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방콕설악포럼 2019-6: Lessons from The Grass-root Missions in Acts and Implementations in 21th century Context 프린트   
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Lessons from The Grass-root Missions in Acts and Implementations in 21th century Context   

 

Chang Nam Son (OMF)

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1. Question Framing

 

Missionary efforts have been a primary interest among Christians ever since the spread of Korean protestant churches. Soon after the ordination of pastors, the Korean Presbyterian Church sent the denominations first missionary to Jeju Island in 1907. At its initial stages of development in 1950s, churches of Korea continued to send missionary support overseas, including China and Thailand, to name a few. 

However, major Korean mission movement can be said to have begun in the late 1980s. It is indisputable that the number of Korean missionaries went through an rapid growth in volume in the past 25 years; recording over twenty thousand missionaries introducing the Gospel to over 200 countries, which began from a meager hundreds of missionaries.

The Korean church and its members emphasize that a critical factor for the momentum of Korean mission lies in the sustaining grace of God in terms of material blessings within the nations Christian community. This is clearly revealed in the consistent endeavor and solid support of Korean churches for sending out thousands of short-terms mission teams overseas year after year.  

However, strong doubts have been raised by many, concerning whether the mission model the Korean churches intend to follow has been verified both biblically and historically, as well as whether its adaptability for the two third world countries. 

 

2. Two Thesis Topics

 

Majority of mission models around the world is adapted from Acts 13 where Paul and Barnabas of Antioch Church embark on what is known as the first missionary journey. However, looking deeper into the book of Acts, it is evident that mission work actually started earlier from previous chapter. For example, Stephens martyrdom in Chapter 7 led to the scattering of the disciples and the spread of the Gospel making way for the grass-root missions as being recorded at Acts Chapters 11 verses 19 to 20. The authors intention for Chapters 13 to 28 of Acts is most likely to provide details of Paul and Barnabasteam and the episodes that occurred during their mission trip.  

 

With that said, the mission model adapted by Korean churches for the last two centuries appears to be an emulation of the western mission model dating back to Paul and Barnabas. For the past three decades, missions of International organizations as well as various indigenous organizations founded in Korea[1], have been mimicking the mission model of western churches and western mission organizations.

This article examines the mission movement started by the scattering of the disciples in Acts chapters 8 to 12 and proposes to recover the spirit of grassroots missions with the objectives to adopt it as the ministry model for the Korean church. Furthermore, this article surveys the social context of the evangelism in the book of Acts and puts forth various types of ministry relevant and appropriate for the 21st century.  

 

I. Grass-root Missions Movement of Acts

 

During the span of over 100 years of spreading the Gospel, the Korean churchs perception and evaluation of mission ministry have been simply based on its number of missionaries. Likewise, Koreas recognition as the worlds second largest missionary-sending countryis probably based on its number of missionaries sent overseas. Additionally, the title of a missionaryalso implies the Career Missionary,which entails the full support system of the sending church, mission organization, and individual supporters. These support groups are considered as prerequisites in the makings of the legitimatemissionary. 

The Career Missionarysupposition is based on Acts 13 where it frames the context of Antioch Church and the missionary send-off of Paul and Barnabas. Recognized as the inception of first overseas mission, Acts 13 is sanctioned as the standard mission model by the larger consensus. However, the act of blindly accepting the mission model in Acts 13 casts a serious doubt on the fundamental principle of missions. Because it is very likely that the mission models which we used to know during the last 200 years were thought to be the models of Paul and Barnabas.

In recent years, the concept of modern day mission has grown increasingly diverse and complex. Its magnified scope is difficult to contain in any number of sophisticated words. Digging deeper into the essential meaning of missions then, one eventually reaches to the undeniable conclusion that Missions is the act of witnessing Christ cross-culturally.Examining Acts 13 in this major premise, it becomes clear that the mission movement began from previous chapters. 

 

1. A New Perspective on the Scattered People

 

I propose a new angle in perceiving the timeline of the Christian mission movement in the Gospel. Getting to the bottom-line, Acts 8 deserves our missiological attention based on the events of Stephens martyrdom resulting in the persecution and scattering of Christians to Samaria and Antioch.

These people groups are mentioned twice in passages below as scattered peopleoriginating from Jerusalem.  

Acts 8:1 ...the disciples were scattered...

Acts 11:19 Now those who have been scattered by persecution…”

Here, we see that the disciples in Jerusalem ended up being scattered due to the stoning of Stephen. Although it is unclear whether the two verses are speaking of identical individuals, one indisputable fact is that they broke off from the same group. Hence begins the intriguing juxtaposition of the missionary journey found in these two passages and the difference in their respective targets for evangelism. 

Looking into the first journey, Acts 8:5 focuses on Philip, one out of seven deacons, from the group of scattered people. Verses 5 through 12 records that Philip preached the Gospel to the people of Samaria.[2] Proclaiming the word of Christ to those already familiar with concept of Messiah, like the Samaritans, was received as culturally appropriate. 

