Bishop Tom Wright (Bishop of Durham) has been reported as saying, “We talk in our day about ‘mission-shaped Church’. But mission has to be shaped by what in the trade we call eschatology. In other words, what you believe about what God has promised to do eventually, must shape the way you do mission.”
As someone who is involved in the Fresh Expressions movement and has read the Church of England report `Mission shaped Church` I find this quotation interesting.
Eschatology refers to the study of the end of things, specifically in Christian Eschatology it refers to the end of life, and what God has promised to do in the next life. Basically Tom Wright is saying that what we believe about Heaven and Hell, about the salvation Jesus has offered us should affect the way we go about mission. So often mission has been a readily defined formula of “hit em with the Gospel, and get away before they know whats happened !” I too was once engaged in what I would call `hit and run` missions and would still place a value upon them today in certain circumstances. However Tom Wright is pointing us towards a more relational approach in as much as when we realise what God has done for us then we desire it for those closest to us also. Hit and run isn`t necessarily about those closest to us, but its a bit more scattered. Relational evangelism is about getting alongside the person, getting to know them, showing an interest in them and allowing that to open up opportunities for meaningful conversation in which your own heart for Jesus can be revealed. However, that takes time.
Now part of the Christian eschatological belief is that the end of the world may come at any moment. This does put a certain urgency on all we do or say. If we think the world could end tomorrow then it affects the way in which we talk and share with our nearest and dearest today; there’s nothing quite like the thoughts of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (below) for focusing the mind on salvation and specifically salvation of others.
So how do we marry the two aspects together ? the need to take time in evangelism and the urgency which the Bible seems to speak of ?