Missio Apostolica May 2015 - Individual Articles
Inside this Issue
Our readers may anticipate here a wide variety of points of view on a popular topic of our time known as Spiritism. That this hitherto relatively unnoticed movement is at work today substantially among Christians and Christian households is the focus of several essays in this issue.
These essays and narratives testify to direct divine intervention in people’s lives in radically unfamiliar ways, especially in crises situations. When people were faced with dead ends and nowhere else to turn, God rescued them from peril and disaster, manifesting his power and might in dramatic ways. In retrospect, they recall that these were real occurrences when God intervened in unprecedented ways, abnormal and atypical as they seem to be for others. Was God whispering in their ears a new direction, when they thought that all doors were shut and they knew no place else to turn?
While many readers will nod their heads as they internalize these authors’ testimonies, others will dismiss some as irrational, surreal, and hallucinatory, presuming them to be primitive, arcane, and cryptic—accounts that perhaps had in times past a place in infantile cultures and spiritualities, but are irrelevant to today’s dominant culture. To the contrary, we notice that many of the writers are experienced teachers of religion and distinguished theologians who live stateside and are sufficiently informed of other cultures and religious traditions. The editors debated if all the testimonies would find a place in the journal, but by consensus agreed to proceed, bearing in mind that our mission impels us to engage the Gospel with a world awash in an assortment of worldviews.
Yet, we begin this issue with an intriguing article on the collapse of Christendom in America penned by Robert Newton, veteran missionary, seminary professor, and district president (LCMS—California, Nevada, Hawaii). Newton challenges the mainline denominations to ask themselves, “Who are we as Christ’s church in this society? What is our role? How do we serve? How do we proclaim God’s Word to people who seem increasingly indifferent to its saving message?”
Other articles in this issue include Armand Boehme’s account of a mid-winter 2015 convocation at Luther Seminary titled “Religious but not Spiritual?,” a new trend that bespeaks the apparent disconnect between spiritual and religious in contemporary America. Contrary to the historic traditions of this country, in today’s culture an increasing number of young adults perceive the church as a place where religion happens but contributes little to spiritual nourishment and well-being. “Can a person be religious without being spiritual?” R. Lee Hagan, on the other hand shows that Lutheran congregations thrive in America’s rural neighborhoods, if only nourished and nurtured appropriately with the Means of Grace and properly guided to pursue the way of the Lord.
Internationally, Jeff Oschwald describes how God accomplishes great things through little pastors, narrating the story of how Lutheran mission first entered China. Hailu Yohannes Bulaka from Ethiopia reflects on the Holy Spirit’s activity within the prevailing culture of pluralism and a cacophony of spiritualities in that country. The reflections of a young Brazilian Lutheran on how the metaphor of warfare speaks directly to his native culture are compelling. Christian cross-bearing in any context is true testimony of the Crucified One. This journal is fully committed to making Him known throughout the world. Welcome to the conversation.
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Conflicting Missiologies - Victor Raj
English Protestant Missionary James Hudson Taylor (1832–1905) is credited with the coining of the popular catchphrase, “The Great Commission,” although it is widely acknowledged that the actual origin of the term among Christians predates Taylor. Heeding the Lord’s directive (Mt 28:18¬–20; Acts 1:8), the people of God had been engaging God’s mission long before mission societies were constituted and the Church became institutionalized in its historic and contemporary forms.
Truly Confessional: Responding to the Collapse of Christendom - Robert Newton
Abstract: Postmodernism has pushed many Christian churches in America to a state of cultural, theological, and ecclesiastical crisis, marked by profound questions of identity. “What’s our purpose as Christ’s church in America?” “How do we remain faithful to Christ and His Word?” Its confessional moorings enable Lutheran churches to avoid two pitfalls prevalent among other Christian churches: Compromise of biblical truth and/or shallow discipleship. In their desire to remain faithful, however, Lutherans are tempted to circle their confessional wagons in defense of the Gospel, thereby diminishing their missionary vocation in the world. To remain truly confessional Lutherans must keep first and foremost their evangelical identity and purpose.
Spirituality and Religion: The Shift From East to West and Beyond - Armand J. Boehme
Abstract:The spiritual but not religious phenomena is receiving increasing attention. People are becoming more individually religious, some are spiritual and religious, and some describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. Historical trends toward a more individualistic religion and spirituality are investigated. Various parameters of the religious/spiritual divide are examined. An overview of the broad range of modern spirituality is given. The conclusion sets forth avenues the church might pursue to address the trend to a more individualistic view of religion and spirituality and the need for further study of these trends.i
My Pilgrimage in Spiritism - Herbert Hoefer
Abstract:Herbert Hoefer shares with us his experiences and reflections concerning Spiritism. He draws both on experiences from his service in India and also from here in the States. He shares the challenges he has wrestled with as his Western worldview and theology have been challenged by these experiences.
My organizing principle in this article is chronological, basically my pilgrimage of views and experiences on the topic of Spiritism. My thought is that the readers might possibly identify themselves with me somewhere in this account.
