Carbon E-Missions

  • Question from RC, United Kingdom

    I’ve heard a lot about the various forms of Christian mission today – some say that mission is merely proclaiming God’s word, yet others would say that mission is taking care of the world we live in (e.g. Green Peace). What does God’s call want us to be involved in when it comes to spreading His word and mission, and does our environmental concerns come under the umbrella of mission today?

    Christianity has been an expansionist religion ever since the recorded journeys of the apostle Paul in the book of Acts. Paul’s ‘missionary journeys’ when preaching and proclamation seemed to take precedence have become the blueprints for people as diverse as the Celtic saints like Columba, David and Patrick, the Roman Catholic monastic order known as the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), evangelical protestant heroes like C.T. Studd and Hudson Taylor and trailblazing non-conformists like John Wesley. In each case the ‘missionaries’ involved have been keen to ‘take the gospel to people’, especially to foreign lands as new worlds of exploration opened up.

    Certainly a number of missionary societies in evangelical protestant Christianity regard ‘mission’ in these terms – the stereotype would be to ‘proclaim the gospel and convert the heathen’. But there has been a broadening of horizons in the last half of the twentieth century, with mission seen less as ‘proclaiming the gospel’ and more as ‘showing the Kingdom’. This perhaps stems from the rise in post-modernism. The ‘modern’ world-view is characterised by expansion and conquest. The ‘missions’ of the nineteenth century that piggy-backed European political imperialism were certainly ‘modern’ in that sense and have recently been subject to much unfair retrospective criticism as a result. Post-modern mission, if it even exists, would see itself as presenting a better way of doing things; an exemplary gospel that encouraged people to ‘live like this’.

    Certainly the growth of the environmentalist movement is directly linked to the emergence of post-modern culture and considerations. The environmentalist agenda often includes an interest in the ‘spiritual’, but many Christians dismiss this as ‘New Age’ and are unwilling to engage with people who may be looking in the wrong places, but are at least looking for something. It could be argued that the Church generally is locked in a modern mindset, fighting ideological battles on rational and semi-scientific grounds, which would explain why Christians missed the opportunity to introduce Christ to those people rediscovering the beauty of creation.

    If Christians are serious about mission today, then a move away from ‘modern’ methods would result in a more holistic approach to mission as ‘life in the Kingdom of God’. It is fair to say that environmental concerns would come under that umbrella, simply because the Kingdom is about doing things differently, according to God’s agenda. Pollution, global warming, wanton destruction of the natural world and the extinction of species are not part of God’s Edenic ideal. Nor do they feature in any ideal habitat for human beings.

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