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The Continuing Conversion of the Church…
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The Continuing Conversion of the Church (Gospel & Our Culture) (edição 2000)

por Darrell L. Guder (Autor)

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Western society is now a very different, very difficult mission field. In such a situation, the mission of evangelism cannot succeed with an attitude of "business as usual." This volume builds a theology of evangelism that has its focus on the church itself. Darrell Guder shows that the church's missionary calling requires that the theology and practice of evangelism be fundamentally rethought and redirected, focused on the continuing evangelization of the church so that it can carry out its witness faithfully in today's world. In Part 1 Guder explores how, under the influence of reductionism and individualism, the church has historically moved away from a biblical theology of evangelism. Part 2 presents contemporary challenges to the church's evangelical ministry, especially those challenges that illustrate the church's need for continuing conversion. Part 3 discusses what a truly missional theology would mean for the church, including sweeping changes in its institutional structures and practices. Written for teachers, church leaders, and students of evangelism, this volume is vital reading for everyone engaged in mission work.… (mais)
Membro:greypilgrim76
Título:The Continuing Conversion of the Church (Gospel & Our Culture)
Autores:Darrell L. Guder (Autor)
Informação:Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (2000), Edition: Seventh Impression, 238 pages
Colecções:Home Study, A sua biblioteca
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The Continuing Conversion of the Church (The Gospel & Our Culture Series) por Darrell L. Guder

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The Continuing Conversion of the Church: by Darrel Guder
A Review by: Joseph Esposito
(Copyright 2007 by Joseph Esposito. All Rights Reserved.)

