I’ve just formatted another of my papers, this one on the mission of the Church, for wordpress. The paper references two books in addition to the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. One is the Open Secret by Leslie Newbigin, the other is The Future is Mestizo by Virgilio Elizondo, a Roman Catholic. As you will be able to tell from the paper, I favor Newbigin’s approach.
In The Open Secret Leslie Newbigin puts an idea into words that has been the heart of much Christian activity in history, namely that “a church that is not ‘the church in mission’ is no church at all.”1 This statement is not so much condemnation as observation; that it is possible for us to hear it as condemnatory speaks volumes about our particular shortcomings as contemporary Christians.
To say that Christianity is a missionary religion is nothing new-it has long been categorized as one of the three great missionary religions, along with Buddhism and Islam. There is a difference however, between saying that Christianity is a missionary religion and in stating that it is essentially missionary in character. A religion might become missionary through circumstance or accident-or it can be missionary in its very essence and character, as Christianity reveals itself to be.
The missionary character of the Church is rooted in the life and work of Christ and it is here that the Church finds its authority. Because the Church derives its authority from Christ it is natural that it derive the basic structure of its mission from Christ’s ministry. This is a situation both liberating and restrictive. It is restrictive in the sense that anything done without the intent of glorifying God or bringing all things into subjection to Christ can not be considered within the scope of the mission of the Church. It is liberating in another sense because of exactly how much and how great a diversity of things can be seen this way.