sacred and secular often obscures the missional role of the laity.  Calvin has addressed this issue with remarkable frankness. In discussing Calvin’s concept of society Bouwsma writes, “. . .  his doctrine of calling meant that we should invest our God-given energies primarily in our work.  Christ taught, he [Calvin] believed, ‘that men were created for activity,’ that they are not to ‘sink into laziness.’”[51] He adds, “Human interdependence was expressed in the division of labor, by which human beings had developed ‘arts and crafts, so that one will be a baker, another an agricultural worker, another a shoemaker, another a clothier.’ . . . God had intended the division of labor to reinforce community by making human beings dependent on each other.”[52]  Wallace quotes a prayer of Calvin in connection with sanctification which speaks of a complete self-offering of oneself to God.[53] Commenting on Calvin’s prayer Wallace remarks, “the Christian man, then, in all that he does, should regard himself as acting in the capacity of a priest, offering both himself and all his works and possessions in a sacrificial act of thanksgiving at the altar of God’s grace.”[54] After discussing the need for different occupations in society Wallace concludes that for Calvin, “such mutual communication between those who fulfil different functions in the body of human society means that each must fulfil the occupation or calling to which he has been appointed in an orderly manner so that thus the order of nature for society might be fulfilled.”[55]  This idea of occupations being ‘callings’ breaks down the wall between sacred and secular and makes all of life an offering to God.

Missional developmental work . These ministry opportunities are suitable for national churches and national and foreign missionary organizations.  In discussing the place of social work in communicating the gospel, a majority world writer comments, “Myanmar churches need to send more professionals to serve the unreached people as teachers, nurses and skilled community development workers – ‘tent-makers.’ While doing their jobs they would have more opportunities to share the Good News with the people.”[56]  This is a reminder that the church needs to rediscover the importance of the various callings of the laity and their missional role in building the Kingdom of God.

Education: Rural or Specialized Urban   Establishing village schools in needy areas.  The opportunity to provide education and adult literacy always remains current in developing nations. Education and literacy, especially developing and introducing advanced techniques, are welcome by most developing countries.  There are also specialized educations centres that cater to develop particular skills.  For example, in several Asian countries, in the current context of outsourcing, learning of specific phonetic skills is very much in demand.

Medical & Health: Community Health work  Medical work provides access to most rural communities and specialized medical doctors and medical personnel are always in demand in developing countries.  As has already been shown in the historical survey, medical assistance provides an opportunity to show the light of Christ to the world.

Assisting in Rural Hospitals.   The opportunity to work in rural hospitals gives native personnel the added help they need.  Rural areas are often neglected and volunteers are few.   Volunteers often get experience from such situations despite the primitive conditions.  Further, they enjoy the fellowship of the local Christian community.

Teaching basic health and hygiene.  Instruction in basic health and hygiene is promoted by various NGOs, with the goal of prevention of common diseases.  The work done by Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) to teach and promote simple medical solutions in rural situation has proved helpful.  Christians engaging in such work build goodwill that can always become useful when sharing the gospel.

Rural Access to potable Water.  Waterborne diseases often cause complicated illnesses.  Many developing nations have targeted the production and distribution of potable water.  Simple portable units that purify water have been used to meet the needs of remote areas where there is no drinking water. In many underdeveloped and developing nations around the world access to water remains a challenge.

Technical, Agricultural, & Animal Husbandry:  Vast opportunities lie in the technical field where Information Technology (IT) industries flourish in majority world contexts. Offering expertise in farming and agriculture methods is often sought after in most developing world contexts.  If persons have the proper credentials and have something unique to offer, whether it be new farming techniques, expertise in helping increase crops etc., they will be in much demand.  It is possible that consultancy firms may be contracted by local governments to avail the services offered.  Teaching in agricultural training institutions offers another way of making one’s gifts useful for the kingdom. In the early twentieth century, Presbyterian missionary Sam Higginbottam established the Allahabad Agricultural Institute in northern India that has become a premier centre for agricultural research.  Similar institutions that have been established have contributed significantly to nation building and Christian witness.

Relief and Rehabilitation.  Although some developing majority world nations refuse to accept relief and rehabilitation in disaster situations, there are many underdeveloped and developing countries that appreciate any help given.  Christian relief agencies and missionary organizations must be careful not to seize such opportunities for evangelism.  Loss of life and possessions are traumatic experiences that need patient listening and understanding.

