November 30, 2011

Whose example of mission?

I was really struck by this quote as I read Joel Willitts's review of DeYoung and Gilbert's recent book on the church and mission:

Paul is not the primary model for the church’s work in the world. He was the apostle to the Gentiles (Gal 2) and was called uniquely to fulfill that particular role. Paul describes his role in 2 Corinthians 2—3 comparing his New Covenant ministry to Moses’ Old Covenant ministry. Our model for church mission, if we can find such a thing in Acts and Paul’s letters, should not be Paul, but the communities Paul left behind.
I was instantly a bit hesitant about that main statement, that Paul isn't the primary model for the church. But as I ruminated on it a bit more, I see much wisdom in it. Paul is obviously an example we should follow, someone we should imitate even as we imitate Christ. But he occupied a very particular place in the plan of God, with a unique role in salvation history as the apostle to the Gentiles. So while I think there is much wisdom in seeking the missionary methods and especially the message of Paul, we should also focus on how envisioned his churches to function, and that might be a better example yet. Food for thought.

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