Editor’s Note: In his doctoral dissertation, Reverend Pat Bailey of Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church is claiming the need for a re-visioning of the Christian church’s theology and its understanding of mission, the need for a more natural, integrative theology and for an earth-focused, contextual approach to mission. This is part of an ongoing series on the subject.
One of the sources that I have relied upon to inform my re-visioning of the church’s mission is theologian Kirsteen Kim who argues that the starting place for mission is the Spirit. (see Kim’s “The Holy Spirit in the World: A Global Conversation.”)
Kim relates her understanding of Christian mission to the mission of the Spirit, including the work of the Spirit beyond the Christian church and tradition. She proposes that the development of a Spirit focused mission “suggests a mission theology whose starting point can be none other than a particular experience of the Spirit in the world, which interacts with other contextual theologies arising in different geographical locations, social conditions, and religious world views, where the Spirit is at work.”
Christian mission practiced within the broader mission of the Spirit, then, becomes more an attempt to live in the Spirit than a task to be accomplished, more a spirituality than a strategy.
This implies a salvation of fulfillment and maturation rather than a legal or covenantal transaction, which may be more in keeping with the apostle Paul’s theology of Spirit in which being ‘in the Spirit’ is decisively different from being under the law or ‘in the flesh,’ not in the sense of being an alternative or disembodied way of life, but rather an altogether higher quality of living. Kim notes that in Paul’s writings Spirit is almost synonymous with grace and that the gift of the Spirit is used to describe the transition and transformation associated with faith. Paul was not arguing so much for faith over works as an openness to Spirit over conformity to law and doctrine.
Do you think it appropriate or not to think of Spirit in broader terms than Christian faith and doctrine? Does a salvation or transformation aimed at fulfillment, maturation, and a higher quality of living appeal to you? What role might the church play in promoting and resourcing ‘living in the Spirit?’