Human Rights and Justice.  This need presents itself in almost all countries, developed, developing, and poor.  Some of the needs are exploitation of labour, child labour, human trafficking, sex trafficking, etc.  Unlike many of the issues referred to previously, this particular area tends to be neglected as much of the activities, especially child labour, sex trafficking etc., is carried out clandestinely.  The risks involved in fighting for those affected far outweigh the rewards of seeing persons freed from bondages.

Assisting Missional Tent-Making Ministries.  These are opportunities that are available for those having particular skills both in national churches and foreign missionary organizations.  Ideally, these opportunities need to be coordinated by a national organization that knows the needs.

Teaching Vocational Skills.  Knowing a vocational skill (and knowing it well!) gives evangelists credibility in the particular contexts where they work.  Most of these skills are technical in nature, such as Plumbing, Electrical, Electronics (radio and television), welding, and masonry.  There are many more such skills that can be added to the list.  Knowing any one, or several, of these skills gives an evangelist the opportunity to relate to people and to have credentials that are more readily accepted in society, rather than being known simply as an evangelist.[57]  Another addition would be getting basic training in handling simple medical needs in rural situations. 

Similarly, skills such as food preservation, tailoring, baking, cooking, and confectionaries make it possible for women to generate income for themselves and supplement their family income.  Especially, in the case of rural pastors’ wives these skills become a bridge for them to reach women in their homes when their husbands have gone for field work.  In many rural contexts these are culturally suited and welcome.

Exploring Business Opportunities.  At a more sophisticated level, business opportunities can be excellent bridges to be salt and light in a dark world.  With the growth of business schools and the craving for excellence, people with the right credentials stand the chance of being accepted as professors in such schools.  Moreover, floating and operating businesses professionally not only gives an opportunity to teach Christian values, it also pays material dividends.  Other comparable callings are marketing and consultancies on a wide variety of fields such as low cost housing, micro finance, and teaching entrepreneurship.

Practical Issues for Consideration.  In all of the above, the basic goal of any missional activity should be the glory of Christ and His Name.  Any assistance offered, any guidance given, any project undertaken, should unashamedly give the reason for such involvement as motivated by the love of Christ. Moreover, those engaging in such ministries should practice an incarnational ministry to the greatest extent possible.  As Christ emptied Himself (Phil 2:7) Christians in ministry (includes anyone engaged in living out the gospel: cross-cultural missionaries; career missionaries; short-term missionaries; national missionaries; lay workers; etc.) should empty themselves of anything that is alien to the gospel in order that Christ will be seen and experienced.

 

III.  Training Workers for God’s Mission: Implications for Theological Institutions

If it is true  . . . that the entire life of the church is missionary, it follows that we desperately need a theology of the laity . . . . For a theology of the laity presupposes a break with the notion, so fundamental to the Enlightenment, that the private sphere of life has to be separated from the public. .  . .  Bosch[58]

In the first part of this paper it has been shown that the church initially considered the people of God as one, with little difference between the laity and the clergy.  Moreover, the clergy had their own ‘secular’ occupations up to the time of Constantine, when these were surrendered and they became a class separated solely for priestly activities. Despite the impact of the Reformation in doctrinal matters, the understanding of the clergy as a class part continued especially in the magisterial, state connected church traditions.  Following the evangelical revivals in the eighteenth century, evangelical Christians involved themselves in holistic ministry.  This trend abruptly ended with the advent of the Social Gospel in the early twentieth century.  Just after the middle of the twentieth century, evangelicals once again began to acknowledge the necessity of a holistic gospel witness.  This third chapter will focus on the need to train laity to affirm their callings, and prospective clergy to make them aware of the holistic dimension of gospel message.  It is imperative, therefore, that theological institutions need to assess their overall purposes and goals periodically, not simply to formulate a carefully worded statement for publicity, but to produce a frank self-assessment focussed primarily on spiritual life, academics, relational matters, and practical witness. Such periodic evaluations are imperative when developing missional opportunities, both for seminary students as well as for laity.

Some Basic Observations. What is the goal of ministerial training? How should theological institutions accommodate holistic subjects into their curriculum?  Is it possible to develop programs that cater to specific needs?  This is obviously not possible given the vast array of subjects that were referred to in the previous section.  Theological institutions, therefore, should aim at two possible approaches: 1) Develop courses that address practical issues faced by the laity.  2) Give opportunities to students to be involved in holistic ministry while in the seminary.