Thesis:
Against a gospel of reductionism, Guder proposes a gospel that is always informed by the missio Dei and thus never defined by the structures and programs of institutionalization, and the sinful desire to control the gospel we receive. In reducing the fullness of the gospel to a manageable and easily controlled program, the missio Dei is sacrificed for the upholding and continuation of the structure. Thus, "we are constantly tempted to assert that our way of understanding the Christian faith is a final version of Christian truth" . Again, as with David Bosch in Transforming Mission, a new epistemology is at work here—one of “humble boldness” . It is this epistemological posture that essentially allows for the faithful response: ekklesia semper reformanda est . It is in this commitment that we begin to see our appropriate response to the evangel —the good news—as one of conversion. This begins first within the church and then moves to the world through the threefold witness of the church as we embody the gospel, enact the gospel and proclaim the gospel.
Evaluation of Sources:
This text relies heavily upon the Newbiginian trajectory of mission as participation in the missio Dei. Guder also uses both Bosch and Barth heavily throughout as he teases out his thesis: the ever present need for conversion within the church via the evangel. It should also be noted that much of the Missional Church project is assumed in this study as well which brings additional scholarship to this particular conversation in light of its continuation of that trajectory and logic. This source is one that does not deal much with conflicting sources or opinions, but rather draws out Guder’s thesis and illustrates its importance though the previous work of other scholars.
Particularly helpful was Guder’s review of the reductionism at work over the centuries in his historical description of how we reached this dismal destination. He synthesizes a tremendous amount of material and paradigmatic shifts effectively into very little space. This in particular, helps to give incarnational shape to his ideas, and allows them to speak prophetically against the sinful human desire to control the gospel as has occurred over the centuries. All in all, this work is as thorough as it is insightful—a real gem for the life of the church in mission.
Tracing The Main Idea:
In the first part of the book, Guder lays the foundation for an understanding of the nature of the church as mission. He asserts that “mission is witness” and that the “concept of witness provides a common missiological thread through all the New Testament language that expounds the church’s mission. It serves as an overarching term drawing together proclamation (kerygma), community (koinonia), and service (diakonia). ” Because of this, the Christian community must not primarily, nor only, proclaim its witness, but it must embody the content of the evangel as well in its very being and through its action as it attempt to live into the kingdom of God faithfully .
In the second section, Guder ties his exploration of the threefold nature of witness to the need for the church’s own experience of the evangel. Guder says it well:
“There is an inextricable relationship between Christian unity and missionary calling, between ecumenism and evangelization…If the Christian community is to carry out its mission of gospel witness, then its evangelization will be directed both to itself as well as to the world into which it is sent. We need to free our language and our thinking from the idea that evangelistic ministry is only directed to nonbelievers…For the sake of its evangelistic vocation, the continuing conversion of the church is essential” .
This need for our own continual conversion is the result of the temptation and implementation of a drastic “reductionism of the gospel that has become pervasive in our traditions and churches” . Thus:
“If we are to be translators of the gospel today, we need to understand the risks and opportunities of the translation that has passed the gospel “once delivered to the saints” through all these years to us. In that process, there has been a “reductionism of the gospel” which we must confront if we are to become a truly missional church” .
Where this reduction and concomitant risks are unavoidable as we seek to incarnate the gospel into our context, reductionism takes the necessity of reduction and holds the reductions themselves as normative, essentially replacing the gospel itself. Where reductions are made “absolute and then defended as normative truth” , we have replaced the gospel with an idol—a graven image that has little power to convert because it has lost its reference to its source . This reductionism results from the sinful human desire to control the gospel, to wield it in order to affect our own salvation and control its parameters and dispensation . Invoking Barth, Guder shows that in its most destructive form, this reductionism makes the Gospel essentially about its benefits for the individual Christian, and divorces these benefits “from the reason for which we receive God’s grace in Christ: to empower us as God’s people to become Christ’s witnesses” .
Guder asks with Barth, “What are Christians FOR?, WHY does God bring about their very existence” ? There have been two dominant answers over the centuries: one that affirms the individual salvation of Christians in leaving the world behind as a “vale of tears” in its move toward the “spiritual”, the other “identifies Christian existence almost entirely with the world”, where our focus is to make the world a better place and in turn find our salvation . Both of these answers employ the “classical” approach which equates salvation with that which man experiences and possesses . Recognizing this as an equation of salvation with its benefits, Barth, and vicariously, Guder, reposition salvation within its cosmic thrust and proper missional end. “The biblical focus is upon the relationship of the benefits of salvation to God’s call to serve”. Thus, the benefits of salvation are in order to prepare God’s people for works of service. Thus, the “experience of the benefits is always subordinated to the call and its purpose” .
The implications of the profound reductionism for God’s mission through the church cannot be overstated. “As the gospel proclaimed by the church has been reduced to individual salvation, that salvation has itself become the purpose and program of the church” . The church focuses inwardly upon how to experience and possess this salvation, and the participation of God’s people in the missio Dei becomes subservient to its preoccupation with itself and its position before God . In turn, the church’s participation in the missio Dei as witnesses to the fullness of the gospel for the sake of the world suffers.
In the third portion of his work, Guder attempts to draw all of his theses together under one essential commitment: the church must continually invite and respond to the gospel itself and thus allow for its own conversion so as to become faithful witnesses . This process should not be misunderstood as mere re-forming, since there are times when we must adopt a new form and understanding altogether. This is necessary for the church in our current context since “the emphasis upon ‘reform’ can , in fact, ignore the central missional vocation of the church, or narrow our focus to questions of our shape and organization, that is, issues of “form”” . What Guder proposes is a repentance and conversion to a gospel that is bigger than us, that we cannot wield, but only participate in, that orients us toward God’s own mission and love for the world, and allows us to reclaim our fundamental vocation as witnesses to that reality .
Guder attempts to reconstruct what a local community of faith might look like if it committed itself to continual conversion. While we do not have time to recount each of his six mutually contingent theses, suffice it to say that Guder proposes a provisional paradigm so that we might see what missional faithfulness to the gospel as witnesses might look like. This is admittedly not a one size fits all program designed to promote itself as the “best new way”, rather, it is a witness to what the commitment to the evangelization of the church takes—primarily, the continual conversion of the church, and only then, the world.
Guder’s premise here is an important one—that our witness is tied to more than our words about God, but exist in our ability to indwell the witness that we speak. That is, we are to be witnesses, to do witness and to say our witness to the evangel—the gospel. This understanding of our participation in salvation once again links the oft separated benefits of Christ to the mission to which we are called. Indeed, it makes primary our mission, for whose purpose the benefits are received. It answers the question of “what is salvation for” both emphatically and constructively as we locate our own salvation in God’s bigger mission to love the whole world . It is in this that we find that the gospel is so much bigger than we ever imagined, as it breaks free from our petty attempts to apprehend it and brings new life!
In summation of his study, Guder proposes a redefinition of evangelism in accord with all the foregoing:
Evangelism is GOD’S PEOPLE joyfully sharing the good news of the sovereign love of God and GOD’S SPIRIT calling all people to repentance, to personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, to active membership in the church, and to obedient service AND WITNESS in the world.
If we take this definition seriously, he says:
“then clearly evangelization can no longer be regarded merely as a set of methods and programs for recruiting church members. Nor can it be just a program of a denominational office or a parachurch evangelistic organization. It cannot be reduced to “twelve steps to soul-winning” or “four spiritual laws.” It cannot be narrowly defined as the process that leads to a particular kind of individual faith decision...Evangelization has to do with the fundamental calling of the church to respond to Jesus as Savior and submit to him as Lord. It is the vocation for which the Holy Spirit is given. The only way for the church to carry out its calling to be Christ’s witness is to seek, in all humility and in total dependence upon God’s gracious enabling power, to incarnate the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to be, to do, and to say witness to the saviorhood and lordship of Jesus Christ as God’s good news for the world.”
Personal Reflection:
This study was a watershed for me. Much of what Guder proposed had been swirling around in my own mind for some time, though largely undefined, unnamed and thus, still largely unknown. Guder has helped me to name many of the powers that hold the church (and myself) captive under their continual influence. The ability to name these powers is an essential description of our current situation, the status quo, with all of its contours and forms. In naming the powers that are so pervasive that they remain “largely unconscious” , we are given a gift—the ability to imagine a new future, one in which we do not have to accept wholesale , the reductionist gospel and the colonial cultural form it is packaged in. This in turn gives us a new way forward, where there previously existed no such way, into missional faithfulness, into our witnessing vocation and most importantly, into life. The gospel has once again broken into our midst and challenged our presuppositions, our commitments, our allegiances and the purity of our witness. And we in turn are made stronger in our response to this ‘good news’ through constant repentance and our continual conversion. As we step into this “new way of being” that frees us from every bondage, as we embody the evangel of the kingdom of God, and as we newly incarnate, participate and only then proclaim our witness, we and our world recognize just how good this news truly is! ( )
  jesposito | Aug 7, 2007 |
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Western society is now a very different, very difficult mission field. In such a situation, the mission of evangelism cannot succeed with an attitude of "business as usual." This volume builds a theology of evangelism that has its focus on the church itself. Darrell Guder shows that the church's missionary calling requires that the theology and practice of evangelism be fundamentally rethought and redirected, focused on the continuing evangelization of the church so that it can carry out its witness faithfully in today's world. In Part 1 Guder explores how, under the influence of reductionism and individualism, the church has historically moved away from a biblical theology of evangelism. Part 2 presents contemporary challenges to the church's evangelical ministry, especially those challenges that illustrate the church's need for continuing conversion. Part 3 discusses what a truly missional theology would mean for the church, including sweeping changes in its institutional structures and practices. Written for teachers, church leaders, and students of evangelism, this volume is vital reading for everyone engaged in mission work.

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