Overcoming Barriers to Kingdom Collaboration through the Gospel of Peace

Werner Mischke & Olivia Mulerwa 03 Jul 2024

‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns”.’ (Isa 52:7)

‘Peace, peace, to the far and to the near.’ (Isa 57:19)‘And he [Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.’ (Eph 2:17)

The 2024 Fourth Lausanne Congress gives us an opportunity to reflect on how to better work together to make Jesus Christ known throughout the world. Towards that end, we address below three obstacles to fruitful collaboration—division, difference, and power distance. Our doorway into this conversation is Ephesians 2:11–22 and based on a forthcoming book.[1]

Some scholars point out that Eph 2:17 is a gospel text quoting both Isa 52:7 and Isa 57:19.[2] Ephesians 2:17 says ‘he [Jesus] preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.’ The overlaps are clear. Jesus is the One foretold in Isaiah, publishing good news of peace and salvation (52:7). . . ‘to the far and to the near’ (57:19).[3]

The Bible’s big story comes together in Jesus. Christ is our peace; Christ makes peace; Christ preaches peace (Eph. 2:14, 15, 17). 

Overcoming Division through the Cross of Christ

Notice the emphasis in Eph 2:13–16 about Christ’s body, blood, and crucifixion. Gentiles who ‘were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ’ (v. 13). Jesus ‘has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility’ (v. 14). Jesus reconciles Jew and Gentile ‘both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility’ (v. 16). Christ creates ‘in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace’ (v. 15).

In Christ there’s a new way of being human. Jesus reconciles broken humanity, creating shalom. Once divided peoples are now together, members of the family of God (2:19–22).

Overcoming division

The text points to an often-overlooked truth: Christ has achieved something socially on the cross. Christ brings Jew and Gentile—divided, separated, hostile peoples—together ‘in himself’. The cross not only reconciles them to God; the cross reconciles them to each other. Through his crucifixion-and-resurrection, Jesus atones, Jesus saves—and Jesus reconciles persons and peoples divided.

The text points to an often-overlooked truth: Christ has achieved something socially on the cross. Christ brings Jew and Gentile—divided, separated, hostile peoples—together ‘in himself’.

How often might this apply to hurtful divisions in the global church? Could it be that the cross of Christ has already dealt with the division by ‘killing the hostility’? What if reconciliation vertically with God—and horizontally with each other—are both part of Christ’s glorious work on the cross? Christ is ever urging us toward reconciliation.

[Olivia]: During a ministry visit to Togo, I was unexpectedly met with a tense reception from our partners. They said we had made promises we didn’t keep. Our divide was before us. I quickly realized it was time for empathic listening, and I resisted the desire to defend. With some difficulty, I absorbed the blame for my predecessors’ actions. In asking for forgiveness, I also committed to rebuilding trust. Looking to Jesus and the cross, I experienced the help of the Holy Spirit. Our wounded partnership began to heal by slowing down, being vulnerable, really listening.

Overcoming Difference through the Glory of Christ

In Ephesians 2:11, Paul writes to ‘you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by the circumcision.’ This reminds us of David mocking Goliath, ‘Who is this uncircumcised Philistine?’ (1 Sam 17:26). For Jews, the word ‘uncircumcision’ carries a truckload of stigma. Gentiles are unclean, idol-worshipping aliens, enemies to God’s people.

Paul continues, ‘Remember that you were at the time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world’ (Eph 2:12).

Paul is magnifying Gentile difference. Compared to God’s chosen people, Gentiles are ‘no-status peoples’. But a few verses later, Paul reveals a beautiful shame-to-honor reversal: ‘For through [Christ] . . . you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens, with the saints and members of the household of God’ (18–19). We’re all part of God’s people! Christ is our glory!

Overcoming difference

Our glory in Christ helps us overcome difference. Here’s why. When we share in the glory of knowing Christ, we can stop playing games of rivalry and honor competition. In Christ we gain an honor surplus. In fact, for Paul, compared to the glory of knowing Christ, all his other sources of honor are ‘as rubbish’ (Phil 3:5–8).

When we share in the glory of knowing Christ, we can stop playing games of rivalry and honor competition. In Christ we gain an honor surplus.