For Seminaries: Reshape and Integrate Courses to Address Issues that Concern the Laity.  An ever-present danger for pastors is being out of touch with the world in which their parishioners live. Course assessments are necessary in this regard.  For example, any course on Christian theology should aim at knowing God, not merely knowing about God. ‘Christian Personal Ethics,’ a course which deals with the biblical basis of ethics for everyday life, ought to emphasize choices that confront the laity in everyday situations.  Is it right to ‘go along with the crowd’ in your workplace and yield to their pressure to conform to certain practices?[59]  How can such an issue be dealt with in a sermon?  Can the ‘Homiletics’ course have an applicatory emphasis that focuses on some of the ethical issues that were discussed in the Personal Ethics class?  Excellent skills of exposition at the cost of application can rob a sermon of its relevance to the congregation.  Can ‘Bible Introduction and Survey’ be taught in conjunction with Hermeneutics and Homiletics to explain and apply a particular text?  Such an approach would help apply the Word to the lives of parishioners.

Opportunities for Missional exposure in Seminaries.  This is in some ways done in many theological colleges.  Students are exposed to missional situations that give them an idea of particular needs available.  Though often this ministry exposure during training is done as a ‘requirement’ for graduation, there should be an attempt to be intentional and assign students to places where their gifts and abilities are used to the fullest.  Also, periodic changes in practical work assignments give students the opportunity to explore ministries that they otherwise would not choose to consider. Theological institutions, especially in majority world contexts, may partner with local agencies that minister among the poor to bring awareness of this need to students.  Being exposed to such ministries is invaluable for students.  Ideally, the purpose should be to help students become aware of such opportunities and not to lead them away from pastoral callings

For the Laity:   Opportunities for Lay Training .  Before this is discussed there should be a realization of the pastor’s role in shaping the lives of parishioners.  In addressing the Pastor’s role, Wright correctly observes that it is the pastor duty to equip his people to meet the challenges of the world they live in.  He says,  “The challenge to pastors, and those who train them, therefore, is: are they helping ordinary Christians to understand the world they live and work in, or just dangling before them the prospect of a better world when they die?  Are they providing biblical teaching, a biblical worldview, for sustaining Christian ethical witness?”[60]  Such training should be promoted both in majority world and in developed world contexts.   The purpose of such training should be for men and women to recognize their God-given gifts and callings and to use them for God’s glory.  As such, it is advisable that the exposure to theological and biblical knowledge is limited and that practical Christianity is given more importance.  Thus the selected courses will be more foundational in nature, rather than in-depth exposure. 

 

A Suggested Program for Training Laity.  Ideally, such a program may be offered twice weekly, during the usual seminary school calendar, or, alternatively, during summer, for a period of one year.  Banks suggests that seminaries and churches join hands in equipping the laity.  He writes about such an experiment that came about as graduate laymen wanted theological training.  He says, “The main goal was to help marketplace Christians integrate faith with their family, workplace, civic, church political, and cultural life.”[61] The purpose of any training given to laymen in seminaries should not be primarily for accumulation of knowledge or, as is commonly found in some majority world contexts, receiving one more diploma or degree. Moreover, the aim of such training should not focus on equipping the laity to consider ministerial positions but rather that they become equipped to face the challenges of the world from a Christian perspective and become salt and light in their contexts.  

Since most of the people would already have their own occupations during the day, these courses may be offered at a convenient time (perhaps 6 – 8 p.m.) twice weekly and at a place close to where the participating laity work.  From a Theological Education by Extension (TEE) context, Hopewell, in addressing the issue of how Bible schools and seminaries teach theology to people in secular occupations, says, “Mainly by operating where and when working people have free time.  They are usually found in the centre of the larger cities . . . near where most students work and where others can travel by public transportation.  . . . they generally operate at night.  . . . The normal theological course spreads itself over four or five years.”[62]  Banks writes about a similar experiment in an urban context that gives theological exposure to interested laymen.[63]  Hopewell opines, “For a man or woman who is answering a call to the Christian ministry, an evening Bible school can be a very attractive place.”[64]  Even if one were not called to the “Christian ministry” lay-training gives people from all walks of life the opportunity to learn skills that would help them become leaders in their own “secular” contexts.[65]  Lay training, moreover, could be made available through interested churches that have the resources for hosting such programs, with the help and guidance of the seminary.[66]

