Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Incarnational Ministry

There is a lot about how we need to be culturally relevant or acceptable to get the gospel across today

The main passage used for this is 1 Cor 9 - be all things to all men

To me though, the context for that passage hardly seems to be about worldly culture - rather I think Paul is talking about within the church
so there is the weak/strong faith, under and not under the law, Jew or Gentile
very much like Rom 14 - I do all things to all men so that I may not destroy the faith of anyone
- and Paul personifies this - he performs sacrifices for the Jews, he circumcises one guy for the Jews and not one guy for the Gentiles, he doesn't eat meat when they think it's wrong, etc

A term that I have read of recently is called 'incarnational ministry'
i.e. to come into a community and live amongst the people as one of the people
that's all well and good
until we actually look at the incarnation
Jesus did not come into our culture - He created His own culture, His own people, and the irony is that this 'God-culture' of people did not recognise Him
the most basic call to the people of God is to be holy - and the easiest definition of holy is 'different', i.e. not like the nations around you

The incarnation of Christ is the Word becoming flesh
Incarnational Ministry by all means - let the Word become your flesh
you too must become incarnate
'till Christ is formed in you' or the 'Day star rises in your heart'

Then will the world know Jesus - when you are like Jesus, holy like Jesus, wholly like Jesus


jacky said...

hey dev! hope u have a safe trip back 'home' today!

btw when u are clarifying what true incarnational ministry is, are you basically saying that incarnational ministry is to participate in culture but to present a wholly holy new creation culture right?

i'm not sure if u're talking about methodologies which can really do away with certain confusions, be that certain terminologies or etc..

i.e. speaking to Muslims like you don't believe in 'Allah' when in reality we believe in a triune Allah, that sort of thing.. perhaps given the context it would be unhelpful if we interlaced Christian truths with distinctively non-cross-cultural/linguistic elements.

so.. mind elaborating a bit more?

jacky said...

just to add on to the last comment, i'm looking specifically at 1 cor 9:19 - to 'win' them; v.21 - 'that I might win those outside the law' v.22 'that I might save some'.. in which case would that apply to those outside the church?

yemsee said...

i literally think the goal of the Christian is simply to do as Christ does

so our labour is in prayer and meditation on the Word

that alone is enough to supply us with all we need for any and every culture, race and religion

because it is the Spirit that searches the heart of God and the heart of man

Rich Owen said...

Hi Dev,

i see your point (and agree!).

do you think there is a tendency today to bind incarnational ministry (in the opposite sense to how you define it) and culture making?

I’ve been scratching my head about the culture making thing which has become quite popular - i think our culture making is probably limited to living as citizens of heaven - forming new creation culture in the church as we live that life out, focused on the completion of the kingdom when we will receive Christ as our shield and very great reward. But others seem to push culture making in.... umm... a rather English middle class direction - art, music and literature...

Be interested to know what you think about that.


Rich Owen said...

^^to clarify^^ our culture making being as you say, doing as jesus does - living out the sermon on the mount etc...

yemsee said...

yup i'm pretty against 'cultural evangelism'
i think Christ is sufficient, as is the Word of God and the Spirit of God
the only 'research' that needs doing is in prayer and meditation on Scripture...

Rich Owen said...

i agree. however i'm not sure the more conservative views are quite that polarised.

they seem to view culture making, not so much as an evange tool but inherited from our creation as image bearers and the command to fill the earth - it is something they say we just "do" becuase we are christians. we therefore create, doing as jesus does.

they will then tie it in to evange, not as the main thing, but as one of the blessings which we bring to the earth/culture in the same sense that the gospel brings cmmunity and justice and social care etc.

my concerns about the more conservative incarnational ministry thing are:

* this is pretty much always described in middle class terms - creating music and art and stuff.

* too much is stacked on the image of God and "fill the earth" - i take image and filling to be the good old fashioned making of children by husband and wife :)

i don't really know if i have a point, or a position on this - i guess i just appreciate being able to bounce the idea around and see what people think. maybe i have the wrong end of the stick - maybe they do have a point etc.


jacky said...

i agree with what u guys are saying.. but just want some further clarification

rich> you're right that when we *think* we are introducing new creation, we are in fact introducing middle-class values.. so perhaps through meditation on the Word we will do away with these middle-class cultures

dev> if i'm getting you right, this does not preclude effective communication (i.e. linguistic ability to reach out, particular cultural terminology which needs to be redeemed and used in its original sense - like lai see packets with gospel tracts) but, like Christ did, engage with the people in the world as Christians but not succumb to the false underpinning truth which drives these cultures..

to cut a long statement short, i guess its not culture-shaping-evangelism, but evangelism-shaping-culture?

yemsee said...

well i don't even know about 'redeeming' stuff - that would imply we would know what needs to be redeemed

just let the Spirit guide - and let all knowledge come from Him and His people - since He promises all will be taught by God
even to the extend that John the Baptist can know Jesus totally 6 months in the womb

i'm not sure why we would want to shape culture at all? we belong to a different kingdom - one that is veiled and will only be revealed when the Revelation of all things brings the clouds down!

Alan McGuffog said...

Thanks for sharing this, it's a real encouragement to read all these biblical centered views regarding how the church needs to be a holy nation and seek to be as faithful to scripture as possible and led by the spirit rather than being 'relevant' in the worlds eyes.

If we truely understand what we are talking about we will be able to explain it simply to others even the most profound truths, as the word can be understood by all. We cannot trust in human wisdom but rather in the source of all true wisdom.

I was wondering if you had any further information/advised books on this topic as i'm in the process of writting an essay.

Blessings in Christ


yemsee said...

Hi Alan

i don't particular know any books on incarnational ministry

but there's one i've been recommended on evangelism and i haven't read as yet -

maybe it may help