Eddie and Sue Arthur

Posture: Taxonomy of Mission 4

Is mission a task that we can and must complete, or is it a constant challenge which is renewed in every generation?

Task Orientation

Over the last hundred years or so, there has been a move towards seeing mission as a manageable task, which we have a responsibility to complete. This approach, divides the world up into various chunks and identifies whether or not they are reached with the Gospel and then strategises how to the Gospel might extend to the unreached peoples. Various plans for reaching every people group have been drawn up and costed over the years.

Lifestyle Orientation

As opposed to seeing mission as a task which can be completed, the lifestyle orientation sees it as something which is an ongoing need in every part of the world at all times. In this view the idea that a people group are ‘reached with the Gospel’ is seen as rather irrelevant. Our responsibility is to make disciples, not to ‘reach’ people. Every new generation needs to be taught how to follow Jesus, so the task is never ending.

Evaluation

There is no secret here, I definitely don’t fall into the task orientation camp. I am unconvinced both by the biblical and theological underpinnings of the approach and by the managerial and statistical way in which mission is portrayed. That being said, the drive to preach the Gospel in places that it has not reached is a good one and I wouldn’t want to dismiss all of the mapping and statistical work that has been done over the years.

I am fully aware that by talking about Task and Lifestyle orientation, I am making something of a value statement. The problem is that I couldn’t think of a better way to describe these two positions in a couple of words. For the record, there are many wonderful people who are driven by a task orientation, but for whom mission is very much a lifestyle. If you would like to know more about why I think the way I do, you can find more in my ebook on the Great Commission.

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2 Comments on “Posture: Taxonomy of Mission 4

  1. I’m bewildered by this discussion which seems to be based on the assumption that only one approach or understanding can be valid. A) We know from Andrew Walls that “reached” groups don’t always stay that way. So any list of reached and unreached can only be valid for a point in time. That means that even the statistical and managed approach is never ending. That has always been my understanding. I don’t appreciate having people tell me that my conception something it is not. B) Second, a population with no Gospel witness cannot make disciples from generation to generation. It seems obvious in both approaches that such situations need different attention. C) We see places where a believing group is doing a pretty good job of passing the faith to the next generation while neglecting different groups, sometimes on their doorstep. D) It is a particular Western approach to see everything as having a successful finish, or at least the possibility of such. But we see that human rights, justice, and may other good things survive only through constant effort from generation to generation. But that fact does not mean that it is useless to set targets.

    • The whole point of what I’m doing with this series is to try and capture points on a scale. None of this is black and white. However, there are many who take a statistical approach who are far less nuanced than you, Ed.

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