 The program could be entitled, “Making a Difference.”  The suggested length of each course is 12 hours; roughly 3 weeks duration (3X4=12).  A total number of ten subjects can be easily covered during the year.  Since the aim is not for participants to take up pastoral duties, the courses are best covered during the course of one year. The following subjects are suggested as part of the teaching content:

  1. The World and its Needs: Illiteracy, Poverty, Ecological Issues, and Economic Challenges (“How can I begin to think about these issues biblically?”)
  2. Our Callings & Gifts: The value of each of our callings; and the uniqueness of our gifts (“What can I offer back to the Lord of all that He has given me?”)
  3. Living in Grace: Transformational relationships, and grace-centred relationships (“What does a grace-centred life mean, and how can I live a grace-centred life?”)
  4. The Church and Mission: A brief mission oriented historical survey of church history (“What impact can I make in missions with the gifts God has given me?”)  
  5. Bible: Canon of the Old Testament/ New Testament. The inter-testamental period, and, a Chronological overview of biblical history (“How can I apply biblical truths to my life and in my workplace?”)
  6. Knowing God I

1)      Knowing God through Revelation: How God reveals Himself to us: General & Special Revelation

2)      Knowing God through Scripture: The truth of Scripture, inspiration, infallibility, & inerrancy 

3)      Knowing God: Trinity, Being and attributes communicable/ incommunicable

4)      (“How is my knowledge of God and His Word changing the way I think?”)

7.  Knowing God II

5)      Knowing Christ: Person and Work of Christ, Atonement,

6)      Knowing The Holy Spirit: Person and Work of the Holy Spirit,

7)      Knowing God and Knowing Ourselves: Man’s creation, Fall, Original sin,

8)      (“How is my knowledge of Christ and the Holy Spirit impacting my worldview?”)

8.  Knowing God III

9)    Knowing God and Knowing His Love: Salvation - Its Need, its origin, its effect, sharing  your faith 

10)  Knowing God and Knowing His People - The Church: Its composition, organization, purpose

11)  Knowing God and Knowing His Purpose - The Last Things, three millennial views.

12)  (“How does God’s love for me translate into love for His Church?”)

9. Hermeneutics: Basic tools to understand the Bible. (“What principles should I remember when trying to understand the Bible?”)

10. Apologetics: How to share our faith sincerely and sensitively (“What principles should I adopt in trying to defend my faith?”) [67]

A two hour “Introduction” would lay out the aims and objectives of the course, its focus, limitations, etc. It would also help participants to take stock of their faith.  Similarly, a two hour “Conclusion” would aim primarily at assessing whether the course aims and objectives have been met.  The concluding wrap-up session will also explore what kind of changes participants have experienced in their lives as a result of this exposure.  As much as possible husbands and wives, whether together or in separate sessions, should be encouraged to follow this course.  This should be required especially for those who are seriously looking into missional opportunities.

Pedagogical Issues  Teaching must be done by teachers who are passionate about what they teach and whose lives exhibit a living relationship with God.  The content of their courses and their method of teaching should be matched by committed lives.  Speaking of imitation Rolland Allen writes,

“The task of the educator is to direct or to guide the development of the pupil.  He does this by teaching; he does this even more powerfully by his example. . . . What he is, what he has within him, what he reveals, this is of the first importance. . . . His example is constantly found to be more powerful than his teaching or preaching.”[68] 

Theological institutions should aim at recruiting and training teachers who are academically sound, gifted in teaching, and persons who are passionate about what they teach.  Together with the above there should be a review of traditional expectations and practices. [69]  A helpful, but often neglected, resource for theological institutions is the experience and availability of local pastors who have much to offer. 

Relational approach: Giving. Teaching does not take place in a vacuum.  Depending on the culture, and the suitability of such an approach, wherever appropriate, efforts ought to be made to promote a relational context of study.  A relational approach takes place in a context of a relationship that communicates through life and example.  This would require investing time, wisdom, and assistance to mould a person to think differently.  This approach would require a wholehearted commitment to tracing the strong theological and missiological roots that form the foundation of all that is taught in a seminary.  A relational approach would help crystallize and relate the lecture room factual knowledge in the hearts and minds of students.  

Relational approach: Receiving.  Training the laity, especially in using their gifts and abilities missionally, requires trainers to be humbly aware of their own limitations in those particular and varied fields that are represented in laity trainees. Trainers must be willing to learn, whenever appropriate, about the various callings of the laity. Instructors are encouraged to learn more about the professions and occupations of the learners, and of the practical issues that they face on a daily basis in their work places.    

