Before spiritual maturity = Young MC
Now/today/getting closer = Go out and help others. Go make disciples.
Fine, chant the lyrics if that’s your pre-game, but know the better message to spread before you get wherever it is that you’re going. And I know you maybe don’t know where that is yet. Trust me, I know firsthand. But that’s ok. None of us do exactly right now – but we can know for sure where it is that we should want to end up later. Look at it as the lesser of two evils swarming around in your constantly conflicted brain: when has doing good for others ever made you feel worse about yourself?
As promised, more on the Christian Mission class for which I find myself reading for days on end and wanting to immediately pack up and move to Cambodia. Or, at least to the corner of Creighton and Hanna.
The first assignment was an open-ended “write your own personal theology of mission.” No idea. But I turned it in on time nonetheless and received it back last Thursday, fully graded. Let’s just say since I’m not at 100% right now, I have some work to do in order to do better…for others.
Side note: CliffsNotes version is don’t wait to go anywhere other than where you already are in order to make a difference. In 27 minutes, that means RediMed for me. Happy Sunday.
Developing an inaugural theology of mission can be and often is, the most overlooked component of Christianity for the majority of best-intentioned Christ followers. While we purport to “being Christian” and “doing God’s work” – what does that really mean? Do we even know what we are saying let alone doing?
The difference between the singular “mission” and plural “missions” is notable. The former is of a larger scale and scope, i.e. “God’s love for redeeming the lost, encompassing God’s church in its entirety.” The “mission” of theology, therefore, belongs to God – just as those who carry out the requisite cross-cultural “missions” work under its umbrella so find themselves.
Regardless of geography, while one without the other can exist, it would be futile for individuals to partake in missions work without the greater mission in mind. Missions and [the] larger scale mission neither are nor should be mutually exclusive.
Moreover, without the One to whom the greater mission belongs guiding the way for those doing the missions, the work itself is pointless. It becomes nothing more than worker bees ineffectively buzzing about, circularly swarming an increasingly more frustrated global nest. God is a God of purpose; of mission. Therefore, my personal theology of mission begins with Him.
“THE” THEOLOGY OF MISSION
God had a mission in Creation. He is the original Creator of all; the Great Artist, Draftsman, Architect and Builder. Man is the pinnacle of His creation, made in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27). All of creation is for God’s glory and as such, still finds itself in accordance to God’s mission. Stated simply, while God had a mission in creation, so He still has. According to Christopher Wright, “Creation exists for the praise and glory of its Creator God, and for mutual enjoyment between the Creator and the created.”
God is on a mission to be loved and worshipped by all people. Perhaps the best way to summarily describe God’s purpose for [His] mission by[His] created mission workers is as follows: “For His Glory in global worship, God purposes to overcome evil by redeeming a people who will love and obey Him within every people.” Indubitably, God’s mission is seen in His redemptive work.
THE REDEMPTION OF MISSION
Redemption is restoration through Jesus Christ. Jesus has bought [us/creation/missions workers] back what was stolen by Satan (Col. 1:13-14). Believers in Jesus Christ and His redemptive work are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation in order that they may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pet. 2:9; cf. Ex. 19:6). God’s promise to Abraham then, becomes my/our individual precept for missions, as in effect it was His promise to the world. God said he would not only bless Abram but that Abram would become a blessing (Gen. 12:2) and that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3).
This promise is fulfilled in Christ: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:29). Paul declares, “Those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham the man of faith” (Gal. 3:7-9). Thus, as Gallagher and Hawthorne point out, “through Christ anyone on earth can inherit the full family heritage of being blessed in order to be a blessing to the nations.”
The reciprocity is profoundly intentional. If God’s mission is seen in His redemptive work, not only did he first do(model) the work through Jesus in redeeming His creation, but it is exactly those redeemed beneficiaries through whom His purpose continues, i.e. He saved His people so that they could save others. “The promise so clearly reveals God’s purpose that Christians rightly consider it to convey God’s mandate to serve as His agents of blessing among all the peoples of the earth. We are blessed in Christ in order to bring forth the blessing of Christ among all the nations.”
As a disciple of Jesus, my personal mission is to follow his example and commands. He came from heaven to earth to show us the way; in turn, I am called to show others the way. Jesus gave his disciples a clear command: “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). My assignment, therefore is to go into all the world, my task is to preach the gospel, and my target is all of creation. Blackaby and Willis rightly remind us that “Jesus was on a mission with the Father, and He calls every one of His followers to join Him in that relationship of love, power, and purpose. Nothing could be more precious than to follow God on mission in the same way that Jesus did.”
