Article of the week: Inviting people to fullness of life
25 April 2020
Major Gregory Morgan reflects on the five marks of mission, developing thoughts presented in the book Partnering With God
THE remarkable growth of the Christian faith in its first three centuries is awe-inspiring. Christians, who began as a subset of the rather insular and ethnically exclusive Judaism, found their way from being a persecuted minority to becoming a transformative influence upon the Roman Empire. The impact was staggering for families, broader society and ultimately the path of human history. The story of Jesus changed the world.
One of the key factors in this transformation is the incredible impact of the attractive lives that early Christians lived. The sick were cared for, deserted babies were taken in and the poor were fed. To put it simply, the quality of holy living overshadowed the corruption of the world around and shone as a beacon of hope in a dark world. People were attracted to this faith and the way it changed lives. The Christian lifestyle was a powerful witness and it was accompanied by a clear capacity to verbalise what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. The good news was proclaimed by word and deed, and the interplay of the two was powerfully transformative.
Our own history as Salvationists displays the same dynamic interplay of proclaiming the good news through word and deed. What could have remained a subset of a subset – simply another Methodist breakaway in 19th-century London – grew to build a global reputation for being the hands and feet of Jesus: families destroyed by alcoholism in the East End of London were redeemed and rebuilt through the impact of the gospel; young people in Africa were given educational opportunities that led to life opportunities; those considered untouchable by tradition in India were given access to healthcare; the good news of the Kingdom, verbally expressed and practically lived in action, changed the world.
How do we establish the Kingdom of God on Earth as in Heaven? The old argument of a verbal proclamation of the good news as dominant over a lived expression of the deeds of the Kingdom needs to be challenged. The good news is not an either/or business. Lives are only transformed by word and deed.
God is interested in wholes not fractions. All of life, in all its implications, including spirituality and physical reality, is in need of the good news. Fractional mission – be it word biased or action biased – is a distraction for the people
of God who are called into a mission of wholeness. To truly proclaim the good news we seek to fully embrace Jesus’ words when he said, ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10).
There are many metaphors that we could use to help us understand what it is to proclaim the good news. One that helps us rise above evangelism as an argument to be won, or seeing people converted as evangelistic notches on our uniform belts, is that of hospitality. We invite others to the journey of faith,
a journey we ourselves are on. Everyone is welcome to fullness of life, to transformation, belonging and joy.
The Kingdom of God has been likened to a banquet to which all are welcome (see Luke 14:15–23 and Revelation 19:6–9). From a hospitality perspective, the verbal sharing of the good news finds its right expression through meaningful relationship. From a place of hospitality, people whose lives are being destroyed by the practical impact of the world around them are offered the help of a friend to find their feet again.
Ultimately, we have discovered something so life-changing, so transformational to every aspect of our lives that we simply want to share this beautiful Jesus encounter with everyone around us and extend the invitation for them to also find this full life.
We will speak of Jesus. We will tell of the love we have found. We will act like Jesus. We will share and express the love Jesus has granted us.
In that spoken and enacted proclamation we will find ourselves connected again to the story of Jesus that changed the world 2,000 years ago and changed communities through the early Salvation Army. May the good news of Jesus Christ be proclaimed in all its fullness through our lives and words today.
- Partnering With God: Being A Missional Salvationist by Lynette Edge and Gregory Morgan will be available from SP&S in the near future
MAJOR MORGAN IS THE DIVISIONAL COMMANDER, SOUTHERN