Four Articles of Mission
Beginning with the Hussite revolution, the church of the Czech Reformation tried – many times and in many ways – to search for and articulate its approach to life and its confession of faith. It is continuing this search today (ecclesia semper reformanda et semper quaerens). At the start of this new century, we find ourselves in an entirely new context of living, which, in many ways, is diametrically different from all previous historical contexts. Admittedly, we are bearing the same gospel of Jesus Christ as the early – and the reformation – church, a gospel which remains unchanging, but fresh, and which does not perish (chapter 1 of the Letter to the Hebrews). Yet, we bring it to a world that changes its forms and its ways of thinking.
In contrast with the time of the Hussites, today it is more difficult to articulate this program as a revolutionary program. The world is more intricate today, and we look for new orientation in it with more difficulty. Of course, we cannot give up. Thus, in the spirit of “always searching,” we have tried to formulate a position on the question of mission and evangelization in order to discern where we find ourselves and where we heading.
We have chosen the form of Four Articles of Mission with an explicit association to the Four Articles of Prague. We present them as a sort of center of crystallization, as points around which additional crystallization will take place. That will take special forms at different places in our church, according to the local situation and the nature of the congregations. Thus, these four articles are not a complex, crystallized structure; they are only its core.
Following consultation with the Advisory Board of Theology (POT), the Advisory Board of Evangelization and Mission (POEM) is submitting a mission proclamation entitled “Four Articles of Mission” to the third sitting of the 32nd Synod of the ECCB, as a basis for discussion, reflection, and acceptance. The proclamation has a character that is probably more affirmative than exhortatory. (The church first needs to empower, and only after that to exhort.)
Along with this deliberately parsimonious proclamation, we are proposing that the Synod of the ECCB espouse a document on mission entitled “To Evangelize as Protestants,” a working study of the Leuenberg Church Fellowship (GEKE).
Furthermore, for comparison, reflection, and study, we are submitting reports by the Board of Evangelization and Theology entitled “The Mission Calling of the church” from 1981 and “The Practice of the Church as an Instrument of Mission” from 1983 because we consider this material is still up-to-date and suggestive.
Finally, we are presenting a set of questions for the Synod to discuss, entitled “Twelve Neuralgic Points of Mission” in which we cover the areas of the challenges, pains, and problems of mission.
Drawn up by the Advisory Board for Evangelization and Mission after consultation with the Advisory Board for Theology
- The Word (Matthew 28:18-20)
We believe that principal task of the church was, is, and will be to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the center of our life and faith. The Gospel is the best that we can offer.
Jesus Christ sends us out into the world with the words: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
The backbones of our message are the worship gatherings of the church, and especially the Sunday service. (Every service is simultaneously an evangelization because the Gospel is proclaimed.)
Our congregations and gatherings are open to the public and inclusive. Everyone is welcome; no one is excluded from our fellowship in any way. Furthermore, we believe that every individual member implicitly bears witness to Jesus Christ in his surroundings. At the same time, explicit personal evangelization is not a general obligation, nor an exclusive prerogative. It happens spontaneously, joyfully, and freely.
Our church supports the proclamation of the Gospel at denominational, ecumenical, and supra-national levels.
11. Deeds (Matthew 25:35-36)
The Gospel is not only proclaimed with words, but also by deeds. The deed must follow the Word, and the Word may follow from the deed.
The Gospel is proclaimed by words and deeds. The true Word brings faith and hope. Faith and hope then produce love, which may be expressed by deed, by the kind of action that brings help to the weak, the needy, and the oppressed. In our church, we try to bear one another’s burdens. We start diaconal work; we help during humanitarian disasters; we set up collections; we publicly stand up for the oppressed…..
If we do not have deeds, we do not have love. If we do not have love, our message is empty, ineffectual, injurious. It is impossible to separate words and deeds. The word must be behind the deed; then, the deed must be behind the word.
III. Ecumenically (John 17:21)
We bring the Gospel ecumenically. We consider sister churches to be our allies in coalitions and alliances, friends, brothers, and sisters. Although we appreciate our traditions and history, we do not consider ourselves to be “more equal among equals.”
We regard ecumenical cooperation to be key in mission and evangelizing activities. One church’s success is also our success; another church’s failure is also our failure. We consider our church to be one branch of a great tree of churches. Although we carefully maintain our traditions, we know that we do not hold a patent on the truth.
IV. Reverently (I Peter 3:15-16)
We reverently proclaim the Gospel, the best news in the world.
In the present European context, the word evangelization smacks of indoctrination and an attempt to snuff out a human being’s personal freedom. Enslavement instead of liberation. In part, these misgivings are fed by history, and in part, by contemporary experiences (see GEKE 1:3). We consider it to be critically important that the gospel, the best news for this world, be spread with refinement, reverently, and without epithets. The gospel does not need sophisticated marketing; its proclamation is not motivated by fear; it is not necessary to traverse the sea to make new disciples (Mt 23:15). We want to be ready to bear witness without anxiety to anyone who is interested in the hope that we have.