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"Church historian Kenneth Latourette (1884-1963) noted that the church has a history of advance and retreat, what he called "the pulsations in the life of Christianity." Lautorette points out that the history of the church is a history of oscillating influence, spreading the gospel across the globe over the centuries. This has resulted in new expressions of the Christian faith over time and across cultures. It is amazing to consider the diversity and uniqueness of the gospel throughout space and time among the peoples of history! Today, expressions of the gospel are exploding in Africa and Asia.
These new expressions of Christian faith are more than intriguing. They are, in fact, an expansion of God's glory. You might think that God's glory un-expandable and already complete. Not according to Jonathan Edwards. In The History of Redemption, Edwards argues that God's glory is incomplete:
God looks on the communication of himself, and the emanation of the infinite glory and good that are in himself to belong to the fullness and completeness of himself, as though he were not in his most complete and glorious state without it. Thus the church of Christ is called the fullness of Christ: as though he were not in his complete state without her.
God's glory in an incomplete state? His glory is not full? Sounds awfully unorthodox. What is Edwards saying?
If Edwards is correct, the full expression of God's glory can only be completed through the history of redemption. The history of redemption cannot be completed until "the end has come," and the end will not come until "the gospel of the kingdom has been preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations" (Matt 24:14). God's glory is expanded when the gospel is translated into the many cultures of the world, entering new ethnicities, idioms, and habits. It will take the breadth of history to display the diversity of God's glory through the advance of the church.
However, the church also retreats. Our passion for mission wanes. Even with the resurgence of missional ecclesiology, we fail in sharing and showing the gospel in our own cultures. Clearly, the missional church is not enough, not only in its scope of mission, but also in its motivation for mission. When the motivation of the church is mission, we are destined to retreat, tire out, and fail. What, then, should we do? Throw up our arms in surrender and blend fully into our cultures with the hope of missional memory loss?
We need a greater, more captivating motivation than "missional church." When the motivation for mission is mission, people will revert to consumerism. However, if our missional endeavors are motivated by something greater, more certain, than our oscillating passion for the advance of the gospel, then there is hope. If the history of redemption will not come to a close until God's glory has been completed, then the assurance of mission starts and ends, not with the church, but with God! God's commitment to his own glorious expansion throughout space and time is the hope of the world. The hope of mission is not the church; it is Jesus committed to ushering his full, redemptive reign over all space and time, including every people."To read the complete article please click here.