Planting a passion for the worship of God through Christ-exalting witness, culture-engaging work, and body-uniting partnership for the joy of the Shan and surrounding peoples.
Planting A Passion
The reason we want to plant a passion among the Shan is because our God is a jealous and passionate God who will not share His glory with another (Ex 20:5-6, 34:14; Is 48:11). God not only illustrates passion but also commands our affection (Deut 28:47; Ps 37:4; Phil 4:8). He is calling out a Church that will imitate His passion by pursuing their joy in Him through a life of radical and unswerving obedience. This Church is composed, not of windows and bricks, but of passionate worshippers.
Worship of God
The reason we want to plant a passion for the worship of God among the Shan is because worship is the ultimate aim of the Church, not missions (Jn 4:24; Rm 12:1-2; Rev 4:4-8, 22:8-9). Why? Because God is ultimate, and we long for the Shan to repent and turn to a life of true worship.
We want Christ to be central in who we are and what we do because he is the reason we exist (Col 1:16-17; Hb 1:3, 2; Cor 3:18, 4:6). He is the purpose of our being and the goal of our doing. Therefore, in our Christ-exalting witness we want to first and foremost be captivated by Christ ourselves and subsequently express the infinite worth of Christ to others.
This witness, the gospel of Christ, extends from proclaiming to building. The gospel is about justice, God’s justice. God’s justice entails both a vertical and horizontal dimension. The unreached Shan need to be vertically reconciled to God through Christ, on whom God’s just demands have been satisfied. This witness testifies to God’s infinite and divine justice in Christ’s perfect life and death. At the same time it also testifies to his great mercy in Christ’s incarnation, atonement, resurrection, and intercession.
This vertical dimension of God’s justice can not stand alone. The only way that our witness can be Christ- exalting is if justice is established both vertically and horizontally. A Christ-exalting witness exalts Christ as the Lamb and as the Lion, as the Way and the Warrior. Gospel justice that exalts the person and work of Christ must be displayed both at the cross and in the culture. What we mean is the gospel isn’t just words, but works (works of justice motivated by love). The Shan need to not only hear the gospel, but in see it in conjunction with our works. We want to be wholly biblical in fulfilling the Great Commission. Therefore we want to not only tell people about Jesus, but do the kinds of things that Jesus did, like eating with sinners, feeding the hungry, loving the downcast, healing the sick and lame (Mt. 25:34-36). As a result, we approach this mission with a desire to proclaim and to live the Gospel, that is, to do and to be Christ-exalting witness.
The word “engage” has been thoughtfully chosen. Our view of culture is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Instead, our aim is to study, understand and discern the culture of the Shan-Dai. This is done annually through short-term ethnographic research trips, during which we interview Shan-Dai regarding a whole range of topics, e.g. religion, family structure, politics. However, we believe the best understanding of Shan culture comes from being an “insider” to the culture. Therefore, it is our goal to continually mobilize long-term workers who can know and minister to the Shan more effectively. Hand in hand with Christ-exalting witness, culture-engaging work better equips us to communicate the gospel of Christ to them in meaningful and relevant ways, as well as inform church-planting strategies. Moreover, our goal is not to uncritically “contextualize” the gospel, but to facilitate a questioning and Christ-centered engagement of Shan culture that makes room for both approval and disapproval. As a result, it is our hope that a vibrant, indigenous, God-honoring expression of the Christian faith is fostered among the Shan.
Partnership takes its cues from the Godhead. Through the cooperative acts of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit the world was created, man redeemed, and creation will be restored. Both the Trinity’s work throughout redemptive history and the example given by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, demonstrates partnership. This biblical pattern of body-uniting partnership is necessary in order to carry out the Great Commission. To that end, Gordon-Conwell (GCTS) is partnering with missions organizations (which represents the sodality-mission society) and the local church (which provides support for the workers) in order to reach the Shan for Christ.
For the joy of the Shan and surrounding peoples
Why do we want to do all of this? For the joy of the Shan. You might be thinking, “but I thought you said earlier that you wanted to plant churches among the Shan for the glory of God?” We do. These two motives are not at odds with one another. In fact, worship is the expression of intense joy. Allow us to explain.
When disciples of Christ, future Shan, pursue their own joy [in God] they say with their lips and their lives that God is the object most worthy of their affection. Therefore, by delighting in God they demonstrate His eternal value; they worship Him.
By pursuing the joy of the Shan we are also pursuing the joy of the surrounding peoples because we believe with C.S. Lewis that, “delight is incomplete until it is expressed.” It is our prayer that the Shan will complete their delight by singing, saying, and living the gospel among the numerous unreached peoples that surround them.