Missions Manifesto

In my study of the book of Acts, I have noted the following seven marks of the Apostolic movement. They form my missions manifesto - a set of aims, intentions and priorities - that undergird all my engagement in missions. 

1. Pneuma-Centric

Everything the Apostles' did were under the leading and by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was the center of all vigor and vitality for them. The wisdom of the Spirit was crucial to all their ministry strategies and His power was inevitable to all their ministry successes. The gracious working of the Spirit both in planning and execution of all ministries is thus of paramount importance. His manifestations - whether conviction of sin and regeneration or signs and wonders- attending their ministry is not a peripheral aspect, but a very crucial one. More than any other thing, a truly biblical movement should be characterized by  the attendance of the Spirit. Hence being Pneuma-Centric is of top most priority.

2. Apostles' Doctrine  

Apostles' had a very robust God-centered theology with which they operated. Their understanding of man's salvation was not only Christ-centered, but very God-centered. Not an iota of man-centered or man-exalting theology was found in them. In our day, with churches and individuals reaping the fruit of the unbiblical notion of decisional regeneration, a return to and embrace of the God-centered doctrines of grace they held is crucial. 

3. Gospel-Centered 

The Apostles were so radically transformed by the gospel that it changed everything for them. Their worldview thus became gospel-oriented. Thus everything, whether pertaining to theology or life or ministry was seen through the lens of Christ and His cross-work. This is most evident in the epistles they wrote, where every single issue the churches faced are resolved in light of the gospel. They either made a direct application of the gospel or found an aspect of the gospel which they then teased out and unpacked its practical bearing on the issue before them. This gospel-centered life and ministry is so instructive for Christians, especially leaders of the church. Underlying this evangelical philosophy of life and ministry is the deep conviction that the gospel changes all - at present, individuals and one day, when Christ comes, even the whole cosmos. 

4. Urban Focused

Most evident in the missionary journeys of  Paul, the apostle to the gentiles is a strategic and intentional aim of reaching cities. Paul specifically targeted cities in his missionary labors, knowing that reaching cities was crucial to reaching a region. Reaching urban centers is crucial for any missionary movement, due to demographic and cultural reasons. Intentional urban church planting missions is quite a rare thing in India. Though the country is increasingly becoming urban in its population, there is not much deliberate focusing on urban missions. This biblical priority in missions needs to be restored now more than ever, in India.

5. Missional Culture 

Being missional means the mission of God so molds everything you do that you are always living on the mission. Whether talking to your neighbors or working in your office, everything can be done in a missional way. The mission of God to spread His glory and kingdom, through His Son Jesus Christ, is then not one of the things you believe and live for, but that which so characterizes all your life. When an individual or a church, deliberately chooses to adopt the posture and practice of a cross-cultural missionary, to engage the people and culture around them with the gospel, he or they become truly missional. The community life seen in the book of Acts is truly missional. Wherever the first-century Christians went, they engaged people with the gospel. This is different from simply being evangelistic, in this sense that they were doing so in a very cross-cultural and incarnational way. Being gospel-centered made them totally different from their own cultures, yet being missional made them deliberately incarnate themselves into the worldview of the surrounding culture to engage the people with the gospel. A decentralized approach to disciple-making, an eschatological understanding of God's work in the world or sometimes referred to as kingdom perspective etc are some of the other marks of being missional. A missional understanding is crucial to ecclesiology. They way we organize as churches should be around the mission of God. Rather than making missions a department among many others in the church, missions should be the cornerstone and touchstone of all ministries. Not only the way we organize, but the way we engage people, disciple people, conduct our life and work in the world are all massively altered by a missional understanding. Inculcating and infusing the missional ecclesiology and culture is a crucial priority in my understanding of missions.

6. Church-Planting Movement 

Chuch-planting in Acts, though organized and under the leadership of the Apostles, was still a movement and not an institution. The movement dynamic was such that any and every member of the movement could reproduce the whole movement. This made the movement grow in exponential and vigorous terms. Organized yet acting like an organism was the key to this growth.This is an important priority that if missed would lead any movement to be a dead, merely traditional institution as the first generation leaves the scene.

7. Elder-led Polity 

Though it is difficult to make a case about every single church in the New Testament, the consistent pattern we see is to appoint a plurality of elders in every local church. Whatever else we might say about New Testament church polity, this is a fact that a church being lead by a single pastor is not the desired norm. Generally speaking, it has never gone well with movements where single-pastor led model was practiced. Whether congregational or presbyterian or apostolic, at the local church, the leaders should be a team of men and not a single man.