Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (Perspectives) is a 15 weeks course about the global purpose of Christians, designed around four vantage points or “perspectives” – Biblical, Historical, Cultural and Strategic. The course has the objective of opening the eyes of Christians to the vision that God has a “world-size” role for every believer in His global mission. The point of this course is to simply show practical examples of how missions can be done wisely and well, against the background that God will fulfill His promises.
Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! (Psalm 96:3).
I have embarked on the Independent Study Online format of the Perspectives study program and will periodically share a perspective on different lessons.
Lesson 14: Pioneer Church Planting – This the penultimate lesson shows the strategic heart of the Perspectives course. The great tragedy is that the unreached peoples have not been given an opportunity to hear the Gospel in their own language among their own people without crossing cultural, linguistic or class barriers. I will now review Pubic Identity verses Socio-Religious Identity, Brootherhood and the necessity of Syncretism.
Public Identity verses Socio-Religious Identity of being a Christians
An individual’s Socio-Religious Identity is whether culturally they are Muslim, Christian or Hindu, etc. which often decided at birth and is dependent of the society in which person is a part of. Usually the dominant religion of their Community. For native believers having a Pubic Identity as a devoted follower of Christ is living under the Lordship of Christ and the authority of the Bible means changing their identity/culture of being say Muslim to Christian. Making this change require a change of culture and is usually very difficult. On the other hand the Socio-Religious Identity of being called a Christian means that these followers live under the Lordship of Christ and the authority of the Bible But retain their social identity of a Hindu, for example. This distinction is important and is being debated by leaders in the Muslim world because the big question is whether a new convert can retain his Socio-Religious Identity and be a Christian. The answer is YES. A person can gain a new spiritual identity, without leaving their birth identity, without taking on a “Christian” label, and without affiliating with traditions and institution of Christianity.
“Brotherhood” between different peoples
Donald A. McGavran (author in Perspectives on World Christian Movement) recommends celebrating brotherhood from the first moment a native accepts Christ, but look forward to days when God will bring about truly transformed societies in which antagonism of class and race is overcome. It is about celebrating equality within imperfect social institutions since all people are equal in Christ. However, the initial thrust of the gospel is not necessarily the challenging of evil social institutions. It is firstly about individual obedience to Christ. The best way to achieve reconciliation of the races and peoples of earth is to see many form every segment and race introduced to an obedient relationship with Christ. Under Christ’s Lordship as we multiply Christians in every segment of society the possibility of genuine brotherhood, justice, goodness and righteousness can be increases. The dynamics of social cohesion will advance the gospel and lead multitudes out of darkness into His wonderful life.
Syncretism a necessary risk
Phil Parshall (author in Perspectives on World Christian Movement) defines Syncretism as a blend of Christianity faith and non-Christian beliefs and practice. He also expresses his reservation about this method. However Charles H. Kraft (another author in Perspectives on World Christian Movement) says, “the risk of syncretism is always present” and that “it is a risk that needs to be taken in order that people experience New Testament Christianity.” He believes that operating with the “deep trust” of the Holy Spirt can bring positive results by turning the attention of new believers to the scriptures, giving them encouragement and freedom to make biblical informed decisions. As believers lean to use the scriptures themselves and learn to walk with the Holy Spirit, God brings about the change He desires’
Planting churches among the unreached peoples today is difficult, feasible and crucial to completing the task of world evangelization. A person can gain a new spiritual identity, without leaving their birth identity, without taking on a “Christian” label. Under Christ’s Lordship, as Christians are we multipled possibility of genuine brotherhood, justice, goodness and righteousness increases. And I do agree that Syncretism is a necesary risk.
– Garfield Miller, Missionary Society (Jamaica)