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Approaching Mission the wrong way
Dr Graeme Smith suggests we are approaching mission the wrong way.  We should listen to what people think Christianity is, and join them there.

My experience has been to listen to people inside the Churches.  Often, when they first speak of God, it is in words and phrases from the liturgy, or from sermons.  But when these are explored in more depth, what they seem to mean to the speakers is something very personal.  Rarely is it the orthodoxy of the Churches’ official statements.  More usually it is an eclectic collection of beliefs and principles grounded in experience.

Versions of Arianism and Pelagianism are commonplace.  Jesus might be called divine, but he is often thought of as a super-special creature.  He is not really man, in any recognisable sense, nor is he God (the Father).  Also, it is those who do good who go to heaven.

These beliefs are held illicitly.  Church members recognise that they are theological contraband, so it takes some time to discover them.

The question for Western missionaries is whether we correct them or affirm them.  My inclination is to the latter – what authority do we have for the former?  And this, it seems, is the essence of contemporary mission.

For example, a church group wanted to produce a booklet about baptism for unchurched parents and godparents.  They began with the usual stuff, the symbolism of water and light illustrating new birth in the family of the Church.  But further discussion revealed a different agenda: they wanted to say that their Church was a friendly place, where people could feel comfortable – this was their theology of baptism.  It was not an addition to the notion of new birth and the symbolism of light and water, but instead of it. 

So, affirming the notion of welcome, rather than new birth, as the appropriate, or even legitimate, theology of baptism would be an example of contemporary missiology.

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