In John 17:22, Jesus prays, ‘The glory that you have given to me I have given to them, that they may be one.’ Because we share in Christ’s abundant glory, our longing for honor is satisfied. We no longer compete to gain honor. Instead, we compete to give it away. Paul instructs, ‘Outdo one another in showing honor’ (Rom 12:10).

[Olivia]:When I meet fellow believers, I often ask, ‘What is your Jesus story?’ We connect through our own stories of knowing Christ. This immediately breaks down the difference—in status, tribe, or nationality. Christ himself is the foundation for all we accomplish together as ministry partners. On a recent trip to East Africa, I was sitting in the simple rural home of a Kenyan missionary. Singing songs of worship together, I became so aware of the presence of God. Nothing compares to the joyful unity we have together in the glory of Christ.

Overcoming Power Distance through the Peace of Christ

Jesus describes two kinds of power in Mark 10:42–43. ‘Those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them . . . but it shall not be so among you. Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.’ Worldly power is ‘power over’. Godly power is power to serve; it’s ‘power under’ or ‘power with’ the Holy Spirit.[4]

The Roman Empire is the setting for the New Testament—and the epitome of ‘power over’. Rome creates a worldly ‘peace’ by force and bloodshed. Its famous imperial propaganda is Pax Romana (Peace of Rome).

Paul is seized by Roman power and writes to the Ephesians from prison (Eph 3:1, 4:1, 6:20). He describes a superior power—’the immeasurable greatness’ of God’s power in Christ (Eph 1:19–21).

Roman ‘power over’ creates political stability by terror—peace through bloodshed. Christ’s ‘power under’—by shedding his own bloodcreates an entirely different kind of peace. Forgiving and reconciling humans, Christ creates peace with God and among peoples (Eph 2:13–17). Jesus’ ‘power under’ rebukes and subverts violence.

We recall that in Eph 2:17, Christ fulfills Isaiah 52:7 and 57:19. Jesus is the suffering Servant on the mountains with beautiful feet. He preaches good news of shalom—’peace to those far off and peace to those who are near’. Moreover, with Christ, believers also embody and carry ‘the gospel of peace’ (Eph 6:15).

Overcoming power distance

Power distance is ‘the unequal distribution of power between parties, and the level of acceptance of that inequality.’[5]

Power distance requires ‘power over’. They go hand in hand. Individuals are easily seduced by ‘power over’. But Jesus says—not so among you.[6] Likewise, groups can also be seduced by ‘power over’. For example, since America is a political world leader, I and other Americans may assume ‘power over’ with global church partners. Again, Jesus warns—not so among you.

To overcome the obstacle of power distance, are we heeding Christ’s warning about ‘power over’? Can we better embody the gospel of peace in the Holy Spirit’s ‘power with’?

[Olivia]: Power distance is no small challenge for the global church. In leading a cross-cultural partnership ministry, I find this strikingly true. So, I intentionally resist this view: An abundance of financial resources means superior knowledge or spiritual maturity—expecting to lead and others to follow. Rather, I’ve come to appreciate the tension points or differences of opinion with our ministry partners. When we disagree, it’s a sign of trust. Our partnership is built on a shared vision to see Christ’s gospel reaching and touching lives. That said, we may never fully overcome power distance in cross-cultural ministry. But we can be more mindful of the challenge as we humbly follow Jesus. We can trust in the Holy Spirit’s ‘power with’ and Christ’s gospel of peace to accomplish his purposes through our imperfections.


  1. To be published in 2025 by William Carey Publishing, One New Humanity: Glory, Violence, and the Gospel of Peace by Kristin Caynor and Werner Mischke.
  2. Willard M. Swartley, Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 200–201.
  3. In Eph. 2:17 (ESV), ‘preached peace’ is euēngelisato eirēnē. The word euēngelisato is the verb form of gospel. The phrase euēngelisato eirēnē means ‘gospelled peace’ or ‘preached the gospel of peace/harmony’. 
  4. For the conversation about ‘power over versus power with’ I am much indebted to David E. Fitch, Reckoning with Power: Why the Church Fails When It’s on the Wrong Side of Power (Brazos, 2024), Kindle edition.
  6. Again, I am indebted to David Fitch for this way of saying it.