One of the characteristics of our current moment in time is a fragmentation of society. We are too easily preoccupied with our own survival, our own needs, our own rights.
Confidence in those around us is at an almost record low. The big institutions have failed us: the government, the courts, the police, the church. The shared values which enabled us to live together and at peace with one another have been replaced with myopic personal ‘truths’—my truth, your truth—which must be respected and never challenged.
If we are to believe the press (from both sides of the political spectrum) democracy is tottering on the brink. The economic situation has soured. A consensus on many issues is far beyond us. Authoritarian figures in many different parts of the world look menacing. Our own stories (individual and collective) are rewritten in a different tone, with different heroines and heroes and with different villains. In such a climate, looking beyond our own fragility and keeping a clear focus on big picture mission issues is hard.
This is, admittedly, only part of the picture of this moment. While all this is indeed going on, so too is the mission of proclaiming salvation through Christ alone. People are being converted—yesterday, today and tomorrow—lives are being changed, and there is great joy and excitement as men and women meet the Jesus of the Gospels and learn the true meaning of forgiveness, repentance, and a life of discipleship. The Lord is still raising up labourers for his harvest. Thank God, many of them are coming to prepare for that great work at Moore College. Quite a number are specifically interested in cross-cultural mission in Sydney or in other parts of the world. God’s sovereign work of building a people from every tribe, nation and tongue in the world continues. It is genuinely exciting and it has captured their imaginations. All of this is a reminder that the Father is still keeping his promises, Christ is still building his church, and the Spirit is still bringing new life to sinners like us.
Global gospel mission is not simply a pragmatic necessity but a theological imperative. “God is working his purpose out, as year succeeds to year”, Arthur Ainger wrote in 1894. “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea”, the prophet Habakkuk had written millennia before. Jesus himself said “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14). This is what God is about. He has designed gospel proclamation (in quiet personal conversation, group discussion or from a pulpit or platform) as the means by which he will do it. John Chapman’s famous paraphrase of Romans 1:16 has stuck with me over the years: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the powerful way God saves people”.
If this is what God is about and the end goal really is that innumerable crowd from every tribe, people and language praising with gusto the salvation of God and the Lamb (Rev 7:9–10), then global gospel mission cannot be simply an elective addition to the main business of Christian discipleship or even of theological education. If this is God’s passion, then I cannot be indifferent or uninterested. God’s mission must be our mission. It must shape our priorities. It must direct the way we read the Bible and apply it. It must determine the agenda of the local congregation and direct the energies of the Christian disciple. It must have a discernible impact on the theological curriculum. Discipleship (and even Christian piety) has this context and must never be construed as an alternative to mission. The God we know in Jesus Christ by the power of his Spirit is the God of mission. At every ‘evangelistic’ turning point in Scripture it is God himself who takes the initiative. Throughout human history, the great revivals and reformations have been inextricably tied to fresh, powerful preaching of the gospel of Christ crucified and risen. It has never been able to be contained within local or even national borders.
I am always stunned when I hear people say (or hear of people saying) “Moore College isn’t really interested in mission”. Nothing could be further from the truth if we are reading our Bibles properly, led by the Spirit who was poured out on representatives from all over the Mediterranean in Acts 2 and who has a message for each of the churches in Revelation 23. “You cannot be growing like Christ”, as another friend of mine once said, “without growing in your passion to reach the lost, because that is what he is like”. If a theological college is by definition committed to the knowledge of God, then it can’t but be committed to proclaiming Christ so that men and women will be brought to the Father through him (John 14:6). Moore College is vitally interested in Christ’s global mission—it shapes all we teach and do— because we have heard the great commission of him who was sent into the world to save sinners (John 3:17; Luke 19:10; Matt 1:21; 28:18–20).
That mission certainly involves the whole person, not just the head and not just the lips. While no one is perfect except Christ himself, who we are and how we live gives credence to (or conversely undermines) what we say. As the apostle Paul knew, that point must be repeated again and again: “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” (1 Tim 4:16). Yet at its heart the mission involves proclamation, the announcement of salvation in Christ. It involves speaking so that men and women might hear and believe and be saved (Rom 10:13–17). So a theological college committed to global gospel mission must immerse its students in Scripture in such a sustained way that their message is the gospel message without dilution or distortion. The goal is participation in God’s mission of rescuing men and women and building them into that great multi-racial assembly which will praise his salvation on the last day. It is God who saves, but he has chosen to do it through the proclamation of the gospel underlined by lives of faith and integrity. That is the truly sacred task for which Moore College seeks to prepare all who come to study here.