Friday, July 13, 2012

Kingdom or Church?

This blog highlights books from Ralph Winter’s Library and compares excerpts to Winter’s own writings on one or more of the themes from his list of twelve “Frontiers of Perspective.” (See the full list at the end of this blog.)
(6) The Reclaiming of the Gospel of the Kingdom

Guder, Darrell L. 2000. The Continuing Conversion of the Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Guder and Ralph Winter agreed that the Church does not exist for its own sake. Dr. Winter used to say the point is not gaining new members of the Church/Body of Christ just to get them to recruit more members; they are enlisting as soldiers in a battle against an intelligent enemy. Guder may not have the warfare aspect in his writings, but he is in agreement with Winter that “as the gospel proclaimed by the church has been reduced to individual salvation, that salvation has itself become the purpose and program of the church” (p. 133). Guder continues,
We must conclude that the church as an “institute of salvation” has had a greatly diminished sense of its mission to the world. It has been far more preoccupied with its inner life, thereby failing to grasp the essential linkage between internal life and its external calling.  Rather than understanding worship as God’s divine preparation for sending, it has tended to make worship an end in itself. Rather than understanding preaching as the exposition of God’s Word to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11ff), it has become the impartation of clerical wisdom to help the saints prepare for heaven while coping with this “vale of tears” (p. 135).
The missional community which Jesus intended and which the apostles formed and taught was to testify to the gospel in every dimension of its existence. Its message was never understood as simply a verbal communication about which one might argue, and for which mere mental consent was sought. The gospel of Jesus Christ defines a new reality, under God, in which Jesus Christ has all power in heaven and earth, and his followers are his sent and empowered witnesses (p. 137). 
Adelaja, Sunday. 2008. Church Shift. St. Mary, FL: Charisma House.

These themes are echoed in the next book I’m highlighting. In presenting this book to the staff shortly after it was published, Winter described its content as “really exciting and urgent to think about.” He also wrote a book review published in IJFM 25:4 [] in which he pulled out the following quotes:
Too many Christians and Christian leaders spend their energy, creativity, and precious time promoting churches instead of the kingdom. … The church fulfills its mandate when it changes society, not when it’s confined to its sanctuary and Sunday school classrooms… The Kingdom must overflow into streets and workplaces, governments and entertainment venues. That is its nature, to grow and take over. If you try to keep it to yourself, you lose it (p. 7).
Some people believe that if they work in the nursery or sing in the choir, they are fulfilling their area of ministry. But this is not really ministry. It is merely Housekeeping. Your work as a choir member, nursery volunteer, or usher is what we all must do to keep the church functioning, but it is not necessarily fulfilling the Great Commission. The Great Commission happens outside the church. Ministry is what you do to bring your life and your sphere of influence under kingdom rule (p. 10).
Winter commented in his review: “Now I don’t think he is what they call a Dominion Theology specialist, but it is true that evangelicals in the past, who have often been very poor people, have not had the opportunity to influence society at the level of public law and public decisions, and now, more than ever, due to the tremendous growth and wealth of the evangelical movement, our call to mission is accordingly enlarged.”

Ralph Winter’s 12 “Frontiers of Perspective” represent major shifts in his thinking that “profoundly modified and molded his perception of the mission task”:
(1) Unreached Peoples
(2) The Great Commission and Abraham
(3) From the Unfinished Task to the Finishable Task
(4) Failure with the Large Groups and the Off-setting Trend to “Radical Contextualization”
(5) Reverse Contextualization, the Recontextualization of Our Own Tradition
(6) The Reclaiming of the Gospel of the Kingdom
 (7) Beyond Christianity
(8) A Different Type of Recruitment
(9) A Trojan Horse
(10) Needed: a Revolution in Pastoral Training
(11) The Religion of Science
(12) The Challenge of the Evil One

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