There is a lot of talk about mission and being missional. You may be wondering, “Why does mission matter?”
First of all, mission is why we exist. God’s love inspires us to be missionaries to the world around us. Emil Brunner said, “The church exists by mission just as fire exists by burning.” Mission begins at home, serving in our local church, and reaching our community. We have been sent as missionaries to share the Gospel in our present culture and to fulfill the Great Commission.
The church is rooted in the concept of the Missio Dei, which recognizes that there is one mission and it is God’s mission. The Missio Dei is a Latin theological term that can be translated as “Mission of God.” The word missio literally means sent. The church is not an end in itself; the church is sent into the world to fulfill the mission of God.
God is a Missionary
To understand what it means to be a part of the mission of God begins with understanding that God is a missionary God. The very being of God is the basis for the missionary enterprise. God is a sending God, with a desire to see humankind and creation reconciled, redeemed, and healed. God’s mission can be seen throughout the pages of the Bible and history. Nowhere is the mission of God better understood than in the person and work of Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Many Christians and churches teach and preach that missions are something we support or do, such as sending or supporting missionaries in other countries. This was the case 20 to 30 years ago. However, in the 21st century the mission field has come to us. We live in a post Christian world where people simply don’t know the gospel anymore. Therefore we are all called to be missional and share in the mission of God.
Jesus is a Missionary
Being a missional Christian is simply following the way of Jesus. Jesus Christ was the greatest missionary. The Bible tells us that he came from heaven to earth to die for a lost and dying world. The following scriptures reveal how the mission of God was fulfilled through Jesus Christ and how we are called to continue and complete the Missio Dei in our culture.
- Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.” John 4:34
- “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 5:30
- “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 6:38
- “I know Him; because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” John 7:29
- “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” John 8:29
- “We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work.” John 9:4
- And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me does not believe in Me, but in Him who sent Me. And he who beholds Me beholds the One who sent Me.” John 12:44-45
- “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak.” John 12:49
- “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” John 13:20
- “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” John 17:3
- “For the words which Thou gave Me I have given to them; and they received them, and truly understood that I came forth from Thee, and they believed that Thou didst send Me.” John 17:8
- “As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” John 17:18
- Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21
Sent on a Mission
As the Father sent Jesus, He also sends us into our time and culture. We have been chosen by God to live in this time and place in order to fulfill the mission of God.
Acts 17: 26-27 tells us that God has determined the exact place and time where we should live so that that men may find Him. It is truly awesome to realize that you have chosen by God to be His representative to this world. It is both a great privilege and great responsibility. Paul describes our calling in the following way, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20.
Being missional is God’s way of showing the love of His Son Jesus through His church. Christians must strive to always be like Jesus, our perfect example. Jesus said, “the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) This scripture beautifully embodies the task of Christian ministry. To be a minister is to be a servant. We are to serve and give our lives for others. Serving is the example that Jesus gave; therefore we should follow it.
As the church we are called to care for a lost and dying world that is in desperate need of a savior. Too many times we compartmentalize the different ministries of the church. We have viewed social ministry as something we do on one hand and evangelism on the other. God is calling the church to rediscover the biblical model of holistic ministry. Jesus met both the physical and spiritual needs of the people he ministered to. As the Body of Christ on earth we are his representatives to a lost world. Therefore what we do and say are of eternal importance.
Becoming a Missional Church
What does a missional church look like? The Gospel and Our Culture Network where among the first to define the term “missional church.” They have done research into cultural trends and a new missional approach to church. They have defined twelve hallmarks of a missional church:
- The missional church proclaims the gospel.
- The missional church is a community where all members are involved in learning to become disciples of Jesus.
- The Bible is normative in this church’s life.
- The church understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death, and resurrection of its Lord.
- The church seeks to discern God’s specific missional vocation for the entire community and for all of its members.
- A missional community is indicated by how Christians behave toward one another.
- It is a community that practices reconciliation.
- Peoples within the community hold themselves accountable to one another in love.
- The church practices hospitality.
- Worship is the central act by which the community celebrates with joy and thanksgiving both God’s presence and God’s promised future.
- This community has a vital public witness.
- There is a recognition that the church itself is an incomplete expression of the reign of God.
Being missional is not an either-or situation. It means that we care about people’s souls and their bodies. It means that because we care about the gospel we should care about social and environmental issues. Being missional brings all of live together under the banner of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Winfield Bevins serves as the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. He has a passion for equipping others to spread the gospel in their own context. As a seasoned practitioner, he has used his experience to train leaders from diverse backgrounds on three different continents. He is the author of several books, including Plant: A Sower’s Guide to Church Planting. You can find out more about him at his website winfieldbevins.com.