Friday, October 19, 2012

The Mission of God's People - Chapter 1 - Part 1.2

Singular or plural? Mission or missions? Does God have one mission and many "missions? We do have a tendency to define these words according to our own traditions and our missiology, if we have even given much thought to the later. As we saw yesterday, biblically, there is a broadness to our "sent-ness." Then should it not follow that there is a broadness of "mission" and  "missions" as well? No and yes. 

As Evangelicals our focus has been, at least for the better part of the last century and a half on a narrowly defined "Word" based missions. It is important to understand that this wasn't always the case. More on that later. We need to understand the distinction between these two words if we are going to live sent today. But we can say unequivocally that God has a single mission but many missions.

The fact is "missional" thinking is shifting today and Evangelicals are accepting a broader definition of evangelism than simply "Word." The importance of "Deed" in our evangelism, our Good News,  is being motivated by a younger generations who want to be "world-changers" and are much more action oriented. What then becomes "missions"? Is it just anything or are there activities that do not fit under the category of "missions?" And who is to say what is and is not "missions?" Or, "missional?"

Wright uses a comparison of the world of  "science" to answer this "mission" sensitive question. He says we can speak about a generic, by which I think he means universal, concept of science which is simply defined as "knowing" or "the state of knowing as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding." And we can "know" about a vast variety of subjects so we speak of the "sciences" which includes many different disciplines and the pursuit of knowledge of every conceivable, measurable and observable element of the universe. A vast array of sciences fit under the heading science. The same can be said of "art" or "sport," so what about "missions?"

Question: How have you defined mission and/or missions? 

Here is Wright's take: 
 "When I speak of mission, I am thinking of all that God is doing in his great purpose for the whole of creation and all that he calls us to do in cooperation with that purpose. Mission, like science, has a conceptual, generic breadth, and a word like missional can be as broad in significance as "scientific." And, I would suggest that the word "missionary" should have the same kind of breadth of possibility as the word "scientist."
"But when I speak of missions, I am thinking of the multitude of activities that God's people can engage in, by means `of which they participate in God's mission. And it seems to me there are as many kinds of missions as there are kinds of sciences - probably far more in fact."
Question: How does this challenge your idea of what "missions" is? 

So is everything missions then? There is a saying that "if everything is missions, then nothing is missions." But that really is not a very well reasoned argument.  As we saw in Part 1.1 God sends his people out to do all manner of activities from preaching to teaching to famine relief to administration. Consider the missions of Jesus as he states it for us in Luke 4:14-20. Certainly there we see an expanse of Jesus missions and it was said of him  "He has done everything well" (Mark 7:37). He also did everything for a single purpose (Isaiah 42:1-9, John 5:19, John 17:1-4)  And since we are sent in the same way that Jesus was ( John 20:21), should it not follow that everything we do be done well for the knowledge of the glory of God to be made known (Matthew 5:16)? On that point I don't think there is any legitimate debate. Wright concludes, "it would seem more Biblical to say, ' if everything is missions...then everything is missions."

Wright clarifies that not everything is cross-cultural evangelistic mission  but "everything a Christian and a Christian church is, says, and does should be missional in its conscious participation in the mission of God in God's world." Wouldn't it be wonderful to be liberated from the judgmentalism that is still prevalent in much of Christians missions? Understanding a broad concept of "missions," I think, will go a long way toward Living Sent Today.

Question: If "missions" is everything how does that begin to change how we think about our life?


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