Christians love the word “mission.” We cover the topic in our seminaries, host conferences about it in our churches and often talk about being “on mission.” In fact one of the magazines published by the largest Protestant denomination in the world goes by that title. The SBC (a denomination we partner with) have over 5000 missionaries sent out into other countries through the International Mission Board and another 5000+ sent into North America through the North American Mission Board.
Yet, even with a clear commitment to missions, there is a need to revisit our thoughts of mission. Some are talking about “mission” in a way that is different than what many are used to. This was seen at the recent Younger Leaders Summit just prior to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting. There, nearly all of the speakers emphasized the issue of being “missional,” and argued that this is the very thing that should define us, unite us, and move us. So what does it mean to be missional? How is this different from missions? What is the mission of God and his church anyway? This will take a few posts; so let me start these informal ramblings at the beginning, with God.
God is a missionary God.
The word mission carries the idea of sending, or being sent. This not only describes what God chose/chooses to do, but how he operates within the Godhead. It reflects who he is. Though more could be said about this, let me just point out what I consider to be the most important demonstrations of this part of God’s character.
1. The Father sent the Son. (John 5; 8:42; 1 Jn. 4:14; Rom. 8:18-25; Col. 1:15-20) God’s mission of redemption is centered in the person and work of Jesus. The Father sent the Son to live, teach, work, die and rise again as the ground of our salvation. This mission of redemption was not only for saving individual sinners, but is cosmic in its scope. More on this later.
2. The Father and Son send the Spirit. (John 14; 16; Mk. 13:11; Luke 11:13) Before his return to the Father Jesus promised that he would send another Helper. The Holy Spirit would be sent into the world to bring conviction, continuing the work of redemption. This same Spirit will lead us into truth, and give us the words to say as the mission of God.
3. Jesus sends the church out into the world. (John 20:21; Acts 1:8) The mission of God continues as Jesus sends his people out into the world as the continuation of his mission. As Jesus was sent, so are we, to be the agents of God’s gospel.
Because our God is a missionary God, our identity in Him is reflected in our being a missionary people. (From here on out I’ll use the term “missional” to help avoid confusion with the popular way in which we use the term “missionary”). Therefore, mission is not merely what we do it is what we are. Much more needs to be said, but I'll save it for the next three posts.