Training of Laity   Bosch remarks, “The movement away from ministry as the monopoly of ordained men to ministry as the responsibility of the whole people of God, ordained as well as non-ordained, is one of the most dramatic shifts taking place in the church today.”[70] He notes, “There can be no doubt that Jesus of Nazareth broke with the entire Jewish tradition when he chose his disciples not from among the priestly class, but from among fisherfolk, tax-collectors, and the like.”[71]  After comparing the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions, the first emphasizing the ‘cure of souls’ and the other ‘the word of God,’ respectively, Bosch concludes that both traditions preserved the dominant position of the clergy and “exported their dominant clergy patterns to the ‘mission fields.’”[72]  To Bosch, “. . . from the very beginning Protestant missions were, to a significant extent, a lay movement.”[73] He cites, Walls who “describes the [missionary] societies as few, open, responsible, embracing all classes, both sexes, all ages, the masses of the people – truly democratic and anti-authoritarian movement, to some extent also anti-clergy and anti-establishment.”[74] Citing Anderson, he writes, “North American societies, in particular, attracted large numbers of women. In some instances, women founded their own mission societies (by 1890 there were thirty four of these in North America alone) and periodicals, and raised their own support. . .”[75]  For Bosch this involvement of the laity in mission is not meant to violate the calling of the clergy.

In discussing the ‘forms of ministry’ Bosch is careful to clarify, “a theology of the laity does not mean that the laity should be trained to become ‘mini-pastors’.  Their ministry   . . . is offered in the form of the ongoing life of the Christian community [citing Burrows] ‘in shops, villages, farms, cities, classrooms, homes, law offices, in counselling, politics, statecraft, and recreation.’”[76]  Bosch is also careful to recognize the need of an ordained ministry by saying, “Some form of ordained ministry is indeed essential and constitutive . . . not as guarantor of the validity of the church’s claim to be the dispenser of God’s grace, but, at most, as guardian, to help keep the community faithful to the teaching and practice of apostolic Christianity. . .”[77]  He concludes, “The clergy are not prior to or independent of or over against the church; rather, with the rest of God’s people, they are the church, sent into the world.  In order to flesh out this vision, then, we need a more organic, less sacral ecclesiology of the whole people of God.”[78]  These views of Bosch need to be explored more thoroughly.  To educate laity in their missional roles is necessary and important for the spread of the gospel.   

Conclusion    There is significant agreement in recognizing the need to train laity in recent years.  However, what is often not clear is the purpose for their training.  In many majority world situations, training of clergy meets the need of a shortage of trained ministers, especially in churches without pastoral leadership.  The above paper, while affirming this need, nevertheless, seeks to encourage training of the laity to be the people of God in their respective contexts and in their God-given callings; to help laity know their unique place in the Body of Christ as people who use their gifts to establish the Kingdom of God through holistic involvement in the life of the church, the community, in their workplaces, both locally and globally; and to help laity discover their unique and indispensible role in carrying out the mission of God. God has called every Christian to be a witness in the context in which he lives; whether as a home-maker, a doctor, a lawyer, a nurse, an engineer, a teacher, a clerk etc.  It is the task of the church to make the laity aware of their callings and their indispensible role in carrying out the mission of God. 

Some individuals receive a specific and strong call to serve as ministers of the gospel or career missionaries.  It is the responsibility of churches and missionary agencies to ensure that those under their supervision are engaged in legitimate, ideally tent-making, occupations (this applies especially for church planting situations, until the new church plant can support a pastor as shepherd).  Others in the church should recognize their occupations and professions as God-given callings to further the Kingdom of God. The whole people of God are called to obedience and witness.  They are part of the 120 of Acts 1; the unnamed thousands who believed on the Day of Pentecost and after; they are part of those who were scattered and who ‘went about preaching the word’ (Acts 8:4); they are among those hunted down and pursued by Saul to Damascus - those ‘belonging to the Way, men or women’ (Acts 9:26b); they were the Aeneases, the Tabithas, the Corneliuses, Phoebes, the Priscas and the Aquilas, and the ‘Epaenetus [es] who was the first convert to Christ in Asia [Minor]’ (Rom 16:5) and an endless list of Christian men and women.  These seldom mentioned, and often unnamed, persons in the New Testament are the ones through whom the gospel reached out to the then-known world.  To rediscover this truth – that the whole people of God are called to Christian witness - is to rediscover the Body of Christ as workers for the mission of God.



