The New Testament employs a variety of metaphors to represent the church’s essence. One of the most significant is certainly family. Family is an expression of the real relational dynamic that exists among followers of Jesus. We articulated our vision over five years ago: God’s family celebrating and serving in Arequipa.
Alfredo, Kyle, and I arrived yesterday after our stateside promotional tour. It was a whirlwind trip. We arrived in Dallas and began setup for the Global Missions Conference, where we had an informational booth and a scheduled presentation. Our number-one goal for the trip was to get the word out about CUDA. That is a hard goal to measure, but I think we had success.
When we talk about ecclesiology (our understanding of the church), there are two levels to consider. The first is the abstract, presumably universal level at which we think about what the church is. The second is the practical level at which which we think about how a local church must embody that essence. One problem that has affected many churches is the assumption that the second level, that of application, is just as universal as the first. This belief leads some to the conclusion that the forms, styles, practices, and traditions of the church universal should be pretty much uniform in the church local. The expectation that the New Testament will provide those forms bolsters the assumption.
There are a variety of reason that the idea of mis- sion is currently undergoing renegotiation and revision in the church’s imagination. One of the most important is the fact that the nature of the world has changed. Although even a standard definition of globalization is difficult to come by, the complex processes that word refers to have undeniably produced tremendous change in the global landscape. Missions used to be about whom was sent to where from where. In order to engage in “world missions,” “global missions,” or “foreign missions,” sending a missionary was necessary, and that fact shaped the definition of missions (the church’s “mission work”) and, in turn, of mission (God’s purposes in all of creation).
There has been no little discussion of the after life, Hell, and the end of the world in recent Christian discourse. Our eschatology—our understanding of the “last things”—must and should shape our lives in Christ. We are a people of hope and promise, followers of a Savior who interrupted history with an unexpected glimpse of the future. Moreover, God’s mission is oriented toward a particular end, which frames all that we would do and say in his name.
There is no doubt that unity is God’s will for his people. There is no doubt that the church has found unity to be among the most difficult aspects of its life in Christ. Though there is always so much to say on this subject when it comes down to brass tacks, I just want to celebrate with a simple word of praise the fact that we have unity with other Christians in Arequipa.
By now most readers will have heard about Alfredo’s baptism. Our joy is still overflowing. It is wonderful to think about what God will do with him, especially as we ponder the cultivation of indigenous church leader- ship. So much of what we want to see in the future is only signified in God’s saving work in the present. This is where hope comes in, the trust in what we do not yet possess. Our Wednesday night study of Genesis has brought to mind once again how long and winding is the journey to receive the promise and how hard is the call to trust that God is faithful. Walking with Jose Luis and now Alfredo, the struggle to live new life in them becomes a struggle to trust God in us. We proclaim in Arequipa the promise for those who were far off, to be received in part already though not yet fulfilled. Our hope, then, is that God will bring to completion what he has begun in these men and, through them, in this city.
We often pray too generally. Sometimes I think it’s because we respect the “not my will but thine” posture of prayer--why ask for particulars if we’re content with letting him decide what will be? Sometimes I think it’s because we fear the disorientation of not receiving--avoid the whole mess of asking for the wrong thing or wondering if my lack of faith it at fault. Prayer is a complex and untamed subject. My present feeling is one of pragmatic surrender. I don’t know what else to do but ask for what we need. If it turns out otherwise, well, I had to ask. So, let’s get specific.