Home Voices Shadow Side of Mission: Cultivating Redemptive Communities

Shadow Side of Mission: Cultivating Redemptive Communities

Image credit: Lightstock.com

I recently spoke at Missio Nexus, a gathering of the leaders of missions agencies from around the world. The theme is social transformation and the gospel, and they asked me to talk about some of the issues on the shadow side and the challenges of missions. As I was thinking about my topic, I wrote this article and thought I’d share it with you in three parts. This is Part 3. (Read Part 1 and Part 2.)

An important link between our identity as God’s missional people and our participation in God’s mission is the kingdom ethic that gives shape to the shared live of God’s holy, yet imperfect people.

What does it truly look like to live out the implications of God’s distinct nature and character in a fragmented, fallen world.

We Need To Include a Redemptive Narrative.

British historian David Bebbington’s four defining characteristics of evangelicalism include a sense of what he calls activism.1 Evangelicals display active engagement in driving social transformation as they endeavor to make significant contributions to the advancement of Christ’s mission. They demonstrate dedication to evangelism, engaging in both collective and individual efforts.

Our active participation extends to degrees of engagement in missions, the pursuit of moral reform, voluntary collaboration, and educational undertakings. However, while these characteristics are undoubtedly crucial, we must also recognize and emphasize the fundamental role of another defining trait: conversionism.

Conversionism lies at the heart of evangelicalism, representing the transformative nature of God’s mission. It signifies a change that goes beyond surface-level appearance, reflecting a profound inner shift. Just as the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12 and 18 holds a transformative significance for the trajectory of God’s mission, conversionism underscores the profound changes that occur when individuals encounter Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

Conversionism shouldn’t be confused with an overemphasis on “decisions for Christ.” That is part of it, but evangelical conversionism recognizes that conversion is both a point and a process. It begins with a moment of a person surrendering her or his life to Christ, and continues as they begin their journey of growing in him. This comprehensive understanding of evangelical identity ensures that our actions, rooted in activism and engagement, align harmoniously with the profound inward transformation that is at the core of God’s redemptive narrative.

We Need To Create Life-Giving and Thriving Communities.

In “The Church as Movement,” JR Woodward and Dan White, Jr. speak to the importance of forming liberating and thriving communities. We need to cultivate the kind of environments that not only welcome broken and hurting people, but encourages people to “overcome addictions, grow in personal holiness and speak truth to power by living in the power of the Holy Spirit.”2 The concept of discipleship and overall importance of fostering a learning culture is an important step to bring about the blessing of the nations as God promised Abraham.

A strong discipleship ethos will contribute to the overall health and multiplicative nature of the community on mission. However, God’s desire to bless the nations cannot be delineated from his righteousness and desire for holy community among his people, the church. After all, “there is no biblical mission without biblical ethics.”3

We Need To Multiply Outposts of the Kingdom in the New Territory.

One of the wins in creating a culture of learning, embracing a healing posture, forming redemptive communities and deep discipleship communities is that it becomes easier and more intuitive to multiply and create movements that bring a greater degree of transformation within our culture. God has appointed and gifted particular individuals to nurture and train the community (see Eph 4:11), enabling churches to establish fresh enclaves for disseminating the gospel more broadly.

The process of multiplication always relies heavily on effective preparation. The apostle Paul outlines this concept in 2 Timothy 2:1-2: “You, therefore, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be capable of teaching others as well.”

1 Bebbington, D.W. (1979). “Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s.” (Intervarsity Press, Leicester), p. 74
2 Woodward, J.R. & White,Dan (2016). “The Church as Movement.” (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove), 182-183.
3 Wright, C.J.H. (2010). “The Mission of God’s People.” (Zondervan, Grand Rapids), 94.