[1] This paper was originally presented at the Presbyterian Theological Centre, Sydney, Australia on April 20, 2012 for a seminar on “Christ for All of Life in All the World”.  It was subsequently published in Doon Theological Journal , 10.1 (2013).

[2] The Senate of Serampore College (University) Registrar’s report 2012 highlights the growing need to recognize two parallel developments in ministry: pastoral ministries, and non-pastoral callings. Tiwari writes, “It is often heard that Serampore degrees that were meant for pastoral training and priestly vocation are now losing their relevance for most of its graduates.  It is becoming clear to us that about 60-70 % of our BD/BTh students are not joining pastoral ministries.”   After giving the reasons for this trend he adds that about 50% of the staff of theological colleges “are not directly under the discipline of the church as ordained ministers.”  He concludes by saying that a time has come to separate these two areas in theological training and to identify “colleges imparting theological knowledge from seminaries engaged in preparing pastors . . .  .” Ravi Tiwari, “Seminary versus Theological Colleges,” Annual Senate Meeting: New Theological College, Dehradun. Report of the Registrar: Senate 2012. S.v. Issues and Concerns, IV:e.  (Serampore College was established by William Carey in the early nineteenth century.) See also, Robert Banks, Reenvisioning Theological Education: Exploring a Missional Alternative to Current Models (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 260-261.  Banks writes about his association with the founding of ‘a learning company’ to introduce courses and programs that will be accredited by a leading university in Australia.  The uniqueness about this venture is that it will offer courses in Christian studies at undergraduate and graduate level for those in professional studies, and for developing advanced degrees that would integrate faith and work.

[3] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church: Ante-Nicene Christianity, vol. 2  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1910, 1994), 128.

[4]Mark T. B. Laing, “Missio Dei: Some Implications for the Church,” in Missiology, No. 37:1 (January 2009),   90, 98.

[5] A recent example is Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Secunderabad: Authentic Books, 2009).

[6] Henry Chadwick, The Early Church, A Penguin History of the Church, vol. 1 (London: Penguin Books, 1967), 56.

[7] Chadwick, The Early Church, 58.

[8] Chadwick, The Early Church, 59.

[9] Chadwick, The Early Church, 60.  Slavery continued under protest from the Christian community

[10] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church: Nice and Post Nicene Christianity, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,     ), 124.

[11] David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, American Society for Missiology Series, No. 16 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991), 468-469. Although the “infallibility of the pope” became an established doctrine in the Roman Catholic church many centuries later, Bosch seems to hint at early traces of this idea.

[12] See Schaff, f/n 2.

[13] Timothy C. Tennent, Invitation to World Mission: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century, Invitation to Theological Studies Series (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2010), 240.

[14] Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997), 208.

[15] Schaff, History, vol. 3, 605.

[16] After Constantinople became the capital of the Roman Empire, the Roman bishop became the point of reference in all social and political affairs.

[17] Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity: Beginning to 1500, vol 1, revised edition (San Francisco: Harper Collings, 1975), 538. Latourette’s reference to ‘revivals’ were periods when the authority of the church was questioned by segments within it.

[18] Latourette, A History, vol.1, 558, 557-560.

[19] Such critics often forget the context of the Reformation which was undoubtedly a life and death situation.  Falling into the wrong hand meant the possibility of death.  Further, Calvin’s consistent effort in sending missionaries to France and a one-time mission to Brazil often gets eclipsed by the doctrinal issues of the sixteenth century Reformation.

[20] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church: The Swiss Reformation, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 19  ), 516-517. 

[21]John T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967) 189-200. 

[22] Lyle D. Bierma, “The Relevance of Calvin’s Theology for the Twenty-First Century,” in Doon Theological Journal, vol.3, no.1 (January 2006):53. Abraham Kuiper is a modern day example of Reformed witness in Holland in the nineteen and early twentieth century through his involvement in politics, education, church and society.  Kuiper in his inaugural address at the opening of the Free University, Amsterdam (1880), speaks of various academic disciplines and their need to be studied from a Christian perspective.  He then concludes by saying, “. . . no single piece of our mental world is to be hermeneutically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”  See Abraham Kuiper, “Sphere Sovereignty,” in Abraham Kuiper: A Centennial Reader, edited by James D. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 488.

