About the research
The research presented in this document explores various aspects of missio Dei and their potential impact on the life of Christian relief and development organizations. The author conducted the research at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS) UK, as an OCMS Research Associate whilst on Sabbatical from Tearfund, under the study topic of:
Christian relief and development from a Kingdom perspective: practical considerations on the outworking of Christian poverty reduction efforts, with special reference to missio Dei and its potential influence on NGO strategy development.
The research is:
- taken from a Kingdom perspective;
- conducted from a Christian belief in the Triune God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit Ė intrinsically united;
- structured within a Creation, Fall, Redemption and Eschatological framework;
- viewed from a missio Dei concept Ė that the mission is Godís and the church is called to participate; to take part in Godís redemptive action to restore His creation to wholeness through Christ Jesus so that people may, through the bond of the Holy Spirit, be one with God and with one another.
At the heart of the research is an attempt to assist Christian relief and development organizations think through why they are doing what they are doing. This points to the need for clarity of understanding of Godís mission, in which Christians are invited to participate. Clarity in this area will assist determine an organizationís actions and activities.
The results of this research are framed in the Biblical narrative Ė a narrative that embraces the Creation; Fall; Redemption; and Eschatological framework.
Godís story is at heart a simple one. In a nutshell, it is the story of creation and redemption by the God of Israel and Father of the risen Christ, working through the Holy Spirit. Godís story tells us how things started, lost their way, can be redirected, and how the human story comes out in the end.
But the biblical story is a very unusual story. We are told the beginning, the middle, and the final chapter of the story. But the piece between Jesus and his work on the cross and the final chapter is still being written. Godís story is not just about what God has done, but also about what God, through his church is doing now. God is still writing the story, and incredibly, God has invited us to participate in that writing (Bryant 1998, p23).
It is a narrative that has not been paralleled since its formation, and indeed never will be. The narrative unveils the situation, brings clarity and significance to what went on, what is going on, and what will happen.
The research draws upon a wealth of noteworthy writings on Christian relief and development and the area of missio Dei, and presents the material from a practical viewpoint to allow readers to develop their own thinking. Through a website (www.faithindevelopment.org) it also invites the reader to comment and contribute to allow adjustments, revisions, and new thoughts to be posted: which may ultimately point to further study.
Whilst the research has a Christian focus, there should be something for a wide range of readership - those of other faiths, and those taking a secular standpoint. The part played by all these sectors brings about a depth of meaning and inclusiveness that helps form an important component of the missio Dei concept. Of special interests to these readers will be the sections on:
- the unconditionality of services offered by Christian relief and development organizations;
- the inclusive approach in non-Christian environments;
- connected with God and in partnership with others: and
- the importance of the church.
Finally, the richness of thinking and views offered by the many authors cited in this paper presents a call for Christian organizations to take a fresh look at their mission, to encourage those aspects that reflect that of Godís mission and to call for a re-evaluation of those aspects that may be out of harmony. It is also a call to secular and other faith organizations to re-assess their approach and dealings with Christian organizations and churches: to view them not as a threat with a hidden spiritual agenda, but to see them with the potential and capability to make a real contribution to poverty reduction efforts.
The research has resulted in this web-based guide (www.faithindevelopment.org) to help people become familiar with and learn about missio Dei and to think through its bearing on Christian poverty reduction efforts.
About the researcher
Alan Robinson has over 40 years experience in the relief and development sector. From 1969 to 1994 he worked for the British Governmentís scientific unit, the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), first involved in the development and application of lower-cost building materials from cellulosic materials and then the development and application of biomass energy systems. He left as a Principal Scientific Officer, having benefited from various roles, including Head of NRIís Biomass Energy Group and Manager of NRIís Forestry and Biomass Energy Programme.
Alan worked at Tearfund from 1995 to 2012 and was first assigned as an advisor to a partner organization, MOPAWI, in Honduras for 4 years. He left Tearfund as Head of Programme Funding, primarily involved with gaining support from bilateral and multilateral donors, and was part of Tearfundís International Group based in Teddington, UK. In July 2012 Alan joined Mission Aviation Fellowship, working from their office in Ashford, UK.
During his time with the NRI and Tearfund he has travelled extensively and has spent a total of around 10 years living and working overseas in over 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean; Africa and Asia.
The author is grateful for the help, encouragement and prayer support received from:
- Tearfund: especially for the advice and assistance in arranging the Sabbatical and research; in particular members of the International Group who have covered during his absence.
- Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS): especially for the faculty staff, support staff and students, who have provided guidance, fellowship and assistance with the studies and research.
- Family and friends at home, church and beyond: for their encouragement and love.
The author is particularly thankful to the many writers who by putting pen to paper have shared their insights and brought about a great depth of richness and understanding to the subject of missio Dei Ė Godís mission.
Finally, the author acknowledges the Triune God. It is hoped that this work will serve His purpose and bring Him glory