THE RELATIONSHIP OF MISSION
We are not called to exercise a carbon-copy of Jesus’ ministry, but His practice of ministry is to be normative for us: “our task is simply to imitate him” even though what He did was “unique, climactic, decisive.” Since a commitment to Jesus is also a commitment to His mission, our missions must take a primary and inescapable place in our lives. In considering Jesus, the most important things to note are not what He said or what He did, but who He was and the relationship He had with his Father. His entire ministry flowed from this self-understanding and relationship. Wright’s assessment of Jesus’ self-understanding as a key issue is largely accepted, even by his critics.
Yet it was not merely Jesus’ ministry that demonstrated interconnection. The whole of the New Testament is primarily about relationships. Doctrines matter because they affect how we live; how we live matters because it affects our relationships. Jesus concisely summarizes the Law of Moses in terms of two relationships: love God and love your neighbors (Mark 12: 30-31). Again, the redemption/atonement is paramount as it restores a broken relationship: “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but…of God’s household” (Eph. 2:19).
Perhaps most significantly, we see in John 20:21 that Jesus “makes his own relationship with the Father” the basic paradigm for the disciples’ relationship with Jesus in pursuit of their mission. Jesus’ own ministry was about encountering other people, even and especially the original disciples, and serving them in appropriate ways. His focus was not solely on His own spiritual life and health (although these things clearly mattered significantly to Him) but on the concerns and needs of the people around Him, including both His disciples and those who did not follow Him. Jesus saw His relational role as that of a servant (Luke 22:27) and always put the needs of the people He happened upon before his own agenda of teaching and demonstrating the Kingdom.
When a person claims to be a Christian, the one component they cannot overlook is Jesus. A commitment to Jesus is a commitment to His mission. This statement has major implications for not only our doctrine of salvation, but our practice of evangelism and what we mean when we say “mission.” Once we know what we are saying, it is then that we can begin to understand what we are doing.
Redemption and relationship are the missional keys to unlocking the door of the main mission at hand, a Hand solely responsible for our creation. Jesus demonstrated His relationship to God; God’s primary relationship is to the world. And it is exactly that world for which we are on a mission – one which God redeemed by sending His only Son, and the same one He expects us henceforth to reject the deceit and pleasures of, in order that we may continue to be effected by, and affective in, a completely transformed community.
Blackaby, Henry T. and Avery T. Willis. “On Mission with God,” in Perspectives on the World
Christian Movement: A Reader, eds. Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009.
Coleman, Robert E., The Master Plan of Evangelism, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Spire (By Revell), 2010.
Eby, Kent. “Developing a Beginning Theology of Mission.” The Chapel, Fort Wayne. 5 May, 2016. Lecture.
Gallagher, Sarita D. and Steven C. Hawthorne. “Blessings as Transformation,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, eds. Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009.
Hawthorne, Steven C. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009.
Hill, Graham. Global Church: Reshaping Our Conversations, Renewing our Mission, Revitalizing Our Churches. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016.
Kostenberger, A.J. and P.T. O’Brien. Salvation to the Ends of the Earth. Leicester: Apollos, 2001.
McNight, Scot. Kingdom Conspiracy:Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2014.
Newmann, CC (ed). Jesus & The Restoration of Israel. Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999.
Stott, John and Christopher J.H. Wright. Christian Mission in the Modern World. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2015.
Wright, Christopher J.H. “Mission and God’s Earth” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, eds. Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009.
Wright, N.T. The Challenge of Jesus. London: SPCK, 2000.
Eby, Kent. “Developing a Beginning Theology of Mission.” The Chapel, Fort Wayne. 5 May, 2016. Lecture.
Wright, Christopher J.H. “Mission and God’s Earth” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader,
eds. Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009. Page 28.
Hawthorne, Steven C. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.
Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009. Page 4.
Gallagher, Sarita D. and Steven C. Hawthorne. “Blessings as Transformation,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader,
eds. Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009. Page 38.
Blackaby, Henry T. and Avery T. Willlis. “On Mission with God,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader,
eds. Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009. Page 77.
Wright, N.T. The Challenge of Jesus.
London: SPCK, 2000. Page 140.
Newmann, CC (ed). Jesus & The Restoration of Israel.
Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999. Page 110.
Kostenberger, A.J. and P.T. O’Brien.Salvation to the Ends of the Earth.
Leicester: Apollos, 2001. Page 260.
Stott, John and Christopher J.H. Wright. Christian Mission in the Modern World.
Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2015. Page 18.