Well has it been said: “There is no good writing, only good re-writing.”
A potential publisher has asked me to submit the first few chapters of my book proposal, tentatively titled:
Christlike Disciples, Christlike World: The Transformational Mission of the People of God
So, in today’s post, I’ll re-work the introduction to the book into a more suitable form, given the way later chapters have been unfolding.
For those who like technical terms, the project is designed to bring together three major areas: soteriology, ecclesiology, and missiology. Too often, these are treated on their own yet they belong together. Whether I succeed in casting a coherent vision, I’ll let you decide.
INTRODUCTION: WHAT’S IN A WORD?
“Transformation” is the latest buzzword, but what does it mean? The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines it as “a marked change in form, nature, or appearance.”
Transformation = change, but that’s only part of the picture. While we usually recognize when change has occurred, observers may disagree strongly whether a given change is positive or negative.
Truth be told, it’s not enough to call for transformation. Change for change’s sake is not enough. We must identify and work in the power of the Holy Spirit toward the kind of transformation desired.
In the title Christlike Disciples, Christlike World: The Transformational Mission of the People of God, the positive objective is clear:
All creation must become like Christ.
When all that God has made resembles Jesus, then we as God’s people can say: “Mission accomplished.”
Three headings provide the structure of this book:
1) Meet the people of God
2) Understanding our transformational mission
3) Getting it done
As an American born in the middle part of the twentieth century, my worldview was shaped by individualism. As a child, I was taught to take pride in being independent. It is only as an adult living in Africa that I’ve come to question the value of independence. Instead, I’ve come to appreciate interdependence, the contentment and purpose that come from seeing oneself first-and-foremost as part of a greater whole.
This experience has shaped the way I read the Bible and – consequently – how I understand the church and its mission in the world. Whereas my Western cultural spectacles had led me to view the individual as the primary reality and the church as secondary, the mere gathering of saved individuals, this “me first and we second” order now seems backwards. My new eyeglasses have helped me perceive a new reality, the larger story of what God wants to do collectively through the church. I have come to view my own salvation in Christ as caught-up within that bigger, corporate story. It is now “we first and me second,” a point-of-view much closer to the Scriptural witness of both Old and New Testaments.
Historically, we are witnessing the convergence of two worldviews. In a world made small by jet travel and the Internet, Africa’s collective outlook carries huge appeal for Western youth who are postmodern, inclusive, cooperative, and group-oriented in their thinking. To be successful today, any call to Christlike discipleship must find its grounding within that framework, a perspective that longs to make a positive impact in the here-and-now, in-short, a transformational point-of-view.
Christlike Disciples, Christlike World targets two groups. It can be used for those new to the church who want to know what we’re all about. Alternatively, it can be studied in small group settings as a way to re-focus our vision around the “why” of our existence as the church. Short chapters conclude with questions for discussion.
Let’s turn now to this question: Who is the church? Let’s meet the people of God.