Saturday, January 13, 2007

Missiology vs. Theology?

I don't guess that I get it! I hear so many of my peers in ministry speaking of the evils of modern missiological thinking. It is as if in their minds there exists this dichotomy between solid, conservative theology and a Scripture-centered, culturally relevant approach to missions. In fact, the battle lines are drawn so exactly that, should one dare to even step near the edge of the status quo, it is reasonable to expect ostracizing and marginalization. We live in a day in which minsters are more afraid of being labelled than they are impassioned with a white-hot fervor for the Gospel. What has happened to us?
Perhaps what we need is a New/Old perspective. In the early days of the church, a crisis arose among the leaders as to how to handle the "new" believers. Why? Because they weren't like the rest of the believers...they were gentiles...Greeks. They dressed different, they acted different, they even violated the known Jewish customs and laws. There was such an intense division between the Jews and Greeks that the issue of unity became a major underlying theme of most of the books of the New Testament. Some, who equated the teachings of men with that of Scripture, were imposing laws and customs upon those new believers to such a degree that the essence of the Gospel message was being lost. What had started as a doctrine of salvation by grace through faith had deteriorated into a doctrine of salvation, or at the very least, perseverance by works. It was in response to this false teaching that the Apostle Paul addressed his first letter, Galatians.
In this book, Paul explains very emphatically, and rather harshly I might add, that the essence of the Gospel is the work of Christ and not the work of man. The church would call a council at Jerusalem to address this very issue and it would be determined that, saving only a couple of instructions, the Greeks were not to be bound by the traditions of men or the laws of the Mosaic covenant. But they were, in fact, free!
What's Freedom got to do with it? Well, Scripture very clearly states that it was for that purpose that Christ set us free. However, freedom seems to scare us, that is, at least those of us who have held to our systematic theologies like Linus did his blanket. What about all the rules? What about the law? Well, ironically enough, Jesus fulfilled the law. Complete. Done. However, Paul knew that someone would seize upon this very point and take issue, so he asks this question, "What then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid." Never in Scripture are we told that we may do something contradictory to the very nature of God.
However, how soon we forget that we could never attain to Christ's holiness, that's why it was a gift. It is almost as if some would say, "Thank you Lord for saving me, I'll take it from here." As believers in Christ, we don't act differently in order to attain to holiness, but rather because we have been made holy by the only One Who is holy. And so we learn to live in the light of the new creation Christ has made us.
The issue is not forsaking the truth of Scripture in order to accomplish some desired result as if the end would somehow justify the means, that is as long as the end is salvation. Rather, it is a matter of throwing-off those man-made trappings that in effect shroud the very heart of the Gospel itself and lead the victim back into a life of legalistic bondage. That's not freedom!
Confessions of a one-time blanket holder. Such ideas terrified me for years. The last thing I ever wanted to be was a liberal. I thought that if you didn't use the King James when you preached and prayed then you might not get pardoned. (Like the alliteration? Anyway...) I thought that music had to be mm. 70-85 and performed with a twang in your voice. I thought that if you didn't have a quiet time 7 days a week you were in sin. In fact, while I am being somewhat fasiscious on these things, I was dreadfully terrified of not being the spiritual person Christ called me to be. And, consequently, I demanded that everyone I met live by the same standard that I myself could never attain. Talk about miserable!
That was the same predicament that Peter found himself in when he was eating with the Greeks and then saw those from Jerusalem coming, and so he withdrew from the Greeks. This was such a fierce violation of his Scriptural mandate that Paul addressed him to his face.
Back to the Future. That is exactly what is taking place across our state and even our convention. Those who are recognizing what it takes to reach a lost world with the Gospel are being ridiculed and condemned by those who cry "holiness, holiness", a standard that they themselves could never attain. And the cost? An entire generation of people lost and on its way to a Christless Hell because we are more concerned about foods offered to idols than the souls of men! God help us!
It is time that the church rethink its missiology and its theology to insure that they are both Scriptural. The world is at stake.


Wade Burleson said...

Welcome to the blog world Tom. I've linked you on my site and given you a plug!



Tom Willoughby said...

Thanks Wade! You're an encouragement to me.


Debbie said...

Welcome Tom. I so enjoy what you have written so far. I am hopeful to read more from you.

Bob Cleveland said...

Good morning, Pastor. Welcome to the world of electronic indigestion.

If I were you, I'd hunt up that old blanket... hang with Wade, Marty, Art & Ben a while, and you're apt to need it.

Rzrbk said...

