I was recently reading some Newbigin material on the definition of mission. It struck me that he considers the definition of mission to be limited to sharing the news of Christ.
Last century there was a split between liberal and conservative Christians on this topic. The liberals were into “the social gospel” and conservatives were into “the proclamational gospel.” Today, there seems to be a shift away from this division in an attempt to be holistic. Warren’s PEACE plan, for example, calls for taking on the “5 Giants” (Plant churches, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation). Three of the five have to do with the social gospel. Another example of this has to to do with an emphasis on “Business as Mission.” In this model, helping economically is seen as the avenue to share Christ.
What Newbigin points out is that these may be forms of a new sort of colonialism. It is the “have” cultures going to the “have not” cultures and giving them solutions to their problems. He makes the case that Paul didn’t emphasize this.
As I have reflected on this I have realized that city ministry (not the typical poor urban ministry, but ministry within a thriving metropolis) may be somewhat insulated from this type of approach. Any ministry, for that matter, which takes place in highly industrialized nations may also be immune to this sort of “haves to have nots” ministry. Japan, for example, has been highly resistant to missionary efforts. Could it be that our methods are a reason for this? What would happen if we skipped the social part and went straight to the gospel? This is what I hear often from my friends in the Charasmatic/Pentecostal mission movements and statistics tell us that they have been remarkably successful over the past 100 years.