Spiritism in Papua New Guinea: The Challenges It Sets Before Western Christians - John Eggert
Abstract:Christians acknowledge the realities of the spiritual world. However, spiritual activity among the people of Papua New Guinea, where animistic traditions and Christianity exist side by side, provide interesting challenges to Western Christian practices. This article leads one to think about Paul’s words in Ephesians 6—“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” How is our world influenced by spiritual ways, not only with our Western scientific understanding of how the world works?
Powers and Principalities/Signs and Wonders - Kent R. Hunter
Abstract:The power of God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, though our culture, training, and worldviews challenge us to believe this. Comfort levels are stretched when we start to personally experience the power that is in the name of Jesus Christ. The supernatural elements of our faith (spiritual gifts, signs, and wonders) are still active and at work today. Many Christians in North America may be surprised to learn of the increasing numbers of deliverances and healing taking place in churches and ministries across the country. There is power in the name of Jesus, and revival is upon us.
Partnering in Ministry with Amerindians - John J. Babbitts, Jr.
Abstract:Outreach to the Amerindian people requires that we overcome both internal and external challenges. These challenges touch upon current conditions, matters of culture, heritage, and old wounds. It also requires that we look beyond our own contributions to be made so that our Amerindian brothers and sisters in Christ can take their rightful place in the work of God’s kingdom. This article will address what partnership should look like and the necessity of genuine reconciliation.
Spirits and Spiritism among the LDS - Phillip L. Brandt
Abstract: Despite being the product of post-Enlightenment culture and rooted in the industrialized West, the LDS tradition has retained significant space within its piety for practices and sensibilities which admit a spiritual realm which has a direct impact upon the person. The author, through personal reflection and experiences, seeks to introduce the reader to LDS approaches to that spirit realm and the consequences of those approaches. The article focuses primarily on experiences with LDS individuals with whom he came into contact during a decade of pastoral service in Utah and subsequently as a professor of Theology at Concordia University, Portland, Oregon.
HMong Spiritism - Kou Seying
Abstract: At the heart of any Spiritism is suffering—a suffering without hope. Articles written about the HMong religious practices rarely touch on this aspect of life. This article exposes the central difficult issues, presents the historical problems of remedies, and finally offers a true theology of the cross approach to deal with this devastating disguise of the devil, namely HMong Spiritism.
Halloween: A Fun Neighborhood Event or Participation in the World of Spirits? - Miriam Carter & Jeanette Dart
Abstract:Halloween is a very popular holiday in the United States. This article reviews its history and explores connections to spirits, witches, fear, and ongoing practices. The article seeks to clarify ways in which Christians can respond to this holiday and even be in mission.
Big Challenges for Small-Town Congregations - R. Lee Hagan
Abstract: There are significant challenges facing rural communities and congregations today. However, there has been little consideration of the great mission opportunities that exist in rural and small-town settings. This article will identify some of the challenges that exist, but also point out the opportunities for community engagement by our congregations. Rather than simply ignoring our rural congregations or writing them off altogether, this article seeks to affirm the congregations by reminding them of the gifts with which God has blessed them and encourage them in God’s mission to their particular communities.
Theology of Holy Spirit: Experiences of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus - Hailu Yohannes Bulaka
Abstract:The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) is the largest Lutheran church in Africa which proclaims the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ and fast growing Church. The Church is not only serving for spiritual needs of a person but also physical needs. The motto of church service is “serving the whole person” better known as Wholistic Ministry. The church has been called by God to proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior of all humankind. The church believes and professes that the Bible both Old and New Testaments are the Holy Word of God and the only guiding source of her life and ministry. My article is to show the role in its evangelistic growth and its challenges as the church grows very fast. The article meant to give sound and biblical understanding of “Theology of Holy Spirit” and experience of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. I hope this article blesses many believers around the globe. May God bless those who read this article.
From Everyday Language to a Culturally-Embedded Metaphor: Identifying a Tool for Teaching about the Christian Life in Brazil - Samuel Fuhrmann
Abstract: By noticing how people speak of life in everyday language, one can better understand their cultures. Such an understanding can help one think about how the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be preached and lived out in particular contexts. This paper is an attempt toward that end. In what follows, then, we apply metaphor theory to Brazilian culture and move on to a theological reflection in order to offer a tool to teach about the Christian life in Brazilian context. In such an attempt, we pay special attention to the important distinction between salvation and Christian life narratives, in order that the biblical teaching about the Christian life may be fostered and the believer comforted in times of distress.
Great Things through Little Preachers - Jeffrey A. Oschwald
Abstract: Martin Luther’s high esteem for the pastoral office is well known, well documented, and well loved. Although Luther did not write extensively on the Acts of the Apostles, he does return again and again in a variety of contexts to the apparent contradiction of the “little preachers”: Stephen, Philip, and Apollos. Luther’s discussions of the way God used these men forces us to ask important questions about our understanding of the task laid upon the church today and the situation(s) of the church around the world. Luther’s words also invite us to celebrate the great things God continues to do through His “little preachers.”