The Way of Mission is a fresh approach to sharing your faith.
Grace, mission, hope and choice. Four points, four phrases, four Bible references, simple enough to tick off on the fingers of one hand with a thumb to spare.
I’ve been pondering The Way of Mission in my heart for nearly 20 years.
When my younger son was 9, I chaperoned our church kids to church camp. It was a good camp: well-run, positive, with great music and energy.
When the leaders presented the evangelistic message toward conversion, it wasn’t maudlin or scary.
On balance, I gave it good marks. But the evangelistic message of substitutionary atonement wasn’t what I wanted my son to take to heart as necessary, foundational, first-base Christianity.
It was déjà vu all over again, taking me back to my own childhood. When I was a kid in the 1970s, I walked the aisle under substitutionary atonement preaching.
Then as a convert, they taught me an evangelism built on what they called “The Four Spiritual Laws” of substitutionary atonement.
They walked me down the “Roman Road” (another formulation) of their view of foundational, first-base Christianity.
I tried really hard to embrace it, study it, speak it, role play it and take it to the streets, but I just couldn’t because I was a church kid, and The Four Spiritual Laws weren’t enough.
I’d been taught a lot of Bible stories along the way. I knew a lot about the life of Jesus, and his death and resurrection. And the love of God. And a life of following, not just getting saved.
The Laws didn’t square with all I knew, believed and had experienced.
So, years later, at my son’s camp, while sitting around the cafeteria table with other parents, I began to do something about it.
Decrying what I was hearing, rejecting this formulary wasn’t enough. I couldn’t just say no, but then leave a vacuum unfilled.
I decided to work out a simple, bullet-point expression of the gospel. I’ve been kicking it around in my heart and mind ever since.
Here’s what I have so far. Take a look at WayOfMission.com.
I focused on the Gospel of Luke. At the risk of weighting too heavily on one Gospel, one part and one view of and from the Bible, I’m all in for Luke. I’m a Lukan Christian with a Luke-lens view of “The Way.”
This model has four parts, each of which comprises one word, one phrase, one Lukan story, verse or parable.
- Grace for all. The parable of the loving father in Luke 15 (also known as the parable of the prodigal son and his elder brother).
- A mission call to answer. Jesus’ challenge to take up your cross and follow in Luke 9.
- Hope for now and the future. Jesus’ “Nazareth Manifesto” of the Dream of God in Luke 4.
- A choice to make. A decision to repent and follow. The apostle’s Mars-Hill challenge to decide in Acts 17.
Tri-partite theology. Grace, mission, hope. Creator, redeemer, sustainer. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Life, death, resurrection.
And choice, the fourth, is operative, a challenge, a decision to make to live into grace, mission and hope as followers of Jesus on the way.
Bare bones, at best. The Way of Mission is a skeleton, a framework, high steel of the elaborate skyscraper that is the gospel. Because it’s hard to express the depth of faith and do it justice.
Thousands of sermons are preached on grace every Sunday. Multi-volume sets on mission have been written by great Christian scholars.
Every day, fervent prayers of hope by the millions go up in prison cells, on shop floors, in hospital rooms and on revolutionary streets.
Four points, a phrase and a Bible reference can’t capture or encapsulate this richness. Reductionism isn’t the goal.
The Way of Mission is for those of us who don’t know what to say, who go blank in conversation.
It’s for those of us who don’t want to be associated with a message of judgment, who don’t want to be lumped in with smug, self-righteous people who claim to be speaking for Jesus.
It’s for those of us who don’t say anything, for fear of being misunderstood.
The Way of Mission is for those of us who aren’t eloquent. Most of us struggle for words, especially in the moment under pressure.
So, it’s just four points, simple enough to tick off on the fingers of one hand, with a thumb to spare. Keep them close on your phone and use them to tell your own story with a little help.
Working in law, labor, faith and politics, he is a union-side lawyer and former AFL-CIO official who has served the United Food and Commercial Workers for years. National legal counsel for Jobs with Justice, he represents historically Black Simmons College of Kentucky in Louisville.