Jesus’ wholistic mission and the Church (John Oswalt on Isaiah 9)

follow-me-satan-temptation-of-jesus-christ-1903.jpg!HalfHDIn his comments on Isaiah 9:2-4, Dr. John Oswalt makes this astute reflection on the wholistic mission of Christ that the church must keep ahold of in talking about salvation in Christ.

They [God’s people] rejoice because the Lord has freed them. It is not necessary to look for some specific liberation which Isaiah has in mind. It is apparent from the whole context that it is final deliverance which is in view. This is what God holds out to his people and that for which they justly pray and believe. Two extremes are to be avoided here. One extreme is to take the way that the Christian Church has often taken, saying that true bondage is to personal sin from which Christ frees us, and thus turning a blind eye on actual physical oppression. The other extreme is the way of certain forms of liberation theology that seem to suggest that the only sin is the sin of political oppression, and that Christ’s only purpose in coming was to give human beings political freedom.

Neither extreme is adequate in itself. To make God’s promises primarily political is to overlook the profound insight of the NT (and the OT) that the chief reason for the absence of šālôm (harmonious relationships) among human beings is the absence of šālôm between God and human beings through sin. Without šālôm between persons, freedom cannot long exist. But to act as if the forgiveness of sin and the consequent personal relationship are all that matters is to succumb to a Platonic distinction of existence into a “real” spiritual world and an “unreal” physical world, a distinction which is thoroughly unbiblical. The Messiah lifts the yoke of sin in order to lift the yoke of oppression. The Church forgets either yoke at its peril.

From John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, chapters 1-39 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 243.

The Christian faith is a missionary faith: David Bosch on mission and missions

David Bosch (center) with Desmond Tutu (right) and Michael Cassidy (left)

Here is South African missiologist David Bosch on the nature of the church and mission from his milestone work Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission.

The Christian faith, I submit, is intrinsically missionary….This dimension of the Christian faith is not an optional extra: Christian is missionary by its very nature, or it denies its very raison d’être.

Christian mission gives expression to the dynamic relationship between God and the world, particularly as this was portrayed, first, in the story of the covenant people of Israel and then, supremely, in the birth, life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth.

The entire Christian existence is to be characterized as missionary existence….The church begins to be missionary  not through its universal proclamation of the gospel, but through the universality of the gospel it proclaims.

Theologically speaking, “foreign missions” is not a separate entity. The missionary nature of the church does not just depend on the situation in which it finds itself at a given moment but is grounded in the gospel itself. The justification and foundation for foreign missions, as for home missions, ‘lies in the universality of salvation and the indivisibility of the reign of Christ.’ The difference between home and foreign missions is not one of principle but of scope.

We have to distinguish between mission (singular) and missions (plural). The first refers primarily to the missio Dei (God’s mission), that is, God’s self-revelation as the One who loves the world, God’s involvement in and with the world, the nature and activity of God, which embraces both the church and the world, and in which the church is privileged to participate. Missio Dei enunciates the good news that God is a God-for=-people. Missions (the missiones ecclesiae: the missionary ventures of the church), refer to particular forms, related to specific times, places or needs, of participation in the missio Dei.

The church-in-mission…is not identical with God’s reign yet not unrelated to it either; it is ‘a foretaste of its coming, the sacrament of its anticipation in history.’ Living in the creative tension of, at all the same time, being called out of the world and sent into the world, it is challenged to be God’s experimental garden on earth, a fragment of the reign of God, having ‘the first fruits of the Spirit’ (Rom 8:23) as a pledge of what is to come (2 Cor 1:22).

[Excerpts from David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991), pages 8-11.]

A brief reading list on mission

Many times I’ll offer some readings lists to correspond with our teaching series at Eastbrook. Alongside of our series “God in Blank Spaces,” I wanted to share some resources I believe are worth looking at in brief or reading entirely. Some of these are general, while a few others are specific to our Missions Festival theme, “God of the Displaced Ones.”

Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens and Dr. Issam Smeir. Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016.

David J. Bosch. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991.

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts, 2nd edition. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014.

Vincent J. Donovan. Christianity Rediscovered. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2003.

Bryant L. Meyers. Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development, revised edition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011.

Lesslie Newbigin. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989.

Michael Pocock and Enoch Wan, editors. Diaspora Missiology: Reflections on Reaching the Scattered Peoples of the World. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2015.

Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang Yang. Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009.

Christopher J. H. Wright. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006.


7 on Mission (discussion questions)

becoming-7-series-gfx_app-squareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “7 on Mission,” which is the second part of our series, “Becoming 7,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When have you felt most energized in your life with God? What was going on and what led you to that place?
  2. This week we continue our series “Becoming 7” by looking at what it means to become “7” on outreach. We will turn to the Book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke. As you begin your study, ask God to speak to you through His word. Then, whether you are with a group or on your own, read Luke 24:46-49 and Acts 1:1-11 aloud.
  3. Background: The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts fit together as a two-part work by Luke, an early Christian and a physician, writing the first century. The Gospel of Luke focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus, moving from Galilee to Jerusalem. The book of Acts continues the story after Jesus’ resurrection, following the work of God through the church, moving from Jerusalem to the nations (and Rome, specifically).
  4. As Luke recounts the events after the resurrection, he tells of Jesus’ activities until the time He returns to the Father. What is Jesus doing and for how long is He doing these things (verses 1-3)?
  5. Looking at verses 4 and 5, what does Jesus ask of the disciples? Why do you think Jesus is making this sort of request of the disciples? What other options might they have considered?
  6. The Holy Spirit is the personal presence of God in the life of every person who reaches out to God through Jesus Christ by faith. What do you think it means for us to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit in our own lives?
  7. The disciples ask a question in verse 6 that Jesus redirects in verse 7. What was the disciples’ concern and what is Jesus’ teaching on this point?
  8. Acts 1:8 is a pivotal verse in this chapter and the history of God’s people. How would you outline what Jesus is calling these apostles to in this verse?
  9. Compare the words of Acts 1:8 to the teaching of Jesus in Luke 24:46-49, which is often called Luke’s “Great Commission.” How do they fit together?
  10. The book of Acts traces the early believers as they live out what Jesus calls them to do here in Acts 1:8, witnessing to Him from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. This is a universal call for the good news about Jesus to go out to all people, high and low, rich and poor, near and far. If this is our calling, how are you living out this calling right now? What are some ways you think you could live the calling out more fully in your everyday life?
  11. What is one specific thing that God is speaking to you through this study about being called by God as His witnesses? How will that shape your life in the coming week? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone.

7 on Mission


I continued our “Becoming 7” series this weekend at Eastbrook with a message called “7 on Mission.” This series is an overview of our vision for the year, focusing on our big five vision objectives: becoming a Revelation 7:9-10 church; growing disciples; reaching out; multiplying leaders; and increasing church engagement. Sometimes we aim to become a “10” but in this series we will talk about why we are aiming for “7” instead.

You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Becoming 7 (Revelation 7:9-10)

“There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9)



The Movement of Mission (Acts 1:8; Luke 24:46-49) 

  • Called to life in Jesus
  • Called to power in the Holy Spirit
  • Called to witness in word and deed
  • Called to the other – the nations


Four Tensions

  • The inward / outward life of the church
  • The church focused on Jesus / the church focused on others
  • The power of God / the work of the church
  • The church at peace with God / the church at odds with the world


Becoming 7 on Discipleship

  • Our goal at Eastbrook