How Can We Learn Mission in America?
As the church has “improvised” the fifth act of the biblical story, we have lost the theme of suffering. While the biblical story is made up of individuals on the margins of society, in exile, wandering, and the very sufferings of Jesus, the contemporary church has grown accustomed to power in politics and in the marketplace. Scott Sunquist says that in such an environment, “Mission turn[s] inward, with the support and power of the state, as a movement to keep the church unified and pure.” Just as in the eras of Constantine and the Crusades, the contemporary church has been co-opted by political agendas and causes. As Christianity is slowly losing its majority hold on 21st-century American culture, the church should see the opportunities provided to renew its mission. A long line of monks and ascetics provided diverse examples we need to learn from as we return to our mission from the place of weakness, which has been where mission is always strongest. They provide great lessons about separation from worldliness that will prove essential in the near future of the church.
As we move from a place of strength, we will have to lose our reliance on business models and the culture around us. Instead, we will have to turn to the Holy Spirit, who seems to have become a stranger to the American church. I agree with Samuel Escobar: “While theologians seem to be at home in handling words from the Word and in formulating precise orthodox propositions about the content of the faith, they do not know exactly how to handle the reality of the Holy Spirit at work in the church and in the world”. We will be challenged to learn from our Pentecostal brothers and sisters. Even though we might disagree, we have to confess that they have at least taken the work of the Spirit more seriously than the rest of us have. While challenging, this provides us with a unique opportunity to recover a love for the renewing work of the Spirit in our churches, and, hopefully, will aid Pentecostal churches in formulating an understanding of the Spirit in an orthodox manner. Without each other, we will not be able to set out on mission through the power of the Spirit.