John Bunyan’s THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS is considered one of the greatest allegories of the Christian journey of faith. Christian’s spiritual pilgrimage from the City of Destruction to The Celestial City has intrigued Christians for years, and versions in contemporary English continue to enchant children and adults alike.
What would the pilgrims’ progress have been if they had been sent back to the City of Destruction to do a further work for the King, rather than entering their rest in The Celestial City?
What if the pilgrims, rather than regarding The Celestial City as the goal of their pilgrimage, joined Evangelist in spreading the good news of the King to the citizens of the City of Destruction?
What if the Evangelist, rather than urging burdened pilgrims to flee from the City to the Wicket Gate, away from their family and friends, welcomed pilgrims into their home, from which Christ’s bright light beamed from the front door?
What if The Interpreter, rather than being confined to dwelling in a single house along the King’s Way, continued to walk with the pilgrims, guiding and instructing them on their journey and their evangelistic work?
What if the cross, rather than being a solitary place at which deliverance is obtained, sat prominently on Evangelist’s kitchen table as a continual reminder of the King’s enduring forgiveness?
What if the places, rather than swamps, castles and dungeons, the pilgrims encountered those at parks, bus stops, libraries and shopping centres as pilgrims of today experience?
The allegory of THE PILGRIMS’ MISSIONAL PROGRESS attempts to weave the spiritual with the physical, the sacred with the secular, so that The Interpreter’s spiritual presence is recognised in the everyday here and now.
THE PILGRIMS’ MISSIONAL PROGRESS captures the King’s missional heart for the citizens of the City of Destruction, desiring “none to perish, but for all to come to repentance”. The story also provides glimpses of the King’s restorative plan for the ground upon which the damaged City of Destruction is built.
THE PILGRIMS’ MISSIONAL PROGRESS heralds the King’s calling for the church to be a community of pilgrims who “do the work of the Evangelist”, forming communities of light in their neighbourhoods, towns and cities as they dwell in the King’s damaged world which has been ravaged by the Wicked Prince.
THE PILGRIMS’ MISSIONAL PROGRESS emphasizes The Interpreter’s essential role in leading and guiding the pilgrims’ evangelistic work. Rather than being alone in the City of Destruction, with only the King’s book for guidance, Evangelist mentors the pilgrims, while The Interpreter opens their eyes to discern the King’s continual presence in their neighbourhoods.
THE PILGRIMS’ MISSIONAL PROGRESS also incorporates the important role discipleship plays in the maturity of a pilgrim. Rather than portraying spiritual maturity as having arrived in the country of Beulah, a place where the Wicked Prince and his soldiers never come, spiritual maturity is modelled after the Apostle Paul. Paul did not consider the pinnacle of his pilgrimage was his own maturity, rather his quest was to be an instrument in the hands of his Saviour, finishing the work assigned to him – the work of telling others the good news about the wonderful grace of God. To this end Paul laboured, until the lives of the burdened pilgrims he introduced to Christ were transformed into his image so they, in turn, were empowered to become disciple-makers.
THE PILGRIMS’ MISSIONAL PROGRESS affirms the King’s desire for both men and women to be commissioned for his missional work in the world. In Bunyan’s allegory, Christian’s two companions, Faithful and Hopeful, were men, in tune with the historical setting of its time. Therefore, to affirm the King’s desire for both men and women to work alongside each other in team ministry, THE PILGRIMS’ MISSIONAL PROGRESS depicts Hopeful as a woman, a companion sent by the King to work with Christian, together fulfilling their evangelistic work. Like modern day team ministry settings, no undertones of romantic involvement between the two pilgrims is depicted.
When the King’s Son, Jesus, entered the City of Destruction, his presence brought the Kingdom of The Celestial City into the physicality of everyday life. In THE PILGRIMS’ MISSIONAL PROGRESS The Celestial City is not a “far off beautiful country”. Rather the citizens of The Celestial City are an embodiment of the King’s new heavenly city which is becoming. The King’s Magnificent City is being revealed in the City of Destruction, in the here and now.
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