Yesterday Ed Setzer had a blog on what it means for the Church to be missional which he portrayed in the 3 dimensions of missionary, mission, and the missio Dei. See the full article at Seeing Missional in 3-D-- A First Draft. Much of the discussion is a recap of the 20th Century Missionary movement, including the World Missionary Confernces with origins at Edinburgh in 1910 & then the important early meeting of the International Missionary Council in Tambaram (Madras), India in 1938. Setzer says,
The Tambaram conference called the whole church to be the bearers of the Gospel in every sphere of life. In other words, mission is not to be a subdivision of the church’s life; it exists to accomplish a divinely ordained mission and the accountability rests upon every Christian in and outside of the church.
Setzer notes there were detractors. Most notable was the rhetoric of the Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones. "He immediately questioned this emphasis on the church in missionary thinking, fearing that the substitution of the church for the Kingdom of God might fleece the missionary movement of the 'needed fires of imagination, enthusiasm, and self-criticism.' He continued, 'Madras looked out and saw the Kingdom and the Church at the door, opened the door to the lesser and more obvious, the Church, and left the Kingdom at the door. So Madras missed the way.'"
I had to know more and followed the footnotes!
The main conclusion of the Madras Conference was that church and mission are inseparable. It said, "World evangelism is the God-given task of the Church. This is inherent in the very nature of the Church as the Body of Christ created by God to continue in the world the work which Jesus Christ began in His life and teaching, and consummated by His death and resurrection".35 It is the church that is God’s missionary to the world. So from Madras on, it was impossible to speak of mission without directly linking mission to the church. Further, in summoning the churches to become in itself the actualization among men of its own message, it appeared that Madras had identified the church with the Gospel. Hence the Conference at Madras could announce to a baffled and needy world that the Christian church was its greatest hope and that the church could not be destroyed. These were very bold and strong statements to make about the church and its place in the economy of salvation.
E. Stanley Jones, an American missionary working in India and a participant at the Madras Conference, immediately questioned this emphasis on the church in missionary thinking. He feared that the substitution of the church for the Kingdom of God might rob the missionary movement of the needed fires of imagination, enthusiasm, and self-criticism. From his experience in India as a missionary to the Hindus, he felt that the idea of the church was anathema to the Hindus. In an article for the Christian Century entitled, "Where Madras Missed its Way", he wrote:
In general the Madras Conference was great, but centrally and fundamentally the Conference missed its way. Why? Because of its starting point - the Church. It began there and worked Out all its problems from the Church standpoint. Hence the confusion and hesitancy. The Church is a relativism. At its best it is so. When you work out from one relativism to other relativisms in human affairs, the result is bound to be confusion... Alongside of the pseudo-absolutes of the race as in Nazism, the state as in Fascism, the class in Communism, the Madras Conference put another pseudo-absolute, the religious community, the Church.36
According to Stanley Jones, Madras had no absolute conception from which it worked out its main problems. In his view, Jesus worked out His thinking from the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is God’s absolute order confronting human need. The Kingdom is absolute while the church is relative. The Kingdom is the end while the church is only the means. For Stanley Jones, one could not be a revolutionary in one’s thinking and acting, if one started from the church. Then the Gospel becomes a limited one. "The conception, the Church, binds you in relativities and limitations," he wrote. The complaint of Stanley Jones was that while Jesus went about preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, Madras went about preaching the gospel of the Church. He wrote, "Madras looked out and saw the Kingdom and the Church at the door, opened the door to the lesser and more obvious, the Church, and left the Kingdom at the door. So Madras missed the way".37
.T.V. Philip, "Church & Mission"