Thursday, December 02, 2004

Good answer

Good answer in an interview with a guy named Terrance L. Tiessen whose book I want to read:

Q. Some evangelicals will wonder whether your proposal doesn't dull our motive for mission. But much of your life has been invested in missions. Briefly, how do you respond?

A. I am well aware of the concern that the nerve of missionary motivation will be cut if we inform people that God can save people without the ministry of missionaries. In earlier years I shared that concern, and I appealed to people to go and send and pray for missionaries because without that human witness, people would be irrevocably damned. When I came to believe that Scripture did not support that view, I also noticed that the New Testament provides very strong motivation for missionary work without ever basing its appeal on this ecclesiocentric or restrictivist ground.

The good news concerning Jesus is God's ordinary means for bringing sinners into relationship with himself and maturing them in communities of faith that provide a small foretaste of life in the kingdom of God. Evangelism is not just about getting individuals saved from eternal condemnation, it is about bringing into being new covenant communities of people in and through whom God is working to turn back the ravages of sin--personal and social--and to establish his reign on earth. It is hard to overstate the blessing of knowing that we are God's people, who live in his love and constant care and whom he gifts to be a blessing to other believers and to the world. If we really love people and want them to flourish, we will want them to be part of the church and of God's continuing work of transformation in and through it. I believe that we should rejoice in the thought that some of God's elect are among those whom the church, in its weakness or disobedience, has not reached with the gospel, and at the same time be passionate about serving God's purposes for the well-being of those people, here and now. Few things are more exciting to a missionary than the surprise of finding that God has been at work before we arrive with the gospel and that people's hearts are already turned toward God and eager to receive his fuller revelation. Why would it disturb us that God may have saved some of those people, particularly ones who had lived and died in the years before we got there?

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