Relational Mission: A compass but no map

This is the final (in a long-delayed) series of posts on Mike Betts’ book Relational Mission: A way of life. The final chapter is called We have a compass but no map. You can find links to the other articles here.

  1. A real family
  2. Raising sons & daughters
  3. Everyone a witness
  4. The prayers of many
  5. A church for a broken world
  6. Starting new families

This last chapter is a less a conviction about church or the work of the Kingdom than it is about the mystery & challenge of getting there. I’ll let Mike explain:

I feel we have a compass in our hand but no map. A compass keeps you facing north. It keeps you from straying. This compass is a figure of speech for our doctrines and values, which do not change: grace, deep relationships, the authority of Scripture & commitment to church planting, the importance of the local church and substitutionary atonement, the baptism of the Spirit and caring for the needs of the poor.

The lack of map means that each part of the journey will mean the application of those values & doctrines with new approaches. The outworking in each culture may look different.


One way of thinking about this is that often in the past as the Gospel has entered into a new country and culture let’s say Indonesia for the sake of argument. The new believers there have been given a map of how to live out their faith as followers of Christ. Unfortunately it was a map of New York or of London. This map is very useful in New York or London but less useful in Jakarta. Instead what they need is a compass and told, keep the needle straight.

This is harder work and we’re mostly still figuring this out. It’s incredibly difficult sometimes to separate the cultural expression of the thing from the thing itself. But that, for me is part of the genius of Christianity over other religions. Hinduism, Buddhism & Judaism have never really broken out of their cultural or geographical boundaries. There are staggeringly few Hindus who are not also Indian for example.

Islam has done much better but more so by the strict imposition of a few codes of Islam and so it is less true to speak of Indonesian Islam and Turkish Islam than it is to speak of the form of Islam practised. Christianity by contrast is far more flexible (which is a danger & a strength) so we can speak of African, Asian, Latin American, American, European Christianity and see the common elements but be confounded by the diversity. This allows Christianity to reinvent itself in new times and places.

I appreciate both the freedom and the inherent call to remain faithful and in terms of understanding the role of the apostolic gift it’s very helpful. It’s not there to direct you in the small details and be some form of spiritual Google Maps but is there to help you keep the needle straight.

Here is Mike’s sign off to the book:

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the world is always changing. There’s new terrain ahead. There are new things we have to advance into the world with, old truths with new ways of expressing them, keeping the values, keeping the things that we know to be biblical and true. But there’s so much out there that’s so broken, and we need to find creative ways, biblical ways, of bringing light into the darkness. We have a compass but no map.


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