There is a certain amount of romanticism surrounding the idea of
mission. Many exciting and exotic tales of the missionary endeavors
of David Livingstone, Adonirum Judson, Gladys Elwood, Harmon
Schmelzenbach, and others have enthralled Christians for generations.
For some, mission is part of the Christian DNA—it is an essential element
of being the church. Although, only a special few people actually
engage in the practice of overseas mission, the rest of the church stands
behind them giving spiritual, administrative, and monetary support. For
others, mission is part of a bygone colonial era, and they would prefer to
focus their attention on the needs of their local community and neighborhood.
Finding a balance between these options is a challenge that
needs to be addressed.
Wherever we stand on this issue, one thing is clear: mindless mission
is dangerous. An adequate understanding of the foundation for
mission is essential for the survival of the missionary cause and for the
health of the church. Mission that is built on the foundations of personal
enthusiasm, cultural superiority, romanticism, or denominational
domination is bound to flounder and fail. Some seemingly pure motives
for mission may prove to be less helpful than expected. An emphasis on
individual conversion often narrows the reign of God to personal possession
of the kingdom of God. The idea that mission is done to hasten
the return of Christ focuses the life of the church too futuristically and
misses the value of the current order of existence, which God has created and declared very good. Humanitarian motives for mission, on the other
hand, easily equate economic development with success, while unwittingly
sowing seeds of materialism and greed.
The only adequate foundation and authority for Christian mission
is Jesus himself. This may seem like an obvious and simplistic answer.
However, upon deeper reflection, it proclaims Jesus as the embodiment
of what God is doing and echoes his call to the church to be his body—
his presence—in this world. By the witness of the Spirit, Jesus proclaimed
the Kingdom of the Father and invited the church into his own life of
mission.2 From this perspective, the mission is entirely relational, expressing
the purpose of the Triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—to
bring creation to fulfillment through an ongoing, dynamic, and sanctifying
relationship. This is an intrinsic dimension of the Christian faith.
The idea behind this book is that God initiates a redemptive mission to
restore creation to its original purpose. People are the primary focus of
this mission as well as the agents of God’s initiative. As individuals are
drawn into what God is doing in this world, communities of redemption
and grace that reflect the character of God are established. God’s
kingdom, previously conceived as being out of this world and beyond
this present age, is in Christ demonstrated to be already here. Justice and
righteousness are its pillars, and its final consummation is described as a
holy city which unites heaven and earth.
Entering the mission of God is intentionally engaging with the realities
of the world today in all its diversity. It is not escapist idealism that
pretends that all is well after repeating a magical formula. It is a life-transforming
experience, empowered by the Holy Spirit, which works to bring
this same transformation into every dark corner of the world, in order
that there might be light once again.
The book for the class is available electronically here: Entering the Mission of God
You can join the class live or on recorded video on Facebook e/Gathering page: Class Videos