Mission in the Twenty First Century: 2. Proclamation
This is the second in a series of posts examining the Five marks of mission; based loosely on Mission in the Twenty-First Century: Exploring the Five Marks of Global Mission edited by Andrew Walls and Cathy Ross.
Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom.
According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus started his ministry by proclaiming ‘The Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the Good news!’ (Mark 1:5) Jesus could confidently proclaim this, because the Kingdom is where ever he is. “God’s kingdom is wherever the Lord Jesus Christ is present. And this beings with our proclamation.” (p.4)
It is also worth noting that Jesus spoke of the Kingdom both in the present and in the future: many of the parables talk of the Kingdom growing after the manner of plants or crops. It is present, but not in its final form. We are to proclaim the current reality of the Kingdom, but we do so in a world in which suffering is to be part of our experience. The proclamation of the Kingdom does not mean the proclamation of a prosperity Gospel. Prosperity Gospel preaching may be good news to the hearers – but it is not the good news of the Kingdom of God.
“Authentic Gospel proclamation… must have at its centre the life and work of Jesus, in whom and through whom the Kingdom of God becomes a reality.” (p.15) This is a challenge to much of our celebrity obsessed church life (from across the Church spectrum) where it is easy to centre our attention on an individual, a movement or a technique. Authentic proclamation must also be demonstrated by the continuing work of Jesus through his Spirit in the life of his disciples.
Proclamation is the task of the whole Christian community and takes place as part of the life of the community.
“It is instructive that even in the case where only Peter addressed Jewish pilgrims, the text says that ‘Peter stood up with the eleven’ (Acts 2:14). And the response is recorded as addition to the community rather than just people turning to Jesus for their salvation only. Proclamation should not be thought of simply as an individual’s task seeking conversions of individuals…” (p.18)
The differing ways in which individuals in the New Testament proclaim the Good News (eg. compare Jesus in Luke 4, Peter in Acts 2 Philip in Acts 8 and Paul in Acts 17) is instructive, it shows us that there is no one pattern which should be followed. Different circumstances call for different approaches and methodologies. Nevertheless, there are some things which can be seen as universal. Proclamation needs to be balanced with listening. It is no good banging on about salvation if people don’t understand what we are saying to them.
“All authentic Gospel proclamation must entail dialogue and translation. This ought to serve as a corrective to many approaches that do not take seriously the listening and dialogue process. It is in listening to a people’s story that we are able to make a connection with the story of Christ; and in listening a new language is learned in which the message is proclaimed. This puts a premium on the urgency of translation for the cultures and peoples who to date may not have the Bible in their everyday language.” (p.23)
Equally, Gospel proclamation must be done confidently, but with gentleness and sensitivity.
Men and women need to be confronted with the claims of Christ through and encounter with Christ himself. Error needs to be exposed and God’s concern for bringing people into repentance must be passionately made known. But we must strive for the kind of proclamation needed in our context today. The early Christians confidently proclaimed the finality of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ despite all the prevailing philiosphies and ideolgies. Yet they showed sinsitivity in dealing with other sincere worshippers or God-fearing Gentiles. Without relaxing the claims of Christ, we need to see how best to proclaim the message afresh in our context. Our proclmation must be based on teh uniqueness of the biblical revelation, standing on teh full and final revelation of God in the Lord Jesus Christ but related to our present world through the love of God demonstrated in Jesus.” (p.10)
There is much more to proclaiming the Gospel than a ‘Gospel sermon’ or church meeting.