[23] Latourette, A History of Christianity: Beginning to 1500, vol 2, revised edition (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1975), 980.

[24] Latourette, A History, vol 2, 1136.

[25] Stephen Neill, A History of Christian Missions, A Pelican History of the Church, vol. 6 (Middlesex, UK: Penguin Books, 1964), 167.

[26] Latourette, A  History, vol. 2. 1027.

[27] John R. W. Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today (Bombay: Gospel Literature Service, 1987), 2.

[28] Alec R. Vidler, The Church in an Age of Revolution: 1789 to Present, The Pelican History of the Church, vol. 5 (Middlesex, UK: Penguin Books, 1961), 37.

[29] E. R. Hambye,  History of Christianity in India: Eighteenth Century, volume 3 (Bangalore: The Church History Association of India, 1997), 176-178.

[30] Hambye, History, 119,120, see also, C. B. Firth, An Introduction to Indian Church History, revised edition (Madras: Christian Literature Society, 1989), 131-137.

[31] Firth, Introduction, 140-144.

[32] Neill, A History, 263.

[33] Firth, An Introduction, 148-155. Carey was also the founder of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of Bengal, see, ibid.155.

[34] Firth, An Introduction, 181-214.

[35] Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day, vol. 2 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1985), 255.  K.S. Latourette, A History, vol 2, 1185-1186.

[36]Lawmsanga, A Critical Study on Christian Mission with Special Reference to the Presbyterian Church of Mizoram, unpublished Ph. D thesis, University of Birmingham Research Archive, e-theses repository, 2010; Christianity and Change in North East India, edited by T. B. Subba, Joseph Puthenpurakal, and Shaji Joseph Puykunnel (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 2009), gives a scholarly overview of changes in the region.

[37] See Firth, An Introduction,  270, 281-282..   For a recent call to prayer for divine help, see “Mizoram Christians Praying to Avoid Famine,” in Christian Today, posted March 18, 2004.  http://www.christiantoday.com /article/ mizoram.christians. praying.to.avoid.famine/281.htm,accessed on March 28, 2012.

[38] Stott, Issues, 6-8.

[39] Stott, Issues, 9-10.  The ‘Chicago Declaration’ (1973) specifically addressed social action.

[40] Fourth Declaration of the Iguassu Affirmation, in Iguassu Affirmation,  www.acts.ac.kr/bd.../ Iguassu Affirmation(14945), accessed on April 4, 2012.

[41] See ‘Commitments’ eleven and twelve, in Iguassu Affirmation.

[42] H. Henry Meeter, The Basic Ideas of Calvinism, 5th edition, revised (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1939,1956), 32. 

[43] John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion , translated by Ford Lewis Battles, edited by John T. McNeill, CD-Rom, AGES Software Version 1.0 (Albany, OR: Books For The Ages, 1998), III:x:6.

[44] Some urban ministries related to Social Compassion: “Ministries with Transients [those who try to extract sympathy and money by false means], Emergency Benevolence for Church Members [applicable to rural situations also], Food Pantries and Clothes Closets, Feeding Programs, Shelter Ministry, Battered-Women Shelters, Crisis Pregnancy, Caring for Latchkey Children, Substance Abuse, Prison Ministry, Helping People with Disabilities, Tutoring and Educational Enrichment,  Job Training, Immigration and Refugee Work, Respite Care and Hospice, Health Care Services, Recreation,”   see Myron Augsburger, “Planning and Operating Ministries of Social Compassion,” in Leadership Handbooks of Practical Theology: Outreach and Care, vol 2, edited by James D. Berkley (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 147-176.

[45] For an interesting account of a work among urban Hispanic people in Salem, Massachusetts see Daniel Velez Rivera, “Transforming Lives, Transforming Communities: The Ministry of Presence” in Anglican Theological Review 93:4. 645-650.

[46] George W. Webber, “Training for Urban Mission,” International Review of Missions. 173-174.

[47] Webber, “Urban Mission,” 174.  A similar approach has been taken by the Roman Catholics in India with TEJAS (Theological Education for Joyful and Affirmative Service) in which seminarians workfor their living in order to experience the challenges that the laity face.  Jacob Parapally, “Catholic Theological Education in India / South Asia Today,” in Dharma Deepika, (July to December 2011) Issue 34 Vol. 15, No.2.

[48] Philip L. Wickeri, “Mission from the Margins,” in International Review of Mission, Vol. 93 No. 369, April 2004,  196.

