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“The new discipleship needs to teach theologically to think biblically about everything”

The Spanish Evangelical Alliance publishes a report “to help churches reflect on the missionary challenges and possibilities of the new normality”.

AUTOR 45/Jonatan_Soriano,5/Evangelical_Focus BARCELONA 04 DE ENERO DE 2021 18:20 h
Photo: [link]Gabriella Clare Marino[/link], Unsplash CC0.

Last June a virtual consultation was held with Spanish leaders from different denominations, with the aim of “taking advantage of this period of uncertainty, caused by the pandemic, to take the pulse of the church and to think proactively about the missionary challenges and possibilities of the new normality”.

The process was organized by the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE), the Ibero- American Missions Cooperation ministry (Comibam), the Lausanne Movement and the church planting network La Plaza (The square).

More than 200 people participated, “representing the whole evangelical spectrum of Spain”. The conclusions of the meetings have now been published in the document From survival to mission: A route for the church in Spain.

“The document is the result of the need to gather as leadership in Spain, to reflect on how the pandemic is going to affect our congregations, the way we are and do church, as well as the need to contextualise our message in a new reality that has suddenly come”, the President of the AEE, Marcos Zapata, explains.

According to the coordinator of the Lausanne Movement in Spain, Jaume Llenas, “we realised that the Lord was opening an opportunity for mission with the pandemic and that a part of the church could be losing that opportunity because it was focused on maintaining an institution”.

“The last decades have been difficult for the church in Europe, and this may have led to lock the church into a paradigm of struggle for survival”, he adds.


Restoring the real meaning of mission

The document is structured in seven blocks presented as “challenges” that tackle issues such as the virtualization of the church, how to combine isolation with a sense of community, the economic situation and how to understand “what God is saying to the church through society”.

“We wanted to give something in writing, to help churches reflect and have a guide made in Spain for the church in Spain that addresses the real challenges that affected all Spaniards”, says Ron Anderson, one of the leaders of La Plaza and a member of the board of the Lausanne Movement in Spain.

Llenas warns that “we have forgotten that we are here not only to preserve an institution that we sense is at risk, but also because the Lord has sent us to make disciples of Jesus from all ethnic groups. Maybe we are at risk precisely because we have removed the centre of the mission that brought Jesus into the world”.


The need to strengthen collaboration

One of the main shortcomings highlighted in the document is the collaboration between congregations and denominations. Only 25% of the leaders who participated define that relationship as “cooperation”. Thirty percent sees it as “a relationship limited to communication but not going beyond that” and up to 40% talk of a mere “co-existence”.

“We cannot get very far alone. Establishing synergies must go beyond the denomination, taking the hand of the other congregations in the city or region, so that we can build and plant together”, Zapata points out.

To develop this more collaborative model of relationship, Anderson stresses that “it is important to bring together all our gifts to make a balanced roadmap. There are already several collaborations that have come about as a result of the virtual consultation. We have to look for collaboration in an intentional way, based on personal relationships”.

“We have created a model of local church that has nothing to do with the church of the first three centuries of Christianity, which met in different houses, but everyone considered to be one and the same church. Today, the concept of the local church, as the church that meets in a certain place, hides, blurs, tarnishes, the vision that there is only one church and the only thing that changes is the place where that part of the one church meets”, explains Llenas .

This church model leads “to the invisibility and irrelevance of the church. That is why it is necessary to collaborate beyond the church premises and to join forces between churches, Christian organisations,entrepreneurs and cultural associations, in order to make the gospel and its impact on the city visible through the complete gospel, which consists of the proclamation and action of the gospel”, he adds.


Emphasis on discipleship

The document presents an extensive final reflection from two approaches. On the one hand, the internal, with the need to restore fellowship and unity and to care for leadership; and on the other hand, the external, which includes practical recommendations on service in the community, how to understand the character of social justice and how to guide discipleship and evangelism.

Zapata emphasises that “discipleship based on the false premise that we still have cultural supremacy is wrong. The new discipleship needs to teach theologically to think biblically about everything and act accordingly”.

He underlines that “it has to be a discipleship that trains in spiritual disciplines which will lead us to love the city, serve the community, do justice, and evangelize with the good news, which are more valid than ever. Discipleship should lead us to embody the gospel in a contextualised way in our communities”.

“The church must recover its main calling of making disciples of all nations, baptising them and teaching them to keep all things that the Lord has commanded us. That means we have to learn to follow Jesus in every area of life. And that is taught by living. It's about transmitting life, not just knowledge”, says Llenas.

According to the missionary and director of Operation Barnabas ministry, Guille Eddy, “we need to structure the church differently, focusing on small group discipleship, and not just Sunday morning service”.

Zapata stresses that the pandemic has become a “danger and a threat to churches focused on their main worship service as an expression of their life of faith. Churches with a structure that is not so centralized are going through the crisis even with numerical growth”.

“Those congregations with a small groups structure have resisted the closure of their premises, and the pandemic has even boosted the growth of their leaders. The obsolete structures, what we can call old wineskins, are unable to contain the new reality we are experiencing”, he points out.

You can see the full report here (in Spanish)




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