BHTS DMin Program

A Journey of Inclusion and Purpose

The book of Acts, often referred to as the birth of the early Christian Church, provides insights into the principles and practices of a missional church. Acts 15, in particular, presents a moment in the early Christian community, highlighting the essence of inclusion, unity, and purpose. This essay explores Acts 15 and its significance in shaping the missional nature of the Church.

1. Contextual Understanding

Acts 15 stands as an important chapter in the history of the early Christian Church, as it portrays a significant council in Jerusalem where key leaders convened to address a fundamental question: the inclusion of Gentile believers into the growing Christian community. This historical context is crucial for understanding the broader missional shift that took place during this period. The early Christian movement, which initially emerged as an extension of Judaism, was predominantly composed of Jewish followers of Jesus. However, as more Gentiles embraced the faith, a critical issue emerged concerning whether they should first adhere to Jewish customs, particularly circumcision, before becoming full-fledged Christians. The Jerusalem Council’s decision to embrace Gentile believers without imposing such Jewish requirements marked a transformative moment. This decision signaled the shift from a primarily Jewish community to a more inclusive, global movement, setting the stage for the expansion of Christianity beyond its Jewish roots.

The significance of Acts 15 reverberates through the centuries, as it serves as a foundational moment in the Christian Church’s history. It exemplifies the broader mission of Christianity to transcend cultural and ethnic boundaries and welcome believers from diverse backgrounds into a global community of faith. This missional shift from exclusivity to inclusivity in Acts 15 underscores the Christian message’s universality and its appeal to people of all nations, foreshadowing the Church’s growth into a worldwide phenomenon.

2. Inclusion of the Gentiles

This event in Acts 15 sets a resolution to the debate pertaining to the circumcision of the gentile believers in accordance with Jewish tradition. Indeed, this was when the missional character of embodying plurality began unfolding in the emerging Christianity. The Church realized that belief in Christ did not necessarily belong only to one particular or specific culture/ethnicity group of people; a fact which emphasized the universality of the gospel or message. In this way, the Church opened its doors to people from different cultural backgrounds not only in Rome but also outside of it, reaching out to those from other nations. In Acts 15 we see this missional orientation in the early Church, which embraced an attitude toward culture that went beyond existing boundaries to create a faith community open to all believers regardless of background, ethnicity, or religion.

Indeed, it is worth noting that the decision of Acts 15 is still relevant today regarding discourse on multiculturalism in Christendom. The scenario acts as a memory of the fact that Christianity does not belong to any specific ethnocultural society; on the contrary, this is a universal religion, addressed to everybody without distinctions. In a world of diversity and cultural peculiarities, the missional principle of embracing diversity (as seen in Acts 15) serves as a beacon for Christians aiming to take this mandate everywhere. Here, the mission is to go and tell the

3. Unity Amidst Diversity

The way that the council in Acts 15 is attested, speaks volumes about the unity that the early Church managed to conserve against all odds, having in mind the different cultural and traditional backgrounds of its members. It presents an absolute dedication to promoting a common feel in Christendom by recognizing the diverse cultural and religious backgrounds of its worshipers. This unity was not established by erasing differences but by emphasizing a shared mission: the spreading of the Gospel. Early Church understood that the core of their faith was a message of Christ, that transcended cultural and traditional barriers between them in establishing one’s Church as a corpus unum with Christians of different origins.
The missional mindset of the earliest church established a unity of purpose, which is illustrated by the ability of the Church to unite people from diverse cultures and perspectives. This highlights how unity can arise from mission, and it reminds us that those who differ in essence may nonetheless unite in pursuit of common goals. This understanding is expressed by the ‘missional’ approach which acknowledges that different backgrounds and traditions could be celebrated but the primary goal is for the church to prosper in unity through common efforts for spreading the gospel, resulting in a vibrant multicultural and diverse community of

4. Missional Implications

The missionary church is well illustrated in Acts 15 as regards how churches may have to adopt different cultures to preserve the centrality of the Gospel. As the society of today changes fast incorporating different practices and cultures, such adaptability will help the church be more effective in relating to varied communities. It admits that while the centrality of the Gospel stays unchanged, its expression may need to be tailored in order to suit particular cross-cultural situations. One approach allows the church to demonstrate respect for local traditions and enable the Gospel to make an impact on various sets of individuals who need this faith.

The capacity to relate with diverse cultures as seen in Acts 15 enables the Church to develop an understanding of the Message of the Gospel to larger audiences. This approach demonstrates the missional church’s resolve to overcome hindrances and make the religious message available to everyone. In acknowledging the cultural variations in the various communities the Church deals with, the Church is able to establish deeper relationships, having a positive and long-lasting effect of the lives of these individuals. Therefore, this adaptability is integral as it enables the missional church to remain current and effective in spreading the transformative gospel message to all kinds of people regardless of their national background.

5. Purposeful Collaboration

In this regard, we can take a cue from the case of the early Church leader’s consultation in Acts 15 which is a strenuous effort of teamwork while making decisions in a missional setting. The value of trying to achieve consensus and shared wisdom emerges from this history as leaders came together to solve important problems, in the pursuit of the Church’s mission. The collaborative method incorporates various people’s views and opinions while facilitating an atmosphere of togetherness and co-responsibility in the preaching of the gospel. Thus, the mission of the Church is not a private enterprise; it’s the involvement together for the sake of which all its members have to collaborate and unite.

The collaborative attitude as demonstrated by the council decision of Acts 15 provides a worthy instruction for the present day’s missional Church. It highlights the relevance of teamwork, humility, and mutual respect among its members toward achieving the common goal which is preaching the gospel. The missional church that appreciates various inputs from different individuals promotes a sense of togetherness and collaboration that enables it to face changes in the world while helping to solve spiritual This means that the Church becomes robust, and contemporary as it seeks to realize its supreme objective.

6. Cultural Sensitivity and Relevance

The Church’s sensitivity to cultural practices is demonstrated in Acts 15, showing how paramount it is for the Gospel message to remain culturally appropriate. The missional church must be aware of such culture as this is fundamental when it comes to engaging diverse audiences effectively. By recognizing the cultural context, the early Church was able to preach Christ to people who were more likely to understand them. In this way, the Church made the Gospel more accessible by demonstrating respect for local customs traditions, and worldviews through the recognition of different cultures and in that process fostered an appreciation of the powerful effect of the transformative teachings of Christ.

The Cultural Sensitivity of Acts 15 in the Missional Church Today. This realizes that relevance and impact is gained through addressing the spiritual and cultural needs of diverse communities. The missional church has the potential to link with diverse cultures by modifying its methods and approaches to address people where they are. This view celebrates the particularity of cultures while showing that the essence of the Good News is open to all peoples on earth and thus can pierce through to their hearts and minds.

Now, we know…

Acts 15 is a perfect case of the missional Church. It embodies themes of inclusivity, togetherness, joint action, and cultural sensitivity. These principles must be accepted by the missional Church as it pursues further transformation in touching various communities with the eternal word of Jesus’ love. Just as the church in Acts 15 faced the challenges of culture, the missional Church of today may take heart that same spirit of inclusion and openness to purpose is well evidenced at this moment, to inform their own global enterprise.

By Roge Sison

An ordained clergy of The United Methodist Church.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discover more from The Viewpoints

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading