As of today, my theological understanding of mission has evolved significantly in that my overall concept of mission is being augmented to understand mission as an intentional primary tenet in biblical theology. Previous to now, I mostly viewed mission as a New Testament mandate and commission to Christ’s followers generated by Jesus’ atoning death, sacrifice, and resurrection. “Then Jesus came up and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” Luke 28:18-20 (NET). This, known as The Great Commission in the New Testament, had mostly been the catalyst for my involvement in mission up to this point.
Although I have clearly understood and advocated the human biblical practicum in Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion… over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (KJV), I had not learned the perspective of Missio Dei or the missional paradigm of God. This concept has tremendously impacted my view of mission and ministry.
Reflecting upon ‘The Character of the Creator is actually one of the five theological foundations of mission in the Old Testament. Studying God’s character, not only do we learn God is the one and true God: triune in nature, perfect in harmony, relationship, satisfaction and unity within Himself, but He is also sovereign over His creation. He is intentional and monotheistically teleological. He is missio dei through His self-revelatory acts; revealing and sending (i.e. Himself, His son; the Holy Spirit), and He is involved with the world and creation. Missio Dei is a Latin theological term that can be translated as “the mission of God” or the “sending of God.”
An introductory study of World Mission and Intercultural Studies, we learn that the Bible is a competing narrative of the nature of God, and the nature of the universe which God created. As sin became a part of the human condition, God’s movement (missio dei) became redemptive. God’s redemption is not an alternative plan, but it is a byproduct of God’s eternality, universality and purpose. Peter the Apostle stated in his 2nd general letter, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness but is longsuffering toward us not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 3:9. I have to come to view God as a missionary both in His character and endeavors. I’m grateful He’s enlisted me to be a partner in His undertakings.
A second theological foundation that helps shape our concept of mission is further consideration of ‘The Character of the Created.’ Certainly God created us in His image and likeness. He provided humanity with the ability to flourish and increase, to multiply, control and have ruler-ship over the earth. Understanding the concept of imago dei (created in God’s image or as the image of God), we consider that not only learn has God determined to rule subordinately on earth through His creation of humanity, but we also recognize that to be human is to functionally represent and reveal the one true God in the earth. “…And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul,” Genesis 2:7.
For me ‘The theological principle of the Created’ in mission speaks volume in that it conveys, confirms, and describes God’s eternal purposes. God, uses humanity to reveal and represent Himself to humanity; while humanity presents himself to God. These nuances are demonstrated in the lifestyle of the Created, their worship of God and through His providential care; and (2) in the context of humanity’s response to God based on humanity’s own needs, Jesus said, “No man can come to me except the father which hath sent me draw him,” John 6:44, and the writer of Hebrews stated, “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins…”Hebrews 5:1. God’s redemptive and universal purpose in mission is amazing absolutely.
The third foundational principle that has changed my concept of mission is ‘The Concept of the Community.’ Clearly with Old Testament reflection, God elects a nation out of all nations as the significance of the particular (Israel) is demonstrated in the universal perspective. “…For all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation,” Exodus 19:5-6. This designation is again mentioned in the New Testament, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…”1 Peter 2:9. Boy, what a clear calling to God’s mission.
The enumerated foundational principles make evident that we as the populous dei have been elected to share ‘The Good News.’ As we are in covenant with Him, we are called to represent and present God to all people as He extends His blessings to all. It is the church’s calling to present God to humanity in order that humanity may respond to God as He (Missio Dei) moves toward His creation. John Piper said, “The infinite horrors of hell are intended by God to be a vivid demonstration of the infinite value of the glory of God…God exists to be worshipped and man worships the work of his own hands. This two-fold reality creates the need for missions. And the very God-centeredness of God which creates the crisis, also creates the solution,”47. In studying the theological principles I couldn’t help but realize how far the church has side-stepped from God’s intentional purposes.
I think the most profound ideal I have learned, especially from the third foundational principal, is that God has compassion for all nations and all people. He is not relegated to only Christians and the church. Christopher Wright stated, “Exodus forms a template for God’s actions on behalf of His people. It is not the case that Israel alone belongs to God and other nations do not…The particularity of Israel here as God’s special treasure is intended to serve the universality of God’s interest in the world. Israel’s election serves God’s mission.” We should take advantage of our calling and continue expanding God’s kingdom universally as we have been commissioned to do so.