On the other hand, Acts 11:20 illustrates that the scattered disciples shared the good news about the Lord Jesus to the Hellenists (Greek-speaking non-Jews) in Antioch.[3] The Greek word "kyrios" means Lordat times denoting godsin religious usage. By championing the use of Greek vernacular, it was possible for the apostles to effectively deliver the word of God in foreign cultures. In this respect, it could be said they were cross-cultural people who clearly carried out evangelistic missions.[4] 

It is conjecturable they were appropriate to carry out the cross-cultural ministry since most of them had Jewish diaspora background. In Acts 2, there was clear evidence indicating those who returned to Jerusalem to observe the day of Pentecost were among the people who received the word and scattered. They might have thorough understanding on other cultures and had been proficient in other languages, as well as confident in evangelizing other diaspora. In fact, it could be viewed as the Stephen's martyrdom in chapter 7 might had been initiated from the Synagogue, where Cilician Jews attended. Therefore, speculating the presence of Saul, who is from Tarsus, Cilicia, is only natural. 

They were austere counterpoint to the twelve disciples, men of Galilee, who followed Jesus from the beginning. In the book of Acts, Jesus' disciples are addressed twice as men of Galilee in chapter 1 and 2.[5]              That implies that they were not so much prepared for cross-cultural ministry. What then defines the reason behind the postponement of the missions movement until it was carried out by the scattered people, as recorded in chapter 8 and 11? This might have been the limit the Jerusalem church had on her missionary ministry.   

The twelve disciples of Jesus who came from Galilee and settled down at Jerusalem still found it innately difficult to be exposed to other cultures. Accordingly, the Lord prepared to spread the Gospel to the gentiles through a new group: Jewish diaspora. Other convincing evidence that the Jerusalem church recognized her limitation could be found in chapter 8 and 11 respectively

In chapter 8 verse 14, upon hearing the news of the Samaritan church established, the Jerusalem church sent off Peter and John. This is readily comprehensible, considering the distance between Samaria and Jewish cultures. The other hand, as being noted in chapter 11 verse 22, when the news of gentile believers in Antioch reached the Jerusalem church, they sent off Barnabas instead of Peter and John. According to Acts 4 verse 36, he was a Cyrus-born Jewish diaspora.

Peter's visit to Cornelius' house, which recorded in entire verses of chapter 10 and chapter 11 verse 1 through 18, is a quick illustration that depicts how the Jerusalem church viewed the gentiles. Peter was not sure that he was to enter a house of the gentile. So God chose Cornelius to invite Peter to his house rather to asker Peter to visit Cornelius.

After the sent off, Barnabas’s testimony of accounting the grace of God at Antioch was nothing to be amazed about. The wording of the report may have been different if it were Peter and John went to Antioch. 

Moreover, when the new ministry needs arose, he could have put a request for an additional worker from his sending church in Jerusalem. However, he rather brought Saul, another Jewish diaspora from Tarsus, and partnered with him in ministry of Antioch

The Gospel, which originated from Galilee, seemed passed on to the next runner in Jerusalem, however, such was not the only illustrated in chapter 11. This continued to be demonstrated as in Aquila and Priscilla's case as recorded in chapter 18; deacon Philip, who continued to live as an evangelist in Caesarea, as found in chapter 20; Nahshon in chapter 21 who remained as a long time disciple; and other brothers who came to the three taverns to greet Paul in Rome in chapter 28

 

2. The Uniqueness of Apostle Paul's Mission

 

It is worth noting Acts 9:15 again to confirm the significant difference between Apostle Paul's missionary ministry and that of the scattered people. When Paul lost his eyesight at Damascus, God commanded Ananias to lay his hand on Paul. He foretold the tasks that Paul would carry out in the future, "to carry my name before the gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel."

It is clearly evident that these three listed groups lack uniformity. The mentioning of the Jews and the gentiles pertain to ethnicity, whereas the kings refer to the people in high status. Subsequent to Paul’s capture in Acts 22, he was to stand before governors and tetrarchs, eventually before the Caesar in Rome as a prisoner; testifying Christ as he explains the reason for his imprisonment and appeal to Caesar.[6]

In Act 19:21, Apostle Paul spoke of his planned journey to Rome via Jerusalem, however, it was clear the purpose of the journey was not to testify the Gospel. He made his intention clear in the book of Romans.  Accounting the fact that the believers in Rome welcomed Paul at Foro Appio and Tre-Taverne, this indicates the Gospel had already been spread, and the community of believers was established in prior to Paul’s arrival. 

When Paul's statement, "I would not be building on someone else's foundation," is taken at a literal sense, it makes the argument more compelling that the reason for Paul's visit to Rome was not intended for evangelism and missions.[7]

The grassroots missions done by the scattered people and the missionary movement initiated by Paul and Barnabas (P-B), which we have looked at previously, come in the light of major difference when you observe the following table below.

.

 

Grass-root Model

P-B Model

Agents of Missions

all believers (except the Apostles)

the Apostles

Target Group

all people

gentiles + kings

Mission Field

all areas

areas limited by strategic decisions

Organization

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