[49] Wickeri, “Mission from the Margins,” 196. 

[50] See Richard Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010) for a contemporary account of personal first-hand experiences engaging with poverty and sickness, especially from Africa.  The following comments of Ahmed Shah are helpful in understanding global poverty.  Also, for a critical reappraisal of ministry to the poor see, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012). 

[51] Quoting Calvin’s commentary on Joshua 7:19, see William J. Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 198-199

[52] Bouwsma, John Calvin, 201-202.

[53] “Grant, Almighty God, that since Thou hast deigned to take us as a priesthood to Thyself, and hast chosen us when we were not only in the lowest condition, but even profane and alien to all holiness, and hast consecrated us to thyself by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may offer ourselves as holy victims to Thee; O grant that we may bear in mind our office and our calling, and sincerely devote ourselves to Thy service, and so present to Thee our efforts and our labours, that Thy name may be truly glorified in us . . . . and thus may Thy name be perpetually glorified by the whole body as well as by the Head. – Amen.” John Calvin, Commentary of Malachi, Joannis Calvini Opera Omnia, Amsterdam 1671,vol. 5, p.42,  quoted in Ronald S. Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life (Eugene, OR: Wiph and Stock Publishers, 1997), 28-29 (emphasis added).

[54] Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine, 29.

[55] Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine, 154.

[56] Aung Mang, “Training to Effectively Communicate the Gospel in a Multi-Cultural Society” in Educating for Tomorrow: Theological Leadership for the Asian Context, edited by Manfred Waldemar Kohl and A. N. Lal Senanayake (Bangalore/ Indianapolis: SAIACS Press/ Overseas Council International, 2007), 103.

[57] Occasionally, in some parts of India ‘professional’ evangelists face threats and from local people when the nature of the work – facilitating conversion – becomes known.  Conversely, evangelists who have legitimate occupations become productive members in their local contexts.

[58] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 472.

[59] For some useful insights see, Christopher J. H. Wright, “Saints in the Marketplace: A Biblical Perspective on the World of Work,” in Remapping Mission Discourse: A Festschrift in Honor of the Rev. George Kuruvilla Chavanikamannil (Dehra Dun, India /Delhi: New Theological College/ISPCK, 2008), 22-41.

[60] Wright, “Saints in the Marketplace,” 40.

[61]Banks, Reenvisioning, 259.

[62] James F. Hopewell, “Training a Tent-Making Ministry in Latin America” in Theological Education by Extension, edited by Ralph D. Winter (South Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1969), 75.

[63] Banks, Reenvisioning, 258.

[64] Hopewell, “Training a Tent-Making Ministry,” 76.

[65] It is encouraging to note that the Presbyterian Theological Centre, Sydney, offers courses for laity and its brochure entitled “Christ for All of Life” emphasizes the relevance of the gospel for every sphere of life.

[66] I am indebted to Dr. John McClean, of the Presbyterian Theological Centre, Sydney, for this suggestion.

[67] The focus of the subjects is acquiring enough knowledge to be a useful Christian in society.  Subjects such as Homiletics, Worship, Counseling, etc., are left out intentionally.  The aim of the training is for the laity to be able to handle a reasonable degree of information that can be used meaningfully in missional contexts.

[68] Roland Allen, Educational Principles and Missionary Methods, Library of Historic Theology, edited by William C. Piercy (London: Robert Scott, ?), 78. (emphasis added)

[69] A penetrating evaluation of some assumptions in theological education is made by Edward Farley who speaks of ‘Four Pedagogical Mistakes’ that can be traced to the training of the teachers themselves.  He then describes these mistakes: “Theology in its primary meaning is an academic pursuit, a phenomenon of scholarship. . . . the primary skill of (academic) theology is to apprehend the meaning of written texts. . . .  theology’s primary problematic concerns the clarification of doctrines rather than the intrinsic idolatrous structure of religion itself. . . . the teaching of theology is compromised or corrupted when it concerns itself with the situations of human life and history.”  Farley’s comments may be applicable to most seminaries as they are a fairly accurate reflection of the status quo. Edward Farley, “Four Pedagogical Mistakes: A Mea Culpa” in Teaching Theology and Religion (2005) vol. 8, no. 4, 200-203.

[70] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 467.

[71] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 467.

[72] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 470.

[73] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 470.

[74] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 470.

[75] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 470.

[76] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 473.

[77] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 474. 

[78] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 474.

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