You make many good points. Your mention of the fear of some that modern missiological thinking is somehow opposed to conservative theology and your early emphasis on the KJV of the Bible reminded me of the time I was being checked out by someone who was worried I might be one of those liberal missonaries. He asked me if I used the King James Bible when teaching my students and I had to tell him I used a Mandarin Chinese Bible since I didn't think King James authorized a Chinese Bible. He didn't know how to respond.
It is also interesting that you are from the state that gave Roger Moran to the Southern Baptist Convention. I can think of no better example of what you describe than him.
Ron West

Tom Willoughby said...

Thank you Debbie. I hope this serves as a means of helping people think through some of the tougher issues facing our culture, and specifically our denomination.

Tom Willoughby said...

Thanks for the advice, Bob. I'll keep it for future reference.

Tom Willoughby said...

Well you know, Ron, if it was good enough for Paul and Jesus . . .
(Oops, my GARBC background is bleeding through. Of course, I was pretty sure that I had left that denomination years ago. Oh, well.)

As for Missouri, well, at least we DO have the Cardinals! LOL

Tom Willoughby said...

Hey Bob, I noticed you are from Pelham, AL. My parents live in Athens, AL. Great state, Alabama. Especially when I'm currently sitting here at home because of the ice storm that is blowing through.

Tony said...

Good stuff Tom. I'm usually one of those nameless, faceless, people who simply checks out the blogs, attempts to digest the material, and then discuss it with my friends. So, you might not get too many more comments from me, but from what I can see I'll be enjoying your discussion.

Bryan Riley said...

Excellent. So glad Wade threw us your way.

James Hunt said...

Dost thou depart from thy true ways? Return, O return! King James awaiteth thee!

Seriously, I thank God for fresh voices declaring truth.


Tom Willoughby said...

Thanks Tony for letting me now you're there. Feel free to chime in any time. Hope it's a blessing to you in some way.

Tom Willoughby said...

Bryan, I am too. A blog is a lonely place when there's no one else commenting. I look forward to getting to know you guys better.

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

Welcome to the blog world.

Curious about something. In your post, you seem to tie those who disagree over PPL etc to also disagreeing over creative and new ways of reaching people. Why?

I happen to disagree with PPl for many reasons. Yet, we just started a new service that is beyond contemporary, do not use the KJV, and don't even wear a coat and tie to preach. Though I appreciate your thoughts, many of us who disagree do so not out of fear from what might become, or fear of letting go of rules. We do so for Biblical reasons that we have gleaned from studying the Word of God. No preconcieved ideas or involved either.

How does this fit with what you said?

Have a great week and I pray that your day was great today! God is good!

Tom Willoughby said...

Tim, Thanks for posting.

I had to read back over my post to make sure that I had not said something that I didn't mean. I don't see where I ever raised the issue of PPL at all. What I am addressing is the tendency of many to view any kind of methodology that differs from what has been accepted with suspicion and even contempt.

I see the church in general, and our denomination in particular, at the baton passing point of the relay race. But for some strange reason, many seem reluctant to pass the baton because they do not agree with the style of the teammate to whom they are to pass it. It doesn't seem to matter that the other runner is on the same team, on the same track, abiding by the same rules and racing for the same prize. This, to me, is unconscionable.

I hope that clarifies things for you.

Have a great day in the Lord!

Bill Scott said...

It seems that the blogosphere contains a mix of rare gases that confuse and distort the messages of author. PPL has grown to be line drawn in the sand for some. They stop at the line and God moves on without them because they refuse to focus on the essentials.

The trees of divison and discord never bear fruit. These trees are full of thorns and vines that insnare those who venture near them. (IMO)

Alycelee said...

Tom, great insights and welcome.
I will look for more 'transformational truth'

Jodie Ferise said...

Loved this article, Tom... and fully understood and agreed with most of it. But although this may show my ignorance... I don't know what PPL is, as referenced in one of the other posts (Winning Truth with Tim Guthrie). I probably should know that, but I don't. Can you illuminate??

Tom Willoughby said...


PPL is short for Private Prayer Language (a.k.a. speaking in tongues), a topic of considerable debate as of late in the Southern Baptist Convention with regard to our missionaries. The question, essentially, is whether or not the convention should allow missionaries to serve who practice PPL.

I wasn't trying to delve ito that particular issue as it has been discussed rather thoroughly on other blogs.

Hope this helps. Keep dropping by, hopefully we will be having some discussions that will sharpen our faith and provoking us to action.