Priorities in Mission?

I’ve been re-reading David Hesselgrave’s book “Paradigms in Conflict” as preparation for the mission module we run this term on our Network ministry training course.

Phil Jenkins | 14:23, Saturday, 11 June 2011

By today Hesselgrave is regarded as a sage professor of missions – he has had years both as a practitioner in Asia and more recently until retirement as teacher of missions at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Illinois.  In his book Hesselgrave tackles ten of the most pressing issues facing missionaries, students of missions and the church today. 

Important paradigms are explored - Sovereignty or Freewill; Enemy Territory or Common Ground; Amateurization or Professionalization; Holism or Prioritism, amongst others.

The debate about priorities in the mission task has raged ever since the 1974 Lausanne Covenant placed the two clauses, four and five, on the Nature of Evangelism and Christian Social Responsibility side by side with no attempt to relate the one to the other.

Evangelical missions over the past thirty years have gradually come to embrace the holistic nature of the church's task. John Stott’s illustration of the indissoluble link between Evangelism and Social Responsibility as being like the two wings of the one  gospel bird is helpful but that has still not silenced the debate about whether within the holistic task there are not legitimate priorities.

Hesselgrave believes there are:  "Amid all the good things that missionaries are called upon to do, they should never forget that their essential task is to seek out those who will humbly confess their sins and throw themselves upon the mercy of God available in Christ Jesus."  Not many would want to disagree with that. 

For me, this week highlights the holistic nature of Christian mission. On Wednesday we hosted a great evening with Samaritan's Purse and tomorrow on our Missions Sunday we have Eddie Arthur, the UK Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators as our main speaker. You wouldn't want to have to choose between the two but I suppose I can't help feeling that logically, if not theologically, we need first to know the truth of God’s Word for without that we would have no basis for belief or action. 

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