Local Churches: A Virtual Conversation with a Pastor and Ralph D. Winter, Part II
In Part I, excerpts from a blog by Pastor Marc explain his passion for seeing the local church play its God-intended role in fulfilling the Great Commission. In Part II, excerpts from Ralph Winter's writings give another slant on the importance of well-informed local church involvement in God's global purposes.
Below is a short excerpt from Ralph Winter's address to the new Asian Society of Missiology in 2007 in Bangkok, "Twelve Mistakes of the West." One "Mistake" relates to local congregations.
Here, in a letter written October, 2004, Winter responds to a letter he had received from a pastor of a local church. This letter is published in Winter's book, Frontiers in Mission, p. 168.
The very phrase "Christ-centered" is hugely abstract, and, in fact, is not at all logically linked with all of the many wonderful expectations of a church which your evaluation lists. By contrast, however inadequate, the "Three Selfs" are quite concrete
But the greatest change I would like to see is for your emphasis to include, expect, require, the outworking of faith in the community. Your illustrations often showed how out on the job a singing cheerful person made a witness. And, presumably a good piece of work went along with that. But the holiness of the daily task doesn't come through as an essential feature of true faith in the Christ who called us not merely to witness but to be salt and light in a world of evil, corruption, and disease. Where does your Christ-centered congregation shoulder the work of Christ to be done in the world as an end in itself, not merely to witness?
Today in the LA Times a half of a page is devoted to a report on tens of thousands of Mennonites in northern Mexico who moved down there a half a century ago from both Canada and the USA. They may have wished that way to avoid the evils of the world (rather than fighting them) and thus save themselves and their people from evil and maintain a Christ-centered church. But now today they are (quite a few of them) well known for their immersion in the drug trade, the cartels, the smuggling of drugs into the U.S. One of the biggest drug busts in history in Oklahoma recently took down a Mennonite team, which with their blue eyes were able for a long time to avoid detection.
When souls are saved they are not merely supposed to be survivors singing of their salvation but soldiers deliberately choosing to enter into the dangerous, sacrificial, arduous task of restoring the glory of God for all to see. "Let your light shine in this way: that your good deeds may be seen by men who will thus be able to glorify your Father in heaven" (Matt 5:16--my own translation).
If "the Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the Devil" (I John 3:8), do you think it is good enough for our missionaries around the world to be content with getting people to trust Jesus for their eternal salvation, singing at church and on the job, teach each other the scriptures, raise up leaders, start more congregations of singing people who do not regard it their duty to work at the center of Christ's purpose of destroying the works of the Devil? Would not a Christ centered church take seriously His "as my Father sent me so I send you?"
Did Jesus just go around and lead in worship and Bible study? No, both He and John the Baptist tackled the evils of their day, commanded repentance from selfishness, focused on poor people's real needs, disabled people, sick people, excluded people. He demonstrated the nature of a God who was not merely a judge but a God of love and light and redemption—not just from the penalty of sin but the power of sin.
What would Jesus have said about fighting germs in the name of Christ had the people of his time know about germs? Not even Luther and Calvin knew about destructive germs thus our theology (unchanged from the sixteenth century) ignores that whole swath of the works of the Devil. And, when people get sick, whether in Africa or in California they commonly assume "God did it" for some unknown reason. That misunderstanding does not glorify God. And I don't see anything else coming out of the "radiant, worshipful" congregational life among Evangelicals today, nor in the long list of evaluation traits of a Christ centered church in your article.
Am I missing something?
Ralph Winter, Editor, Mission Frontiers
MISTAKE # 4. The Mistake of Whole Congregations in Direct Involvement, Not Professional Missions
A more recent phenomenon (which is characteristic of whole congregations which are highly excited about missions) is the idea of every family in a congregation briefly becoming a missionary family. In this plan, during, say, a four-year period, the intention is for every family in the church to go overseas to work on some sort of two-week project. This is a marvelous idea for the education of people in the church about foreign lands. Yet, it is incredibly expensive and it is a very questionable contribution to the cause of missions.