Mission in the postmodern world

Vincent Kundukulam

In the postmodern world, in order to become an effective missionary Church has to move from a ‘Preaching Church’ to a ‘Being Church.’ Given the mission is destined towards the reign of God, ‘what the Church is’ is more important than ‘what the Church says.’ Mission cannot be reduced merely to an activity of the Church. In today’s world, the medium itself has to be the message. People have lost confidence in the ideal discourses because the promises rarely come true in practice. The gap between the theory and praxis among the believers is a serious defect that distances contemporary men from the Church.

The gulf between word and deed was not given serious consideration earlier because Christian truth was then seen as a belief-system. The perception was that the right doctrine brings in salvation. The overemphasis on the dogmatic aspect of truth might have caused the believers to forget the value of witness. Claude Geffré, a renowned French theologian, had already observed in the 90s that truth is seen, in the postmodern time, more as a witness than something to be proved logically. In the Medieval period the veracity of truth was accepted on behalf of its revelatory nature. That presupposition is shattered in the ongoing culture. Hence Christian theology, in order to be effective, has to be verifiable in the concrete life of faithful.

For Christians, knowledge of God cannot remain conceptual. To know Christ is to live Christ. Christianity is walking in the footprints of Jesus who gave his life for the marginalized. What the world expects from Christians is not logical doctrine but an inner conviction of truth that will make people live. Transform Church into a space where the world can verify the claims made by the religions being lived is a real mission. Put another way, the mission takes place only when the community that evangelizes is the radiant manifestation of Christian life. The missionary dimension of the Church does not then manifest outside its way of being in the world. The values like hope, justice, love and peace should become visible in the Church itself. As Christ is a missionary of God, Church is the community of missionaries. When she offers herself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God and when she lives like the salt, light, servant and yeast of the world, she becomes really missionary. That is why Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Porta Fidei (2011) as follows: “The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us” (n° 6).

One of the effective ways for Church to become ‘a being Church’ would be to practice the accompaniment model of evangelization. Due to the adverse effects of today’s urbanization and globalization millions are in the state of alienation and frustration. A considerable percentage of youngsters live in indifference and some of them lack even appetite for life. To create in them an enthusiasm for life accompaniment will be an effective method at the disposition of Church. Typology of Jesus accompanying disciples going to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-31) and the involvement of the Spirit in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:29) are salient examples for the Christians. By way of fruitful dialogue Christians can make the desperate people realized about the immense talents and powers that are hidden in them. When a man is heard and understood s/he acquires the capacity to listen to the other which will consequently create an atmosphere of mutual accompaniment in the society. A society comprised of individuals mutually shouldering in joys and sufferings will grow into a hopeful society.

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