Just as a pre-blogopalooza series of updates, my child is much better, thank you. We slept through the night last night (first night in 4 nights), the hives are almost all down and gone, spirits are pretty much high (thanks, prednisone), and I'm well-rested enough to blog this morning.
For those who are worried that you can't cook a turkey, my annual turkey recipe post at my blog is up, and it has ZERO unsatisfied users. Phil has, of course, never tried it, but for a guy who says he will eat anything he sure is a fussy eater.
And as a last sort of update and segue, last week when I posted on mistake #2 of the 12 mistake series, alert reader "MadTownGuy" pointed out that Ralph Winter --- the author of the list of 12 mistakes – has his own problems. MadTownGuy put it this way:
Ralph Winter’s “Kingdom on earth” is a defined term in the parlance of the promoters of the New Apostolic Reformation, and Ralph Winter‘s connection to that movement is clearly known. It is taken by him to mean a government, both in the ecclesiastical and political senses of the word, and it is the chief aim of Winter and his close associate from Fuller Seminary, C. Peter Wagner. So when he uses that term he means the establishment of a hierarchical structure of apostles in the church and in the marketplace, along with prophets who do vision casting and spiritual warriors à la Joel’s Army who will promote their agenda in each apostle’s territorial or professional sphere of influence. Their highest goal is not the salvation of souls but the transformation of society. The living out of Christ’s life in us is done only as a means to an end, to promote the establishment of the kingdom, without which (in their view) the end time revival, and the return of Christ, will be delayed. This is what drives their methods which include spiritual mapping, intercessory prayer (as they define it), city-church movements and calls to unity while disregarding, or overtly disrespecting, sound doctrine.Now, while I wouldn’t deny any of that, here's what I'd say about that in the context of this blog and my posts about this list: until I read this list, I had no idea who Ralph Winter was. I had to Google the guy to get a bead on him, and I figured that most people are probably about as informed as I am – which, apparently, means "not very".
Ultimately, Winter's connection to the stuff MTG listed is "clearly known", or can be "clearly known" with only a little effort, but here's the thing: I think we can't let ourselves get flap-jacked by someone with, um, an over-realized eschatology. We can't let someone's wacky redefinition of terms push us off the scriptural ground in which those terms ought to be planted.
So, rather than make this an obscure series of posts about the quirks of Ralph Winter, I'm taking Winter's list at face value, reading standard theological meaning into the words, and asking the question whether these are mistakes or not. The more esoteric among you will find this off-putting. Let's be honest: I write as a pleb for the plebs.
So, that said, here's the so-called "third mistake":
The Mistake of Congregations Sending Missionaries, Not Using Mission Agencies
And you'll get right away why I think this mistake is incorrect because I'm the guy who thinks that the local church is God's plan, and maybe we should ourselves think a little more of it. But before I launch into my objection(s), let me properly issue the disclaimer that I am a, um, proud member of an SBC church and I am generally proud of the IMB and NAMB for the work they do or try to do in equipping and sending missionaries. One of the chief reasons my wife and I are SBC people is that we want to know that our church is rightly sending qualified missionaries to people who need the Gospel.
So, on the one hand, I think that it is possible to have a "mission agency" which effectively sends missionaries, and actually demonstrates a good kind of synergy among local churches – one which takes the limited resources of one body or another and multiplies them using what they call in the secular marketplace "economies of scale". "Mission agencies" can be good things.
But this is where the disclaimer as a member of an SBC church comes in: they are also not the be-all and end-all of missions work, and in fact we have to admit they are also not necessarily the biblically-mandated form of sending missionaries.
This is a big beef for me. The NT describes a church which is local, united, and discipling people toward two specific milestones: discipling toward personal maturity (cf. 1 Tim 1:5), and discipling toward making men into elders in the church (cf. Tit 1:5-9). That is, as Paul told Titus and Timothy, they were sent to preach the Gospel, teach it, exhort the people to live as an adornment of sound doctrine, and take the men who demonstrate this in life and practice and ordain them as elders.
Not to establish seminaries and mission agencies.
Now, while we can agree that seminaries and mission agencies can do good, and have done good, we also have to grapple with what Phil noted back in mistake #1, which is that institutions – especially Christian institutions – have a ridiculously-bad track record of fumbling confessional issues and sliding into (at best) syncretic habits. And the reason, I think, is that an institution is not a church.
Think about that a second: it's not a church. Now: why is that a critical distinction? For example, why is it important to realize that a bookstore is not a church? Isn't it because a bookstore is primarily a business which has as its chief end to pay the rent and all the employees, not to mention the owner?
That end doesn’t frankly square up to the end of the church – which Paul, btw, says plainly is not for monetary gain (cf. 2 Tim, if you don't know).
And while the chief end of a seminary, for example, may not be to make money, the sad fact is that institutions have self-preservation as an unstated goal. There's nobody who's going to take a seminary and turn a blind eye to its endowment or its enrollment or its ability to attract faculty even if its mission is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.
And the same can be, and ought to be, said about mission agencies: these are not churches. That doesn’t make them bad people, or people with nefarious self-interest wrapped up in some kind of holy: it makes them people who, like all of us, have divided interests and are prone to err on the side of practical.
For what it's worth, Paul defines the practicality of the church in this matter pretty plainly, like this:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.That is, I want you to insist on sound doctrine so that those who have a right faith will live out good works.
The doctrine comes first. And in that, institutions set up for pragmatic ends are prone to employ pragmatic means, thereby taking their eyes off the ball.
The brighter ones among you may want to apply that to the post I made in statement #1; that's what the meta is for.
Enjoy the gifts which you are about to receive from the bounty of the Lord, and be in the Lord's house with the Lord's people on the Lord's day this week because He has made it easy for you to do so.